Courtney Force Joins JFR's NHRA Funny Car Team With Traxxas Sponsorship

John Force Racing will be a four-car entity this year as Force’s daughter Courtney joins John, brother-in-law Robert Hight and Mike Neff as Funny Car drivers in NHRA’s Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Courtney Force had been testing a Ford-powered BrandSource Funny Car throughout the 2011 season in preparation for her leap to the professional ranks.

Force, 23, enters the pro ranks with sponsorship from Traxxas, the leader in ready-to-run Radio Controlled vehicles, some of which can top 100-mph, according to Traxxas president Mike Jenkins.  This is the initial entry in drag racing for Plano, TX-based Traxxas, which has many partners in off-road racing.

“Courtney represents more than just a female driver on the track,” Jenkins said. “She’s a girl that has John Force DNA embedded in her and it shows. Take a couple of minutes, talk with Courtney; you’ll see the competitiveness that comes out in that girl. She’s going to represent our company and our brand. She’s been a top pick for us for a very long time–we’re proud to have her on.”

Crew chief Ron Douglas, driver Courtney Force, sponsor Mike Jenkins of Traxxas - Anne Proffit photoCrew chief Ron Douglas, driver Courtney Force, sponsor Mike Jenkins of Traxxas – Anne Proffit photo

Courtney Force earned her first NHRA national event Wally in top Alcohol Dragster prior to beginning this journey to the 8000-horsepower Funny Car ranks. Although she’ll be a rookie, she has plenty of mentors to guide her: teammates John Force, Robert Hight and Mike Neff. She also has sister Ashley Force Hood, who continues to take time away from the driver’s seat as she enjoys motherhood.

Like her sister Ashley, Courtney Force tookauto shop as one of her high school electives. She was also a cheerleader at Esperanza High School and graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in communications. She participated in the family’s A&E real life series, “Driving Force,” which last aired in 2007.

She came up through the ranks–again like Ashley–starting with a Super Comp dragster before honing her skills in Top Alcohol dragster. Although Courtney was successful in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Sportsman Series and won the Northwest Nationals at Seattle, WA in July of 2009 in her Top Alcohol dragster, she had some trepidation after her initial test laps in a BrandSource Funny Car.

“Steering the car was one of the biggest changes for me,” she said of the differences between a 270 mph Top Alcohol dragster and a 315 mph Ford Mustang Funny Car. “You don’t want to over-steer in a dragster (but) then you get in a Funny Car and you almost have to over-steer to keep the car going straight. There’s just a lot more manhandling of the Funny Car than there used to be in the dragster, but it’s definitely been fun.”

While she was a bit nervous for the announcement of her new Traxxas sponsorship on her Ford Mustang Funny Car, Courtney Force is definitely looking forward to her test sessions at Palm Beach International Raceway coming up later this month.  While she’s competing against her father and her other two teammates, she’ll be up for Auto Club Road to the Future (Rookie of the Year) honors against Alexis DeJoria, who made her pro debut last year.

“Watching Alexis last year just made me that much more eager to get out there with her, because she’s having fun with it and she’s done really well.”

Courtney Force will have exceptional help in the tuning department as Ron Douglas takes over as her crew chief.  Douglas, who helped sister Ashley to second and third place overall finishes in her two years of Funny Car competition, in addition to back-to-back Mac Tools US Nationals wins, will lead the team with veteran Scott Wible as co-crew chief.

Douglas has 19 years experience in the business and has a fabulous attitude.  He’s worked with Courtney Force in her testing sessions over the past year and is known for bringing a fun atmosphere to his paddock area.  “I’m living a dream,” he told me.  “I get to work on a race car every day and go to the race track and try to win races.  Why wouldn’t I have a good attitude?”

Douglas has worked with Don Schumacher Racing, Doug Herbert Racing, with two-time flopper champ Cruz Pedregon and with John Force Racing, most recently co-crew chief for John Force.  “The preparation of the car is our No. 1 priority.  We want to make sure the product is right before we ever take it to the starting line,” he said.  “We make sure the car is prepared properly and safely – that’s priority one.  then we’ll decide how we want to attack the racetrack.”

Courtney’s sister Brittany will begin testing of her own this year with a three-rail Top Fuel car.  She’s always preferred the open wheel vehicles and John Force had chassis constructor Murf McKinney construct the first known three-rail dragster for Brittany to test throughout the 2012 season.  This Top Fuel dragster will utilize the BOSS 500 Ford engine developed for Force’s Funny Car entries, the first time it’s been used in a Top Fuel car.

By: Anne Proffit

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