NHRA star Courtney Force steps aside from Funny Car ride

John Force Racing
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The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series hasn’t even started and already the series has been rocked by major news sure to disappoint many drag racing fans.

Courtney Force, the winningest female in NHRA Funny Car competition and one of the most popular drivers and fan favorites on the circuit, announced early Thursday morning that she is stepping out of her 11,000 horsepower, 330-mph Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, effective immediately. The NHRA season is slated to begin Feb. 8-10 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

This was a personal choice as I feel I’m ready to see what the next chapter in my life has in store for me, while spending more time with family,” Force said in a media release. “I intend to remain involved in the industry I love and continue to work with a few select partners as I go forward in 2019.

“I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to have such a successful career at John Force Racing and the privilege of working with so many incredible people while racing against competitors who pushed me to be a better driver.”

The news release, issued by John Force Racing, noted that: “While her driving duties will be coming to an end, Force will continue to stay involved in the NHRA by supporting her teammates as well as maintaining off-track partnerships.”

Team patriarch and Courtney’s father, John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history (149 wins, 16 NHRA Funny Car championships), has not issued any statement yet on his daughter’s decision, but it’s likely the elder Force will do so today. NBC Sports has reached out to John Force’s representatives for comment.

The JFR news release also did not include any information whether JFR will have a replacement driver for Courtney Force for the 2019 season. However, it’s expected that the team will make an announcement about Courtney’s car, as well as its sponsorship situation, perhaps as early as Friday.

A JFR team spokesman confirmed to NBC Sports that Courtney is not pregnant, adding that she will give further statements on her decision to step out of her race car in the coming weeks.

The youngest member of the Force racing family has competed in 167 NHRA pro races, earning 12 national event victories and 17 runner-up finishes. She also reached the semifinals on another 29 occasions. She also has been a No. 1 qualifier 28 times, including 11 times during the 2018 season, in which she finished sixth.

Force’s career-best marks include an elapsed time of 3.815 seconds and a top speed of 338.85 mph.

MORE: Column: Where does Courtney Force and NHRA go from here?

The 30-year-old Courtney Force, the youngest of four daughters of John Force, is married to IndyCar star Graham Rahal.

“I first have to thank my dad for encouraging me to live out my dream of being a Funny Car driver while getting to compete against him and learn from the best,” Force said. “I want to thank my family and my husband, Graham, for their support through the highs and lows and to my team for their undeniable will to win and for always keeping me motivated, confident and safe in my race car.

Thank you to all of my sponsors from the start of my career with Traxxas and Ford to now with Advance Auto Parts, Chevrolet, Auto Club, PEAK, Monster, PPG and Mac Tools,” she continued. “I’m grateful for all of your support both on and off the track and the opportunity I had to represent your brands with pride.

Last but not least, to my fans: thank you for all of your support throughout my career. I’m excited to see where this next chapter will take me and I hope to see you all at the track soon.”

Courtney Force is one of four daughters of John Force. Sister Brittany is a NHRA Top Fuel driver, having captured the 2017 Top Fuel championship.

Older sister Ashley Force Hood also became a fan favorite in a drag racing tenure that stretched from 2007 through 2011 before she retired from the sport to start a family with her husband, Danny Hood, who also works at JFR.

Neither Courtney nor Rahal have indicated whether her decision to step down is for a similar reason as Ashley Force Hood’s decision to end her racing career.

However, a JFR team spokesman confirmed to NBC Sports that Courtney is not pregnant, adding that she will give further statements on her decision to step out of her race car in the coming weeks.

Two-time NHRA Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon told NBC Sports, “I wish Courtney well in her next chapter of life whatever that is. I’ve always found her to be a very pleasant and positive person so we’ll all miss that for sure.”

Here are more comments from social media including Courtney Force’s fellow drivers and others in the motorsports world:

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IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change