TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Courtney Force raced to the 100th victory by a female driver in NHRA history Sunday in the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
In her second attempt to earn the landmark victory in two weeks, the 25-year-old Force outran Cruz Pedregon in the final round for her first Funny Car victory of the season and fourth of her career. The No. 1 qualifier Saturday, she finished in 4.148 seconds at 306.46 mph in her Traxxas-sponsored Ford Mustang.
“There’s just a lot of emotion right now,” said Force, the youngest daughter of 16-time season champion John Force. “It’s been a long weekend. I’m so proud of my guys and I am happy to win this for all of the girls who have won races in NHRA over the years. They know how to win. This win is for them.”
Force is one of 14 female winners in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, a list that started with Shirley Muldowney in Top Fuel in 1976.
“She’s the one who really paved the way,” Force said. “It all started with her.”
The 65-year-old John Force, eliminated in the first round, hugged the winner after the race.
“I am just so proud of her,” he said. “She battles like me. People say she looks like her mom and she races like me. I saw her jump in there against Cruz and then she got the win. I gave her a big hug at the finish line and I just said I loved her and was so proud. I know she was disappointed last week and I just told her to have fun and race hard today. She is a competitor just like her sisters, Ashley and Brittany, and her brother-in-law, Robert Hight. I hope she remembers this feeling because history doesn’t happen every day.”
Courtney Force nearly accomplished the feat last weekend in Georgia, but lost a close final-round race to John Force Racing teammate Hight.
“I thought I missed my chance,” Force said. “To go all the way through to the final and let it slip through my fingers it was very emotional. ... I was pretty much crushed.”
Force is one of three women who have won races this season, joining fellow Funny Car racer Alexis DeJoria, a two-time winner this season, and Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, also a two-time winner. On Saturday, Force and sister Brittany, a Top Fuel driver, were both No. 1 qualifiers.
“All of the women run so well, it could have many any one of us,” Force said. “But we were finally able to do it. I am just so proud to do it for all the girls out there.”
She beat Dale Creasy Jr., Jeff Arend and Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach the final.
“All day I was just trying not to think about it,” Force said.
In the final, Pedregon’s Toyota Camry slowed near the finish in a 4.225 at 250.60.
“I grew up watching my dad battle with Cruz and there he was lined up in the lane next to me,” Force said. “My nerves were really going. I screwed up trying to get the car staged. Luckily, I got it together.”
Ashley Force Hood, Courtney’s older sister, was the first female Funny Car winner in 2008.
“To start with when Brittany and Courtney both went to No. 1 I know this was already a special weekend,” Force Hood said. “I thought it could be a really good race for both of them since their race cars were running so well. They were both going rounds today and I started to get excited because sometimes you just have the magic. I had a feeling that maybe this would be the day. It is pretty cool. I watched it on my computer with Autumn, Jacob and Noah. I actually made a video. The kids were jumping up and down we were all really excited.”
Spencer Massey won in Top Fuel, and Allen Johnson in Pro Stock.
Massey raced to his second victory in a row and second at Topeka, beating defending series champion Shawn Langdon in the final with a 3.871 at 314.02.
Massey topped Brittany Force in the semifinals.
Johnson won for the third time this season and the third time at Topeka, outrunning teammate Jeg Coughlin in the final. Johnson powered his Dodge Dart to a 6.663 at 207.81.