BROWNSBURG, Indiana — John Force likes to use the word “advance” in discussing the long-term future of his four-car race team.
Friday morning, Force literally put “advance” into action, as he announced daughter Courtney Force’s Funny Car will be sponsored during the 2017 24-race NHRA schedule by Advance Auto Parts stores, beginning with the season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. The deal is for multiple seasons.
“This is all about building John Force Racing for the future,” Force told MotorSportsTalk. “We had a great run with Traxxas, they’ll be staying in the sport, which is great. And now we’re partnering with Advance Auto Parts, which we’re very excited about.”
Advance Auto Parts replaces Traxxas, which produces radio-controlled race cars, and which had sponsored Courtney Force for the past five seasons. Traxxas will remain involved in the sport as sponsor of the Traxxas Shootout, a special race-within-a-race for both Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters contested during the annual U.S. Nationals in Brownsburg.
Advance Auto Parts, which has nearly 5,400 retail stores across the country, is no stranger to John Force Racing. The auto parts supplier sponsored John Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro at several events during the 2016 season, including a victory in the NHRA Carolina Nationals, which kicked off the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“The opportunity came to grow the deal and they were interested in Courtney so it was a perfect match,” John Force said. “I have done shows with Advance Auto Parts in the past and am looking forward to working with them again.”
Both John and Courtney Force will be featured in several upcoming advertising and marketing campaigns for the company.
Somehow, we missed this one the first time it came around — but even a few months later, it still bears sharing. And thanks to the Goodwood Festival of Speed for re-posting on its Facebook page not long after the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale in Sonoma, which is where it caught our eye.
Back in late March, Verizon IndyCar Series driver Max Chilton wanted to give new fiancee Chloe Roberts an up close and personal insight into how a race car driver does his thing behind the wheel.
Chilton confirmed today during a Facebook Live video that they’ll get married during the August 2017 break in IndyCar’s schedule, likely between the Mid-Ohio and Pocono race weekends.
Alas, Chilton was at the 74th members meeting of the Goodwood Festival of Speed when he was given the opportunity to hop into an old car of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jamie McMurray’s.
“It’s very different from what I’m used to,” Chilton said in a video posted on the Festival’s official Facebook page. “It’s very big, heavy, it’s got similar paths to what I’m used to but it’s like a tank of a race car.
“But it’s perfect for what I’m doing today and hopefully it puts on a good show for everyone.”
That’s when Max got the bright idea to take Chloe for a spin.
“Chloe has never been in a racing car, and so she’s never seen what I get out to,” he said. “This isn’t really what I get out to, but it’ll give her the sensation of noise and smoke and the acceleration and adrenaline of having fun in these cars.”
Roberts approached the chance for a ride along with hesitation and trepidation – even requesting to don a helmet when Max informed her he’d be doing some doughnuts with the car.
Still, Roberts was a good sport and went through with it, even though there was a slight blip in plans early on.
“It’s always reassuring when you don’t know how to start a car,” she chided her boyfriend, who struggled to get the Chevrolet SS going.
The best part of the video was when Chilton decided to do a few burnouts. Let’s just say Roberts’ mouth went agape and her facial expressions were priceless.
When the ride ended, Chloe summed things up in just one word: “Terrifying.”
It’s a good thing Max asked Chloe to marry him a week earlier. If he would have waited until after the ride along, who knows what may have happened, right?
When you think of NHRA drag racing and the name Force, you are most likely to first think of 16-time champion John Force.
But let’s not forget about the future of the sport, and that certainly encompasses the racing fortunes of John Force’s daughters, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force and Funny Car driving sibling Courtney Force.
The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series was one filled with highlights and career bests for both of the Force girls, including:
* They both finished sixth in their respective racing classes.
* They both won races, each led the point standings of their respective classes at some point in the season and each was in contention for the championship of their respective divisions.
To say the least, while disappointed at not winning the championship, both Force daughters are happy to have 2016 behind them and are looking ahead to 2017.
As for season highlights, Courtney Force called her win in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout the biggest achievement in 2016.
“We won that event against seven of the top Funny Car teams that were the most competitive last season,” she said. “To know that you have a team capable of rising up for the moment really gets you motivated for future success.”
Brittany’s breakout race was her first career Top Fuel win at Gainesville, Florida, in early spring.
“I had been chasing that first win since my rookie season in 2013 and finally capturing that is something I will never forget,” she said. “That day is one of the proudest moments in my career and was also (John Force Racing’s) first Top Fuel win and first ever double-up win with teammate Robert Hight.”
Both Force teams had major personnel changes heading into the season.
Courtney’s team promoted Dan Hood (husband of another Force daughter, retired racer Ashley Force Hood) and Ronnie Thompson as co-crew chiefs on her Funny Car, while 11-time NHRA Top Fuel championship team owner and master engine tuner Alan Johnson was brought in to direct Brittany’s dragster effort.
