John Force has taught his racing daughters – Ashley (retired), Brittany and Courtney – quite a few lessons about drag racing over the years.
One of the most important lessons Papa John has imparted on his daughters is how to do a major league burnout. After all, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion is the undisputed king of burnouts in the sport.
It’s obvious his daughters have learned their lessons well, particularly Courtney.
Having just celebrated the one-year anniversary of her wedding to Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, Courtney Force had a chance a few days ago to put her burnout talents on display.
And boy, did she ever. She generated so much smoke from her rear tires that the fire department should have been on hand.
We’re almost ready to say that if John is the king of burnouts, Courtney is now the queen.
Courtney was loaned a brand new, red-hot (both its paint scheme, as well as the 650 horses it has under the hood) 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to do some burnouts and quarter-mile passes at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
She literally smoked the tires off the Camaro with one of the most spectacular burnouts you’ll ever see come from a street car. If you think NASCAR drivers do great burnouts, wait until you see when Courtney mashed the pedal. Her car disappeared for several seconds in a massive display of burnout smoke before re-emerging.
“The best part about racing is the burnout,” Courtney Force said from behind the wheel. “For me, this is like a dream come true car. It’s a street-legal car that you can take right from the street and take it to a drag strip and race it.”
Thankfully, cameras were on hand to record the fun Courtney had, with NHRA reporter Amanda Busick – who appeared a bit apprehensive before climbing into the car – riding shotgun.
Force, who recently signed a multi-year major sponsorship deal with Advance Auto Parts, consistently ran sub-eight second laps at over 100 mph in her flashy Chevy.
Needless to say, the fun only served to further whet Courtney’s appetite for the 2017 NHRA racing season, which begins in less than two months with the season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway.
“I’m already looking forward to testing in Phoenix (in late January),” said Courtney Force, who finished sixth in 2016, but has much higher goals for 2017.
“We’re going for a championship and I can’t wait to get to testing,” she said with a big smile on her face.
To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.
The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.
“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”
In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.
“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”
Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.
He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.
In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.
Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.
The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.
After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.
“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.
“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.
“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”
Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.
The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.
Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.
The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.
“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.
“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.
“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”