espnW: NHRA

Summer fun for DeJoria family

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
2:26
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DeJoria Courtesy of Alexis DeJoria RacingFrom left, Alexis DeJoria's daughters Sunny and Bella, with friend Avery Kalitta, cheer on Alexis at one of several summer races.

Things get pretty interesting this time of year. We’re now in the middle of our most hectic time of the race season -- the summer. We just did three weeks in a row of back-to-back racing, had one week off, and now we’re in the midst of a four-week stretch. After this four in a row, we have another week off, and then our Patrón XO Cafe Toyota Camry Funny Car team heads to the Western Swing for three in a row.

It’s times like these that will really make or break you -- especially if you have a family at home and you’re trying to balance that. In the days (or sometimes day) between these back-to-back races, I’m only home long enough to unpack my suitcase, wash my clothes and repack them. Then it’s off to the airport for another race.

Luckily, Sunny and Bella just got out of school, and Jesse and I plan on taking them on the road with us to as many races as possible. We’ll blow up the air mattress in the motor coach and set up our “home away from home” at the track. It’s close quarters, but it’s fun to camp out like that as a family and see the country. Between races, we always try to find some different things to do together.

We’re heading to Epping, New Hampshire, this week and then after that it’s off to Chicago and then straight on to Norwalk, Ohio, which for my girls is probably one of the most anticipated races of the season. They love the Norwalk race because we stay at the Kalahari Resort -- the largest indoor waterpark in the nation. The Kalahari is really a great place for the kids. In addition to the waterpark, they have tons of fun activities, games, an arcade and a petting zoo. The girls even got to hold a baby tiger last year.

[+] EnlargeAlexis DeJoria racing
Courtesy Gary Nastase PhotographyAlexis DeJoria's Toyota Camry shoots header flames as high as 10 feet at times, but they're nothing compared with the fireworks display at Norwalk, Ohio, Fourth of July weekend.

Bella and Sunny are friends with a lot of the other racers’ kids, so they all love to meet up at this race and play at the hotel. While they love coming out to the track and watching us race, the days are pretty long, and they can take only so much out there, so it’s nice to have something else to distract them and keep them occupied.

The Fourth of July always falls either right before or during the weekend of the Norwalk race, and the track owner, Bill Bader, puts on an amazing fireworks display out there on Friday night. It’s incredible. The fireworks light up the whole place -- even more so than our cars do when we blaze down the track at night with our 10-foot-high header flames. It’s really exciting and it’s nice that even though we’re on the road and away from home, we still get to enjoy the Fourth together as a family.

For me as a racer, these back-to-back races can be grueling, but at the same time there are some advantages to nonstop racing. Not having much time out of the seat keeps you sharp. It keeps you on your game, especially when you’re trying to stay up there in points, as we are. We don’t get to have practice days because we are in the car so much. The race weekends are our practice. If there is something specific we want to try out, than we may stay the Monday after a race to test, but that’s rare.

We did pretty decent this past weekend in Bristol, Tennessee. Our team picked up some more qualifying bonus points and second-round points. Hopefully we’ll continue to collect more points throughout this four-in-a-row, and keep ourselves up in the top half of the points ranking.





Fitness key for demanding sport

May, 14, 2014
May 14
1:34
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Alexis DeJoriaBrian Fitzsimmons/Austin Fit MagazineCircuit training five days a week helps Alexis DeJoria withstand the rigors of driving a 10,000-horsepower, nitromethane-fueled, 300-plus mph race car.

With nearly two weeks off after our last race in Houston, I’m so ready to get back on the track. Our team is doing great so far this season. With wins come expectations, and once you’ve tasted success, that is all you can think of. It’s almost like an addiction of sorts.

Being on the road 24 weekends out of the year can take a toll on your body --especially as a professional athlete who has to be in the best possible shape for the ever demanding Nitro Funny Car. I make every possible effort to eat healthy and work out regularly. I try to buy healthy, organic food whenever I can, but it can sometimes be a challenge depending on where we happen to be racing that week.

My husband and I stay in a tour bus at the track like many race car drivers do. We don't always have the best options at our disposal. This is where discipline comes into play; making sure the refrigerator is filled with healthy proteins, good carbs, vegetables and fruit for a healthy snack. I typically start the day off with steel cut oats and a large cup of coffee. It’s probably not the best combo, but it’s been a staple at my house for as long as I can remember.

[+] EnlargeDeJoria
Brian Fitzsimmons/Austin Fit MagazineWorking out and eating healthy help Alexis DeJoria maintain the energy level she needs as a professional athlete and a mom.

Some people may think this is all for naught, bringing up the fact that our runs only last 4 seconds at a time. Well, let me tell you something about what I drive and what goes on outside of the car as well. I pilot a 10,000-horsepower, nitromethane-fueled, sub-4 second, 300-plus mph race car. These are the fastest accelerating cars in the world.

We pull anywhere from 3 to 6 G’s, then an immediate negative 5 G’s at deceleration. All those G-forces are transferred directly through my body, with my neck and back taking the brunt of it. If the car drops a cylinder during a run, they are brutal. More than 1,000 pounds of force is produced from the exhaust gasses escaping the open headers. When cylinder failure occurs, the car pulls to that side due to unequal downforce. This makes it very difficult to keep the car straight. Not to mention these short wheelbase cars don't want to go straight to begin with. They are a handful and this is why I absolutely love my job. No dull moments at “the office.”

