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Force stepping away from driving duties

Mark Hazelwood • Jan 24, 2019 at 4:26 PM

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — It was always easy to spot the biggest crowds.

The Nitro Alley at Summit Motorsports Park every third weekend in June in Norwalk is typically a crowded place. But the biggest crowds typically gathered around the pit area of NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force. If it wasn’t her pit area, it was that of her father, John, the legendary icon of the sport.

That will no longer be the case in 2019 and beyond, however.

The winningest female Funny Car driver in NHRA history, Courtney Force, announced Thursday that she will be climbing out of the driver’s seat of her 11,000 horsepower, 330-mile per hour John Force Racing Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS car.

While her driving duties will be coming to an end, Force looks forward to continuing to stay involved within the sport by supporting her teammates as well as maintaining off-track partnerships.

“I will be stepping away from my driving duties, effective immediately,” Force said in a statement. “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. 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.”

Summit Motorsports Park President Bill Bader Jr., who has a longstanding relationship with the Force family, talked about the news — which comes just two weeks before the 2019 NHRA season begins on Feb. 7 with the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

“I think it’s always challenging to lose a young talent like Courtney,” Bader said. “It’s a loss for our sport, for sure. However, I understand her desire to pursue interests outside of motorsports, and I wish her much happiness as she starts the next chapter.”

A top 10 finisher in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in six of her seven professional seasons, Force dreamed of being a Funny Car driver and competing against her dad from a very early age.

John Force is the team owner and 16-time world champion, against whom she was able to forge a 13-16 career record.

In 167 pro races, she racked up 12 victories, was runner-up 17 times and reached the semifinals on another 29 occasions. She was the No. 1 qualifier 28 times, 11 times during the 2018 season alone, just two shy of the class record of 13 her dad set in 1996. She had a career best elapsed time of 3.815 seconds and a career best speed of 338.85 mph.

At the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Courtney Force reached the championship round in three of the past four years — including last season. She fell in the finals each time.

Courtney’s husband is IndyCar standout Graham Rahal, also a longtime racing family in his sport, from Columbus. That always made the Norwalk dragstrip special for both, as Courtney also spent years as a kid at the Norwalk facility as well.

“It almost feels like a second home track for me, just being that my husband is from Ohio,” Force said in a 2017 interview with the Reflector. “I know there’s a lot of close friends of ours who will be watching.”

Courtney thanked her father for encouraging her to live out a dream while getting to compete against and learn from him.

“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,” she said. “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. 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,” she added. “I’m excited to see where this next chapter will take me and I hope to see you all at the track soon.”

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