Courtney Force, with husband Graham Rahal and father, John Force. Photo: NHRA

John Force: ‘Mixed emotions’ on daughter Courtney ending drag racing career

5 Comments

Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force admits that he has “mixed feelings” about Thursday’s announcement that daughter Courtney has likely ended her drag racing career.

On one hand, John Force has a number of great memories garnered from not only watching Courtney grow up, but also as she followed in his racing footsteps to become Funny Car racing’s winningest female driver during her seven-year career in the class. He couldn’t be prouder of the person she’s become and what she’s achieved.

Courtney, my daughter, grew up around racing,” John Force told NBC Sports. “As a kid she lived at the race tracks and at home she drew pictures racing her dad in a Funny Car.

John Force. Photo: NHRA.

“We knew at an early age that all the girls had an interest but Courtney probably showed it the most. As she evolved through super comp into A-fuel while attending college and getting her degree, it was always about race cars. When she went pro, following her sister Ashely, she excelled.

“Courtney had this love and passion and she took to it like a fish in water,. She was living the dream like I was, running to the race tracks, travelling, loving the teams. That was probably what she cherished most was her team, that was her family.

“It wasn’t just the winning, she proved she could do that, she led the points all of 2018 and we thought she was going to win the title, but she always worked with the fans, especially the children. They adored her, why wouldn’t they? She is a social media machine and a PR dream and worked it continually. She accomplished so much and now wants to move onto the next chapter in her life.”

But on the other hand, the elder Force had hoped his youngest of four daughters would eventually replace him as the lead Funny Car driver at John Force Racing

Am I saddened by her leaving? Yes and no. I have mixed emotions. (Courtney) would have replaced me in time.

“Am I saddened by her leaving? Yes and no. I have mixed emotions,” John Force said. “(Courtney) would have replaced me in time as a female Funny Car star but now her goal is to move ahead.

“Once you get hooked on the sport it’s really hard to walk away. She not only drove a race car but she married a race car driver, Graham Rahal, so she’s in this life.”

Courtney is now the second of three of Force’s daughters who have walked away from racing (Ashley Force Hood ended her career after the 2011 season to start a family).

But her older sister, 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champ Brittany, will continue to carry the family torch, in addition to papa John, who turns 70 in May.

John Force said that while Courtney will no longer be behind the wheel, she will still be involved in the sport in other ways, including serving as a spokesman for Advance Auto Parts, as well as having a presence at John Force Racing.

“Courtney will continue to work with sponsors in the future,” Force said. “She’s going to be out there and not just at the drag races.

“It’s been fun the last few days, we’ve spent some time with her, the whole family, (wife) Laurie, Brittany, Ashely, Adria (plus John Force’s other three daughters) and myself. It’s important to keep the family together. The door is always open (for Courtney), she’ll always have a spot here at John Force Racing if she chooses.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.