Back in the pits, the crew tears down the motor and services the clutch in a matter of 45 minutes, give or take, between rounds. Some drivers pack their own parachutes and perform other various tasks on the car during this time. I am one of those who does and always will.

Between driving, working on the parachutes, filling my fresh air bottles, strategizing with my crew chiefs, meeting with sponsors, friends, fans and doing interviews, my plate is quite full. Circuit training five days a week and having a healthy eating regimen has helped me maintain a consistent level of energy, one that also can be stepped up on race day -- crucial! Oh, and did I mention I’m a mom, too?!

Here’s to your health, ladies and gentleman. See ya at the races!

Here’s a few bands from my workout playlist. I like a wide range of music so I don't get bored.

Deftones

Avenged Sevenfold

Alice in Chains

Gojira

Five Finger Death Punch

The Cramps

Driicky Graham

The Brains

Misfits

ASAP Rocky

Gabriel & Dresden

Chevelle

Killswitch Engage

Wiz Khalifa

Wu-Tang Clan





Hard work pays off with 2nd win

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
5:54
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Alexis DeJoriaCourtesy Gary NastaseAlexis DeJoria beat Robert Hight in the final round in Las Vegas for her second win of the year.

This last year made a huge difference on our Toyota Camry. As I mentioned before in my last blog, our first two years were a struggle. As with any new team, building a competitive, winning operation takes time -- finding the right people, clutch set up, and so on.

All this hard work has finally paid off, and I am proud to say we have just won our second race in just four races this season. Two out of four is pretty good for a team that only made it to one final and a handful of semifinal rounds in two and a half years on the pro circuit -- not to mention running a career best and female world record with a 3.997-second run in our season opener at the Auto Club raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Our crew chiefs, Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar, joined the team at the beginning of last year. We had a good year with Del Worsham at the helm in 2012, but there was a shift in the Kalitta Motorsports camp and Del was asked to drive the DHL Funny Car.

Tommy and Glen had their work cut out for them due to the fact that their tuning approach is different from Del's and there were many things they had to change to better suit their style. No two crew chiefs tune a car the same. These changes take time to catch on and work themselves out, thus making our car consistent.

Luckily this team is down for the cause and has faith because it has paid off tenfold! Our guys this year are gelling like I've never seen before. We now have the consistency we were working to achieve. We now have ourselves a Hot Rod!

Here are some of my favorite photos from this past weekend, when we won in Vegas:

AlexisCourtesy Gary Nastase

Climbing out of my Toyota Camry after beating Robert Hight in the final round. We made a GREAT pass that round, running a 4.026-second ET vs. his 4.083. It was like a rematch of Phoenix, where we were up against each other in the finals.

AlexisCourtesy Gary Nastase

Round 1 of eliminations vs. Matt Hagan. Our 4.071-second at 305.08-mph was low ET of the round and really set the tone for the day, I believe.

AlexisCourtesy Gary Nastase

Kalitta Motorsports truly is a team. You’ll notice in this picture that there is a crew guy in a DHL shirt working on our car. That’s because on Sundays once a Kalitta car gets eliminated, the guys on that car will go help out on the cars that are still in.

AlexisCourtesy of Gary Nastase

This is something you only see with the Kalittas -- EVERY single member of Kalitta Motorsports comes down to the line for the final round to cheer on one of our cars. We’re the only team that does this, and this is just one of the many reasons why I love being a part of Kalitta Motorsports.

AlexisCourtesy of Gary Nastase

And we all celebrate like a team! The infamous ‘Kalitta Moshpit.’

Alexis DeJoriaCourtesy Gary Nastase

Seeing some of my teammates for the first time since climbing out of the car after the final round.

Alexis DeJoriaCourtesy Gary Nastase

After our Phoenix win, there was a picture of Jesse picking me up, which seemed to go everywhere on the Internet. Jesse and Del decided to recreate it this weekend, haha!

AlexisCourtesy Gary Nastase

The 2014 SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals Funny Car champions!

Alexis DeJoria is fresh off her second career win as a professional driver [15th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas, Nev., March 30]. She is currently third in points in the NHRA rankings.

New look drives results

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
5:12
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Alexis Dejoria Courtesy of Gary Nastase A brand-new look was just the thing Alexis Dejoria needed to spark her first Funny car victory.

To say the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has started out on a good note for our Patrón XO Cafe Toyota Camry Funny Car team would be an understatement.

For those that have been following my career, you may be surprised to see me in a purple, gold and black car this year, as opposed to the signature green, silver and black car that I've raced over the past several years in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class, and more recently the nitro Funny Car class.

We debuted our green and silver Tequila Patrón nitro Funny Car in September 2011 and in the two seasons that followed, had a little bit of a rough ride. We had done alright. We made it to a final round and five semifinal appearances and had definitely had some good runs, but we never won a race, which was a bit of a disappointment to our team. At the end of our 2013 season this past November, we were approached by Patrón about changing our car from the Tequila Patrón hot rod to the Patrón XO Cafe car. We were beyond thrilled for this opportunity. Toward the end of our 2013 season, we started to see some noticeable progress with the car, and we knew we would have a solid foundation to work off of leading into the 2014 season. To have the opportunity to start fresh with a brand-new look was just the thing our team needed.

We're now two races into the 2014 season and the new look has been very well received by our fans and peers. Everyone loves this darker side of Patron. Even more exciting, the car has been on a roll! At the first race of the season, we ran a 3.997-second ET (elapsed time) during qualifying. That run would cement my place in history as the first female to ever make a sub-four second pass. It was an incredible feeling and an amazing way to kick off the opening race of the season.

