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NHRA: A Force to be reckon with

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sports Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

No man has won more Funny Car titles at Brainerd International Raceway (BIR) than John Force.

His daughter, Courtney Force, wouldn’t mind being the winningest woman at the track that will host this week’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

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The 24-year-old rookie driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang will enter her first event at BIR on a winning note. She captured the O’Reilly’ Auto Parts Northwest Nationals Aug. 5 in Seattle for her first career win.

Force’s win, coupled with Erica Enders’ second career Pro Stock victory, marked the first time two women won a title in the same NHRA event.

“I think the first initial shock was seeing that win light,” said Force. “When I came around the corner, Erica was the first person I saw and she was clapping and giving me a thumbs-up. It was such a cool feeling. That was when I kind of realized, dang, I ready did get the win. That really did just happen. It was really cool to watch her win the round right ahead of me. I was hoping I could stand in that winner’s circle with her and make history with her. It’s really cool to have both our names on the board for that. But man, coming around the corner and see that Wally there. It was a really cool experience. But knowing that Erica had done it, too, it was awesome.”

Force has never been to BIR, but her dad has already warned her about the “Zoo.” She’s excited to witness the campers in their chaos and compete for her second win.

In Seattle, Force qualified 14th, but knocked off Cruz Pedregon, Bob Tasca III and her dad before heading into the finals against Matt Hagen.

It was the complete opposite scenario the week before in Sanoma, Calif. Force qualified fifth, but was eliminated in the opening round by Hagen.

The rematch went much better.

“I screwed up that weekend before,” said Force. “I was double stepping the throttle. I don’t know why. This time my foot was ready. I had a good car, but Matt always has some good lights. Going up against him the first time I psyched myself out on that one. I wanted revenge the next time and I had a decent light.

“There are so many highs and lows in a season. You can be on top one week and the next you can’t get qualified. But that’s what keeps us motivated and driving to do better at every track. I struggled a little bit in Seattle just getting our car qualified. But then it turned into our first ever National event win. You just have to fight hard and drive the best you can. I have a great team behind me with Traxxas and my crew chiefs Ron (Douglas) and Dan (Hood) are the best at setting up the right car.”

Force’s first win came in her 15th career event. It was her third finals appearance and improved her round win-loss record this season to 18-14. The victory helped her move into the sixth spot in the Funny Car season points standings. Force still isn’t locked into the chase, and along with winning, that is a major goal for this event.

“We’re currently not locked in yet, but that would be huge,” Force said. “Being a rookie driver that would be a dream come true. I always thought at the beginning of the season that maybe we could get there. We are in a good position right now. I just can’t screw it up and I need to stay focused and keep running consistent and get locked into the chase.”

Force is 292 points behind points leader Robert Hight, who along with Ron Capps and Jack Beckman, are the only drivers locked into the chase.

She leads her father by three positions. Claiming a win at a track he has owned for a long time, would be a nice way to get acquainted to the Zoo.

JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop

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