Photos courtesy John Force Racing

NHRA: Brittany Force to assume her sister’s Advance Auto Parts sponsorship

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One day after Courtney Force announced she was stepping away from drag racing, John Force Racing revealed Friday morning that Courtney’s primary sponsor for the past two seasons, Advance Auto Parts, will move to the Top Fuel dragster of her older sister, Brittany Force, for the 2019 NHRA season.

Thursday’s news that Courtney Force, the youngest of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, was walking away from active driving competition after seven years in a Funny Car rocked the NHRA world. Courtney is one of the most popular drivers on the NHRA circuit.

Brittany Force, who won the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel championship, had previously been sponsored by Monster Energy, but that relationship ended at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

Brittany Force will be sporting her new Advance Auto Parts colors both at next week’s NHRA annual three-day preseason test at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, and officially for the first time in active competition at the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals, February 7-10, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“I’m really excited to start this season teaming up with Advance Auto Parts,” Brittany Force said in a media release. “They’ve been such a great partner to John Force Racing the past two years. They exceeded expectations when working with Courtney, building her as their brand ambassador, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

Brittany Force

“I’m looking forward to getting them their first win in a dragster and ultimately going after a championship. Off track, I look forward to creating new relationships and being involved with everything this great company has to offer.”

Brittany Force became only the second female to ever win a Top Fuel championship in NHRA history in 2017, and the first woman to do so in 35 years since Shirley Muldowney captured her third and final Top Fuel crown in 1982.

The third of four daughters for John Force, Brittany Force struggled at times during the 2018 campaign, including a wild crash in last year’s season-opening Winternationals. Brittany was uninjured in the incident.

She would go on to finish fifth in the Top Fuel standings and won the NHRA Springnationals, her only victory of 2018 after capturing four wins in her championship season.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).