Friday had marked a big day for the father-and-daughter team of John and Courtney Force at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals in Maple Grove, Pa. in their Castrol and Traxxas Fords.
John posted the fifth-quickest run in NHRA history – no small feat given his illustrious career – at 3.987 seconds at a speed of 323.50 mph. Courtney Force ran a slower elapsed time – 4.025 – but a record speed of 329.42 mph.
Additional fastest qualifiers were Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also No. 1 on the day. Final eliminations for the race are Sunday.
UPDATE, 2:10 p.m. ET, Saturday: What had been a record-setting day for Courtney Force with the 329.42 mph pass has, unfortunately, been changed.
The NHRA announced her run was not official due to a glare of sunlight into the speed trap beams, which triggered a malfunction.
“We noticed while Courtney was coming down the track, the sun was on the west side of the track behind the trees, as she come around the trees the car lit up which was not a problem,” Bob Brockmeyer, Compulink founder and a timing expert, explained to CompetitionPlus.com. “Right as she got to the 934 (foot) speed start block, there was a mirage on the track that just lit up completely underneath the front of the car.
“Then the sun was shining on the mirage created by the VHT on the track. The best we can tell, and we’ve seen this before, the sun probably bounced underneath the front of the car and with the car bouncing quite a bit, with the one little bump in the track right there, it probably didn’t bounce over the beam but it may have put enough clearance in the front with the sun and the mirage that it confused the infrared for .003 of a second.”
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.