By Team Ford Racing Correspondent
On the track on which her sister became the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car race just six years ago, 25-year-old Courtney Force tries to make some history of her own this weekend when she sends the Traxxas Ford Mustang after the Funny Car championship in the 34th annual Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Courtney, her sister Brittany, driver of the Ford-powered Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster, Alexis DeJoria and Pro Stock point leader Erica Enders-Stevens are among those trying to claim pro tour victory No. 100 for women since they first began competing against the men at the professional level in the 1970s.
When Ashley Force-Hood beat her dad in an all-Ford final round at the 2008 Southern Nationals, she claimed the 80th pro title for the women. Since then, female drivers have won 19 more races with Courtney, the 2012 NHRA Rookie of the Year, contributing three of those.
Although the former high school cheerleader has struggled thus far this season in the latest version of her Traxxas Ford Mustang, she is looking for a turnaround on the Georgia track on which John Force has won seven times.
“It's funny that people can actually come up to you and be, ‘oh, there are females that race in the sport?’” Courtney said. “It seems surreal to them. You want to show them the sheet of paper and go, ‘we've been winning for a very long time starting with Shirley Muldowney.’
“It's not just one (woman) and it wasn't just in one class. It's pretty cool to see my sister Ashley's name on that list, to see my name on that list. But, man, to get the 100th win for women, it would be amazing. I mean, definitely, it’s my goal at this point. To get the 100th, it goes down in the history books.”
As for sister Brittany, 27, it would be so sweet to make her first win the 100th for women.
“Just to a part of the 100th win would be such a big deal,” Brittany said. “There are so many women my sisters and I looked up to and watched over the years. To be a part of (the race to 100) and grouped in with them (is) a really big moment in my career.”
Muldowney, who paved the way for all the women to follow, became the first female to race in a pro final on June 8, 1975 at Columbus, Ohio. A year later (June 13, 1976) on the same racetrack, she made history with a final round victory over Bob Edwards, the first of a total that now stands at 99.
As for John Force, father to the two current contenders, he is very much aware of the historical implications.
“I was thinking about Ashley and how no woman had ever won a Funny Car race until she beat me in 2008 in Atlanta,” said the 2012 inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. “That (was) history, but to also be the 100th female winner would be huge and it could happen this weekend. What is really cool is Brittany and Courtney are overdue. To win that 100th race is a landmark, and I hope one of them gets it.”