At our very next race in Phoenix, we finally pulled off the ultimate goal that we had worked so hard to achieve since we launched our team in 2011 -- we WON! The feeling was so surreal, and I'll never forget it. I'm now the fourth woman to have ever won a national Funny Car event, and the only woman to have won both a Funny Car and Top Alcohol Funny Car event. I'm confident that people will continue to see big things out of the team this year.

I'll be writing this blog every month, so please check back soon. In the meantime, you can keep up with our team by following us on Twitter @ADR_Nitro771, liking us on Facebook at Alexis DeJoria, or visiting our team website, www.alexisdejoria.com.

First final was a thrill

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
2:30
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Brittany ForceGary Nastase photographyBrittany Force was afraid she'd be nervous before her first final round, but instead felt only excitement.

Just two races into the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, my Castrol EDGE team finally made it to our first final round. With the 2013 rookie of the year title on our shoulders, my entire team has high expectations for our year, and we are looking for our first win.

In the offseason, we made some dramatic changes to the team. We teamed up with Todd Smith as crew chief and have already been running more consistently. We ran our career-best 3.778 seconds ET (elapsed time) at 326.24 mph in Pomona. The team has also been testing a new clutch that we believe will step us up with the rest of our competition. All last year we ran a five-disk clutch pack, and now we are experimenting with a six-disk clutch pack that will allow our car to run smoother and faster.

Sunday morning in Phoenix I woke up feeling confident our team would be going some rounds. We faced David Grubnic, who beat us last year at this track, in the first round of eliminations. After making a clean pass and getting the head start off the line, the team ran a 3.82 and advanced to the next round.

[+] EnlargeBrittany Force
Gary Nastase photographyAfter changes to her team, 2013 rookie of the year Brittany Force is running even more consistently this year.

In the second round, I faced "The Sarge," Tony Schumacher. I knew this round would be a tough one for my team, but I was still feeling confident about turning on the win light. After another solid pass, our team improved, running a 3.80 and getting to the finish line first. Getting out of my car at the top end I was still running on adrenaline and beyond excited! My energy was through the roof because our team had just taken out the champion.

Schumacher is the seven-time Top Fuel champ and the one competitor I have always dreamed of beating. After the run, he came over to congratulate me and I hugged him knowing that round win will always be a big moment in my career.

Round 3, my team was running against Steve Torrence and we managed to get past him and got another win. We were now going into the finals. Three interviews and three laps in one day was something new to me, and I was loving every second of going rounds on race day!

I ran Super Comp for three years, A-fuel for two years and had still never made it to a final. This was going to be my first final round and it all seemed so surreal to me. Last year, I constantly thought about going into a final and worried about how stressed and nervous I would be. My biggest concern was how I would react under pressure. I feared I would be so overwhelmed I would not perform my best and would cost the team a win.

Heading up to the final, I was wrong. More than anything, I was excited! Going rounds was so exhilarating and so much fun, the fear had been driven out. My team was also on a high keeping each other and me motivated between rounds. It seemed like the day had gone by so fast as we headed up to the starting line for the last time. I knew no matter what, my team would be at the top end to pat me on the back and would be proud of what we had accomplished. After a close race, Antron Brown crossed the finish line first and got the win.

Our day had come to an end, but I was still smiling climbing out of my car at the top end. I had my best reaction time of the weekend and my team gave me a car that ran a 3.79! We got beat but put on an awesome show for the fans! This weekend the team proved our strength and that we are ready for the historic GatorNationals in Gainesville, Fla., on March 13-16.

The gift of family

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
11:04
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Force FamilyCourtesy of Brittany ForceA few of the Force family Christmas traditions include spending the holiday at Lake Tahoe, baking cookies and attending the same church Ashley Force got married in.

Even though a Top Fuel dragster in the Force pits is not tradition, Christmastime is one tradition my family always keeps. Every year my family packs their bags and wrapped presents and heads to Lake Tahoe for a winter holiday.

We always go overboard with Christmas by pulling out all the festive trimmings. We decorate a Christmas tree, hang stockings by the chimney, bake in the kitchen and watch our favorite Christmas movies. Mine is "Home Alone." This year, Christmastime seems even more magical with two little kiddos, my nephews Jacob and Noah, laughing and running through the house.

Brittany Force
Courtesy of Brittany ForceBrittany Force's nephew Jacob ripped through his presents under the tree and spent the rest of Christmas Day playing with all his toys from Santa.

My family looks forward to Christmas all year long, and we all enjoy being under the same roof to get into the holiday spirit. Christmas Eve my dad sets out to begin his Christmas shopping, while my sisters and I stay in relaxing by the fire and baking cookies. In the evening, we all get ready and go to church together at St. Francis. It's the same church my sister, Ashley, got married in, so is filled with so many great memories for all of us.

After church my family picks up Chinese food to bring home, a Force family tradition. As a little kid we use to do Carl’s Jr. on Christmas Eve, but after getting the wrong happy meal one year and crying over my chicken nuggets we made the switch to family-style Chinese dishes. After dinner, my family exchanges gifts by the tree and enjoys each other's company. This year we ended our night watching Jacob put out cookies for Santa.

The next morning my family cooked breakfast and let Jacob look under the tree to see if Santa made it down our chimney. Jacob ripped through everyone's presents and spent the rest of the day playing with all his race car toys from the North Pole.