“The entire team really gelled together starting in (preseason) testing and by the end of the season we were all working great together,” Courtney Force said. “We might not have won the championship but I think everyone on my team knows we have a great foundation to move forward into next season and beyond.”
Added Brittany Force, “We made quite a few changes at the beginning of the year but this team learned to immediately adjust to it so well that we were able to bring our first win home just three races into our season.”
But now that 2016 is behind them, Courtney and Brittany are both ready for 2017 to begin – even though they will have to wait two-plus more months to pick up where they left off from last season.
“We were No. 1 (in the standings) for four consecutive races (and) picked up a win early in Houston so we just need to get our routine down better and be more consistent,” Courtney said. “That is what we are going to push for in testing over the off-season.
“That gets us excited for next season because we have a great team, a fast car and now we have a better handle on the new Chevrolet Camaro body. We are going into next season all together and we don’t have to adjust much. We can roll into next season with some momentum and consistency.”
As for Brittany, she noted: “Looking into the 2017 NHRA season, I am most excited to see how much our team will advance in comparison to previous years. I always set goals and push to improve each year and looking back on an impressive season I’m confident we will go further next season. We plan to win more races and go after that championship.”
Brittany Force ultimately won not just her first career race last season, but added two other victories as well. You can almost immediately tell the difference in her confidence going forward.
“I am more confident in myself and my team that nothing is out of our reach,” she said. “We will push harder and push for more because we all want that number 1 on the side of our car.”
As for 2017 goals, Courtney Force says she wants to qualify again for the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff, to win the U.S. Nationals for the first time, and of course, to win the overall Funny Car championship – even if it means beating out dear old dad.
“I feel like we have a team over here that could really take that dream home,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Brittany’s goals are similar.
“I plan to improve in areas that I struggle with as a driver,” she said. “I want to finish this next season a step ahead of where I am now. As a team, our goals are to win more races and go after that championship title.”
No matter how old you get, you’re never too old for LEGO’s – particularly if you’re a racing fan.
To that end, LEGO has introduced a new Speed Champions line that will bring back some great old memories, as well as new ones.
Most notable in the LEGO Speed Champions series is Ford race cars that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 50 years apart: the iconic Ford GT40 in 1966 and the Ford GT in 2016.
The series includes cars, mini figures, checkered flags, course workers, championship trophies and racetracks to, as a media release says, “help to bring famous victories to life again and again.”
“Many people in my team grew up with the legend of Ford’s history-making 1966 victory – and experienced the excitement of building and design for the first time through LEGO bricks,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “This kit is a powerful way to tell our Le Mans story, and will hopefully inspire the race drivers, engineers, and designers of the future.”
Ford and LEGO engineers and officials worked together on developing the project.
“This was a dream project – with a lot of pressure,” said Craig Callum, head of design, LEGO Speed Champions. “The Ford GT40 is one of the most iconic race cars of all time, and the new Ford GT is just incredible.
“Designed for children, but with grown-ups fans in mind too, we know these models will be closely scrutinized for authenticity.”
Check out the following video of Callum assembling the new kit in record time:
To order, go to LEGO.com/shop. However, one bit of bad news: they won’t be available for Christmas. Release date is March 1, 2017. Still, it’ll be worth the wait.
Before he returns to the United States, Matt Brabham has some unfinished business back home in Australia.
The 22-year-old grandson of Formula One icon Sir Jack Brabham and son of former driver Geoff Brabham, the third generation driver will compete as a “guest driver” in this weekend’s Toyota 86 Racing Series event in Sydney, the undercard race to the season-ending Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
As a guest driver, Brabham will also serve as a driving coach to young Australian and New Zealand drivers, many that came up through the karting ranks. It will be Brabham’s final race of any type for 2016.
“It will be a bit different being in the coaching role as well as being a competitor in the Series, but having seen some of the races this year, I think it might be me asking some of these guys for some tips,” Brabham said in a media release. “It has been super competitive and some enjoyable racing.”
Brabham will be one of three guest drivers, the other two being Australian racers Jonathon Webb, who won the recent Bathurst 12 Hour race, and Alex Davison, who won the Bathurst 1000.
This has been the inaugural season for the Toyota 86 Racing Series, a driver development program for those aspiring to one day reach higher levels of racing.
All of this weekend’s races will be on a street course through Sydney’s Olympic Park. It’s the same street course that Brabham raced on last year in a Stadium Super Truck.
Last year’s event was also the same weekend that Brabham announced he would make his first appearance in the 2016 Indianapolis 500 (he ultimately finished 22nd). He also competed in the Angie’s List Grand Prix at Indianapolis, finishing 16th.
Brabham is hoping that ongoing efforts to secure a full-time ride for 2017 in the Verizon Indy Car Series will bear similar fruit in the near future.
“The conversations have been ongoing while I’ve been in Australia,” he said. “There are still a couple of opportunities floating about and hopefully I can be in a position to line-up for the first round of the IndyCar season next year.”