In the evening, the entire Force family cooked up a traditional holiday meal. There are always too many people in one kitchen singing holiday songs, but it is always such a great time. With new little faces at the dinner table it is such a blessing to be able to celebrate Christmas all together, as one family.


Mammovan event a success

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
2:33
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Alexis DejoriaGary Nastase PhotographyThe mammovan set up behind Alexis DeJorias pit during the three-day race weekend in Las Vegas and offered free mammograms to women over 40 attending the race  no insurance required.

When I sat down with my PR team in August to plan our breast cancer awareness campaign, we all agreed on wanting to do something more than just changing the car color and wearing pink. Being a female driver and having a female crew member and many females working behind the scenes on our team, we wanted to do something proactive that would support the thousands of female fans who have supported me and the other NHRA drivers over the years.

After finding the mammovan program (a mobile mammography unit) through the Nevada Health Centers, I knew it would be the perfect fit for the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct 25-27, in Las Vegas.

The mammovan came to the racetrack and parked behind our pit throughout the duration of the three-day race weekend. Free mammograms were available to any female attending the race over the age of 40 -- even if she did not have health insurance. No appointments or referrals necessary. This is something that had never been done at any race.

[+] EnlargeMammogram sign
Courtesy Hightail ItMore than 100 women took advantage of the free mammograms offered during NHRA Toyota Nationals race weekend.

The sport of drag racing isn’t typically synonymous with women’s health, but at any given race, which draws crowds by the tens of thousands, you see just as many female fans as males. People don’t think of auto racing as a sport that attracts a large female audience, but it does, which is why I was so intent on doing this.

We weren’t sure what the response would be going into the weekend. Would women want to have a mammogram performed at a racetrack? Would anyone take advantage of this?

We estimated that maybe 50 women would elect to receive a mammogram over the three-day weekend, but we ended up being able to provide more than 100 women with this free service.

The response was incredible! From the time the mammovan opened its doors every morning, there was a line of women, and it was nonstop throughout all three days. According to the Nevada Health Centers, it was estimated that 80 percent of the women who stopped by the mammovan did not have health insurance.

Words can’t even describe how impressed I am with the mammovan program and the Nevada Health Centers’ team. With their help and through promotion on traditional and social media channels, the response far exceeded our expectations, especially since this is the first time something like this had been done in this sport. This would not have been possible without the support of some of my amazing sponsors, including Technicoat, Fischer Honda, and, of course, Kalitta Motorsports.

I also decided to take advantage of the free screening. I was nervous, but the process was not nearly as scary as many think. I learned that fear is one of the biggest factors that prevents women from receiving a mammogram.

According to the Nevada Health Centers, one out of eight women (or 12 percent) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. That means statistically at least 12 women who received a mammogram at the mammovan have the potential for early detection and treatment.

I feel very humbled that I was able to help bring this program to the track and to the women who attended the Toyota Nationals. The outpouring of support from other teams, racers and the fans was incredibly touching. I think people are quick to forget there are just about as many female fans in this sport as men. I am still blown away by the response and look forward to being able to do something like this again at a future race.





It's time to give back

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
1:51
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Brittany ForceCourtesy Brittany ForceBrittany Force, middle, her sister Courtney, far right, and their friends and teammates helped transform a barren lot into a backyard for two families in Santa Ana, Calif.

October is the month for giving back here in the John Force Racing pits.

John Force Racing has always been about teamwork, and we have come together the last couple of weekends for a great cause. Saturday, a group of JFR employees, our teammates from System 51 and some good friends got their hands dirty and gave back to the community by teaming up with Habitat for Humanity.

Before the sun came up Saturday, a JFR crew headed out to Santa Ana, Calif., excited to get to work and help local families. We suited up in kneepads, aprons and gloves and spent eight hours doing intensive labor, getting dirtier than we have ever been at a racetrack. We planted flowers and shrubs, spread mulch and laid over 10 pallets of sod in one front yard and two large backyards. We were all a part of transforming a barren lot into a beautiful backyard where two families can now call part of their home.

Being able to come together with friends and give back to our community was such a privilege. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides a better way of life for lower income families. The organization has helped build more than 600,000 homes and have assisted 3 million people worldwide.

Back on the track, JFR has also found a way to involve themselves in something just as powerful. Recently, when our teams were competing in Reading, Pa., they showed their dedication to Breast Cancer Awareness month by going pink. The Castrol EDGE team pulled up to the starting line in a newly painted black and hot pink dragster.

Other teams on the track, like that of my sister Courtney, with her Traxxas team, painted their race cars pink as well. My firesuit had hot pink stripes, my team had matching team shirts and some even rocked hot pink vans and sweat bands. The Castrol EDGE team had a consistent car all weekend but unfortunately went out in the first round.

In a couple of weeks, my team will be painting the Las Vegas track pink to bring awareness to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Fans can join in by ordering either my pink Castrol EDGE dragster die-cast or Courtney's pink Traxxas Funny Car die-cast from Lionel from our souvenir store. Portions from the sale of the pink race cars will go to the foundation.

To find something close to my heart and watch my friends and teammates come together in support means so much to me.

When I began thinking about competing professionally, I knew I wanted to use racing to open doors to involve myself in a good cause. Drag racing brings entertainment to fans all over the world, but I wanted to bring more than just that. I hoped to have moved my friends, teammates and even my fans by being a good example and giving back. I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many good friends by my side who actively support the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

Vote for me and my team!

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
5:49
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Brittany Force Courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography Brittany Force hopes to get her Top Fuel team into the Traxxas Shootout.

Coming out of Brainerd, this Castrol EDGE team has a new, focused goal heading into our biggest race of the year, Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the hub of all motorsports. It holds the event that kicks off the start of the Championship Countdown and Traxxas Shootout, a $100,000 competition between the first seven Top Fuel winners of 2013. The eighth contender comes down to a fan vote and my team and I want that spot.

My rookie team has not had an easy season but one thing we have learned from my father, our boss and champ John Force, is we are all one team. We stick together, battle it out and stay positive. We’ve lost races together and we will win together and we plan to go after our first ever win starting in Indianapolis.

Prior to the race in Indianapolis, my team plans to do some testing to make sure we are at the same level with our competition. We are making some risky changes we believe will put us in fighting shape. Earning five round wins, qualifying No. 3 in Denver and competing in two of the quickest (and toughest) qualifying fields ever this year, our team is ready to show how competitive we really are.

The John Force Racing PR team and I are busy promoting my Top Fuel team for the fan vote in the Shootout. Everything from YouTube videos to stickers are floating around the racetracks and are in the hands of some of our biggest fans. Winning the final spot could make me the first woman ever to compete in the Top Fuel ranks in the Shootout.

Growing up as a kid at the racetrack, I remember watching my dad compete various Shootouts and specialty races and even remember watching him win. I can still recall the details of watching some of those final rounds with my sisters. Prayers in, fingers crossed, we would watch from the back seat of our teams tow trucks. Eyes burning from nitro, ears stinging from the roar of two Funny Cars launching off the starting line, we all hoped my dad’s red and green-striped Funny Car would get to the finish line first. Watching my dad’s win light glow in the heat of the night, my sisters and I cheered from the back seat.

My dad’s wins at Indy were some of the greatest memories from my childhood and seemed like something so unreachable to a kid who began racing at 17 years old. But now I might have that chance to compete like my dad and make a memory of my own. So, today I am asking for all you readers to vote for me, Brittany Force and give this hardworking team a chance for the fight and a chance to earn our first win in our rookie season.

Also vote for my brother-in-law Robert Hight in the Funny Car category.



Family support means everything

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
10:56
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Force FamilyCourtesy of Courtney ForceThe members of the Force family are each other's biggest cheerleaders, with dad John and his daughters Brittany, left, Courtney, center, and Ashley, right, all racing on the circuit at one time or another.

It's been a wonderful year. I'm so proud of my Traxxas team for all their hard work. We just wrapped up the Western Swing, where we raced our way to two back-to-back semifinal round appearances and moved up a spot in points!

It takes a lot of hard work, concentration and dedication when you're running three races in a row. I'm so proud of all our John Force Racing teams, and I really think we're getting back on the right track at the right time.

Being on the road with my friends and family and getting the opportunity to race a Funny Car at the same time is one of the greatest things on Earth. I'm fortunate I get to do a job that I love, and I get to compete against my dad and cheer on my sister, Brittany, in the process.

[+] EnlargeCourtney Force
Courtesy of Courtney ForceThe Force sisters continue their tradition of wine tasting, visiting wineries in Sonoma, Calif., where they can get away from their hectic lives.

The most frustrating thing as a driver is losing on a holeshot, which means your competition left the starting line before you. I won on a holeshot in Sonoma, and the following weekend I lost on one. It happens to everyone at some point, but it is the worst feeling knowing you let your team down on that run.

As a driver, you do whatever you can to be the best. I'm constantly on my practice tree -- working on my reaction times and trying to improve. Luckily, I have a great group of guys who are my support system. They cheer me up even when I know I've let them down. It's the toughest part as a driver, but I'm so thankful I have a team that will stick by my side no matter what and will always remind me that "we win as a team and lose as a team."

Now, it's crunch time, and I'm eager to get this Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car clinched in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. I'm looking forward to Indy, and we will of course strive for our first win at "The Big Go," the biggest race on the NHRA circuit.

I'll also be cheering on Brittany, who needs to win the fan vote/lottery style drawing on Wednesday morning before the race to get the last spot in the Traxxas Top Fuel Nitro Shootout! I campaigned for the last spot in the shootout last year, and it was pretty stressful. You need to get as many votes as possible because after that your votes go into a lottery where only one person is drawn to win.

In between the Sonoma and Seattle races, I hung out with my sisters, continuing our tradition of wine tasting in beautiful Sonoma, Calif. A driver took us to local wineries, and we had a great time just being with each other, away from our crazy busy lives.

After a semifinal-round finish for our team and a runner-up finish for my dad, we headed over to Lake Tahoe for some vacation time with family and friends.

We went out on the lake for a day of boating at Emerald Bay and Sand Harbor and did some tubing and tanning. Lake Tahoe is one of our all-time favorite vacation spots, and it's awesome to be able to go there with my family between races to recharge our batteries. While in Tahoe, we hit the beach and just used the time to relax. We even visited our former race track chef, Jonny Roscher, at his newly opened restaurant called Za's in Tahoe City. The food was amazing, and I'm pretty sure our family tried everything on his menu.

I love getting to compete in my Funny Car, being out at the race track with my family and just enjoying the atmosphere that surrounds us all every weekend. It's an amazing sport, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a race car driver like my dad, and it's really cool to have the chance to be out here racing in the lane next to him and learning how to improve myself as a driver. I'm loving every minute of it.


Hanging out in Seattle

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
5:33
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Brittany ForceCourtesy of Force RacingBrittany Force and her team explored the farmer's market in Seattle.

The life of a NHRA driver is crazy, hectic and never routine. But it is also exactly what I expected and everything I love in my rookie season. Heading into Seattle I really wanted to put a spin on things. I decided to drive in the big rigs with my crew guys and get into town a few days early to explore Seattle. I typically fly into national events, so trucking in the big rigs and our tow truck for 15 hours was going to be something I haven’t done since I was a kid with my dad.

Leaving Sonoma, Calif., around 8 a.m. we ran into our first problem, luggage. I have always had a slight problem of over packing, to the point I have to weigh my bag before airport runs so I don’t have to pay extra. After 30 minutes of rearranging everyone’s bags we crammed it all in and hit the road. Our first stop -- about three minutes into our 782-mile drive -- was McDonald’s. After the breakfast run we were getting a late start on our very long road trip.

Riding along in our Ford Explorer we listened to country music, played car games, talked and even sang about racing. My guys are pretty good at changing all the words in a country song to make it a Castrol Edge Top Fuel racing team song. Pulling over for gas, I jumped out and switched to the big rig to continue our journey.

After only a few hours of riding in the big rig I learned I have a new respect for the CDL drivers. They get cut off more than you can imagine and trying to stop an 80,000 pound tractor-trailer is not a simply task. Being so high off the ground the views from Sonoma to Seattle were beautiful. We drove though Portland and I was able to snap some pictures of the city. My guys and I got on the radio and talked to other truck drivers, went through the scales and belted out some tunes together. We finally arrived to our hotel in Auburn, Wash., close to midnight. The 15-hour drive was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I saw some beautiful scenery, ate fast-food three times in one day and got to know my guys a little bit better.

[+] EnlargeBrittany Force
Courtesy of Force RacingBrittany Force rode the Ferris wheel in Seattle.

Getting up early the next day I was ready to see the city that always sits beneath the clouds. Some of my team and I loaded in a car and went downtown. After some research we all decided on some sites and started at Pier 57 to ride Seattle’s Great Wheel. This Ferris wheel is the largest on the West Coast and we all captured some pictures of the city 175 feet off the ground. Next on the agenda, was Pikes Place, the original farmers market and biggest tourist attraction in the city. We bought everything from flowers to fresh fruit to pasta. We went on a search to find the first Starbucks built back in 1971. After stopping at three Starbucks we finally found the original where we enjoyed some iced coffee and bought a souvenir mug. Deciding it was time to head home we stopped for some fresh sushi and said goodbye to the city for the evening.

To promote the O’Reilly Northwest Nationals, I was asked to attend the NHRA news conference in downtown Seattle. Glad to go back into the city, I went with my PR rep Michelle McCullough. We started at Pike Place Fish Company where I was going to attempt to catch a flying fish. Everyone at the Fish Company was very welcoming. They were told an NHRA Top Fuel driver was going to be their guest; they all admitted they were expecting a man. The guys in white aprons had energetic personalities and drew a crowd in immediately. They announced me and asked the crowd if they wanted me to catch some huge fish. They pulled me up behind the counter and taught me the proper techniques of catching slimy fish.

One of the guys took off, stood in the crowd a good 30 feet away and began counting down. I suddenly began to panic! The crowds started cheering and people had their cameras and video cameras ready. All I could picture was the giant fish slipping out of my hands and smacking the floor. Before I could attempt to stall any longer a fish was sailing through the air and right towards me. Suddenly, my vision changed and I no longer feared I would drop the fish, but that I would be the first at Pike Place Fish Company to be smacked in the face with a giant halibut. How can I get out of this? Duck and avoid it all together or shove the man in the white apron in front of me to get the dirty work done. Nope! I will go big or go home. Arms stretched out, feet shoulder width apart and palms up the fish landed right in my hands. Smiling I held it up to the crowd who cheered and snapped pictures. Looking down at the smelly fish I had not thought this through. I have gone fishing with my dad hundreds of times but always got out of actually touching the fish and pulling out the hook.

I quickly passed it off and the guys asked the crowd if they wanted to see me catch a fish again. Before I could give my answer, another fish was flying through the air and miraculously landed in my hands again. Either the guy throwing the fish had quite the aim or I should change careers. I thanked everyone at the market and had the biggest smile on my face because that was one of the most memorable experiences of the Northwest tour.

After 12 hand washes I headed to the Space Needle to attend the NHRA news conference. At the top of this building I could see all of Seattle. I met with writers and local TV stations where Alexis DeJoria, Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey and I all promoted the race.

After some time off I was ready to get back to work on the racetrack. My team and I qualified No. 13 Saturday and unfortunately went out in the first round of eliminations. It was a tough day but it motivated us all to get the job done right in Brainerd, Minn., in two weeks. Even though my team and I didn’t go rounds like we had planned we still had such a great time. I had the opportunity to see what they do outside the track and how they get the big rigs to town to set up for our events. We got to explore Seattle and hang out off the racetrack. Those memories will be ones I will never forget!

Dream is reality in Body Issue

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
11:22
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Surprise! I'm in the 2013 ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue, and what a ride it's been.

I was originally approached last season, my rookie year in Funny Car, to be in the Body Issue but made the decision to turn it down. At the time, the start of 2012, I felt it was the right choice.

I had been racing in sportsman categories within the NHRA for the past seven years and was about to take a huge step up into the professional category piloting a Nitro Funny Car when ESPN asked me to participate in the prestigious issue. I had a lot on my plate, but my main focuses were learning how to drive my race car, take tips from my dad on how to drive, be the spokesperson for Ford Driving Skills for Life and just get through my first season while gaining as much experience as possible.

The year went better than expected, and I finished my rookie season in Funny Car. I locked into the points chase for the Countdown to the Championship, got the last spot for the Traxxas Shootout, picked up my first Funny Car win in Seattle, finished fifth in overall total points by the end of the NHRA season and even picked up rookie of the year, all in a male-dominated sport.

Courtney Force
Williams + Hirakawa for ESPN The MagazineCourtney Force says she hopes the magazine shots show off the athleticism that a career in Funny Car requires.

When I continued in 2013 as one of two females in the Funny Car category, I was able to pick up two more NHRA national event wins before being approached by ESPN again. This time I felt the Body Issue was an opportunity I could not pass up. I've worked really hard trying to prove myself as a driver, and although this is just the beginning and I still have a lot to learn, I'm proud of what my Traxxas Ford Mustang team has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. As a driver, I work hard in the gym to train my body so that I can be strong enough to keep up with the boys I compete against and handle my 10,000 horsepower race car.

My dad, whom I compete against every weekend in the Funny Car category, also participated in the Body Issue back in 2011. He has really been my mentor and my biggest supporter throughout my journey in Funny Car. I sat my dad down and talked to him about what his opinion was if I agreed to be nude. Of course, my dad was a little shocked, but he told me that he would support my opinion since I'm a grown adult. Obviously, my family's opinion is very important to me so I sat down with all of them nervously and asked for their thoughts. This is such a huge magazine and of course a huge honor to be asked, let alone be the one recognized in our sport. However, it is nude ...

After weighing the pros and cons for a few months throughout this decision-making process, I decided I was going to do it. What better way to showcase the athleticism of our sport to an unknown audience? Hopefully it could even draw a different audience into the seats of our NHRA races across the country for years to come.

I'm so proud of the fact that I get to drive a race car that hits speeds of more than 300 mph in just four seconds every weekend, and hope the strength our sport requires is highlighted in the photographs. I'm so fortunate for the opportunity, but am even more passionate about striving to be the best in my sport. I've got a long road ahead of me if I'm going to follow in my father's footsteps as a 15-time champion, but that's why I hit the gym hard and make it a lifestyle. I live and breathe racing and look forward to hopping into the cockpit of my Funny Car every weekend in hopes of learning something new, and taking home that Wally at the end of the weekend. Through all the blood, sweat, and tears, you need to have a thick skin in this sport and, as my dad likes to say, "I've learned how to manhandle my race car."

Being a female in a male-dominated sport, I'm so proud I did the issue and am even more proud to represent NHRA. This was definitely a huge step out of my comfort zone, and although the process was nerve-wracking, I'm thankful to have had such great support, unbelievable fans and amazing photographers, Williams + Hirakawa, who made this experience more amazing. A big thanks to them for capturing some timeless, bold shots.

I hope people can look at them and see the message: With enough dedication and hard work, no matter your shape or size, whether you're male or female, if you put in the time, effort, endless dedication and never accept failure, you can achieve your dreams like I did -- to be a professional NHRA Funny Car driver.

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Courtney ForceCourtesy of Force RacingCourtney Force beat her dad in New Hampshire and got her birthday wish.

After getting beaten by my dad the previous weekend in Bristol, Tenn., on Father's Day, I was eager to get back out to the racetrack for a little revenge! My dad's win was great for the John Force Racing team, but he passed me in NHRA drag racing points. As a Father's Day present, my plan was to give my dad the day off, but clearly he had a better gift in mind for himself ... a Wally.

We celebrated together in the winner's circle at Bristol, but I made sure he knew I would be after him the next weekend. On the way to the race in Epping, N.H., I stopped at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., where I got to showcase my Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car for the employees, along with drivers Antron Brown and Allen Johnson. It was so exciting to be on "campus." The place is literally like the Disneyland of sports, it's awesome! We met with different employees and some of their families, signed autographs, took pictures, spoke with some media and even got to be on "SportsCenter" to discuss NHRA. As luck would have it, we picked the same day Darius Rucker was there for a performance.

From ESPN, we headed to the newly added racetrack on our circuit, New England Dragway. I was excited because I felt that all drivers were really on the same playing field because none of us had raced on this track before.

We picked up some points during qualifying and were set in the No. 3 spot going into race day on Sunday. I took a look at the race ladder and realized that, if the day went like I hoped for my birthday weekend, I would meet my dad in the final round. And, that's exactly what happened. Our Traxxas team made it all the way to the final round after defeating Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and reigning champion Jack Beckman. My toughest matchup would definitely be my dad in the final.

I pulled up to the starting line, did my burnout alongside my dad, backed the car up and got ready to stage. It was nice to know one of us, no matter what, would be celebrating in the winner's circle. I pre-staged my car first, then Dad, and I decided not to play any games on him this time. Apparently, Dad had a different plan. I staged my car like normal, but Dad rolled his car in deep and had a killer light on me. That didn't stop our car from outrunning him. We both spun the tires down track right before the finish line at about the same time. Dad made the choice to try to pedal the car in hopes it would hook back up and fly, but I chose to just stay in the throttle. This seemed to be the right choice because my car stayed hooked up until I got to the finish line, with my dad out my window. Not letting up as the win light came on for my third NHRA national event win of my Funny Car career! I guess birthday wishes really do come true!

It was a close race again, but our team was able to get the job done, and my dad and I both moved up a little further in points! I'm currently fourth and Dad fifth. This was a huge win for our team and a big step forward.

When we pulled our cars off the racetrack and hopped out, it felt like one of those surreal moments out of a movie. My helmet was still on, and my dad ran over to hug me and try to tell me something, but the cheers and excitement around me was drowning out it out while I was being pulled away to do my interview for the ESPN cameras. I got my helmet off and hurried back to him. He congratulated me and reminded me to list all of my sponsors during my interview.

He's one of the toughest racers out here to beat, but at the end of the day, he's still just a dad, racing his daughter at 300 mph and trying to teach me the business.

Courtney ForceCourtesy of Courtney Force Courtney Force talked shop with some of the IndyCar drivers during an off-week stop at the Indianapolis 500.

I've had a pretty exciting week since our last NHRA race in Topeka, Kan. My family and I flew home as quickly as possible to see my sister, Ashley, and her husband, Danny, and to welcome my new nephew, Noah William Hood, to the family.

I was very fortunate to make it home in time to meet the new baby considering I only had about 24 hours before I had to hop back on a flight to start a two-week trip.

I flew to Dearborn, Mich., where I got the opportunity to tour the Henry Ford Museum, take in all of the history and learn how the Ford Motor Company began.

Seeing "Sweepstakes -- The Race Car that Changed Everything," was the highlight of the tour for me because it has so much history behind it.

I got to take a ride in a Model T through Greenfield Village, tour Ford Racing Headquarters and see the new Ford Fiesta. They even let me take it for a spin!

I met the staff behind the Ford Driving Skills for Life program, which was very cool because I'm in my third year as the spokesperson for the initiative.

We had a packed schedule, but we managed to make it over to AutoWeek Magazine where they showed me a sneak peek of their upcoming issue. Then we headed to Indianapolis to start the weekend.

Typically I'm racing each week, but somehow I always find myself at a race track, even when we don't have an NHRA race. I'm a fan of many types of racing, and I like to see different drivers in other forms of motorsports having fun and enjoying their jobs like I do. I headed for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Carb Day and ended the night at a dirt Sprint Car race in Gas City, Ind.

At the 500, I swung through the media center and talked some racing, toured the paddock and got to watch the final practice. Before practice I got to hang out with Chip Ganassi and his teams. It was so fun to hang out in their trailers and talk NHRA drag racing with legendary IndyCar drivers like Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Alex Zanardi.

Chip pulled me into their conversation, saying, "Courtney, you've got to hear this story ... Alex, tell it again," and Alex told us about his first NHRA experience. He said after being at the oval track next door to where we were racing, he was curious to see what all the noise was over at the drag strip. He explained how it affected him when one of our cars took off. He told us he was blown away by the run until he realized it was just the burnout! He watched a full run and said he got emotional from experiencing the power of our cars, which was amazing to hear. We talked about a lot of differences between Funny cars and Indy cars.

It was a blast to hear all of the questions and comments coming from a group of guys who I admire and look up to. I hope I get to make it back to the 500 next year!

FanFest fueled my weekend in Vegas

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
6:00
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Brittany Force Courtesy of Force RacingBrittany Force won her first-round race in Las Vegas over the weekend.

On Thursday night before the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, I signed autographs at the FanFest at the New York New York hotel and casino. It was like no autograph signing I have ever been to and the fans filled the room with an energy that got me motivated for the weekend at the track. There was a line around the building when we arrived and there were a ton of other NHRA drivers participating, which made the event even more memorable. I met a lot of fans and I was able to give away a couple of free tickets for the event to a couple of kids. There was a family in line with two little boys I met earlier.

The boys were waving their hands in the crowd and I wanted to make sure they would be able to come out to the track with their parents and watch some racing. The family even came up to me at the ropes during the weekend and thanked me again for the tickets. It was a great event for not only the fans but the drivers as well and I can’t wait to do it again!

[+] EnlargeBrittany Force signed autographs for fans in Las Vegas.
Courtesy of Force RacingTBD

During the FanFest I was sitting beside Alexis DeJoria and my brother-in-law Robert Hight, which made the event more enjoyable. Being able to have other girls to talk to on the Mello Yello Series makes things easier because we can relate to so many of the same things. I always have my sister Courtney I can talk to -- but the more girls on the road the better!

John Force showed up as the boss and my dad all rolled into one. He said he wanted to make sure I was settled in and doing my job but, in all truth I know he wanted to see the fans. He has always told me the fans will love you know matter how well you do on the track or how bad you screw up. He also told me the fans can give you that spark a driver needs before a run to get them motivated to go out and kill it on the track. My dad has giving me so much advice on driving over the years but this one I believe comes from the heart and has so much truth.

The FanFest really got me pumped up for the weekend. I was with a lot of the drivers which is exciting to know that on the track, and off the track, we are doing our job and taking care of the fans who make racing possible.

It was the best weekend my team has had so far. We made three really consistent runs in qualifying which made me more comfortable as a driver going into first round. We qualified in the top half of the field on Friday and eventually slipped to No. 11 but it was a relief to be qualified early on. Not having to worrying about making it into the show takes a lot of extra pressure off everyone’s shoulders.

I had a good feeling going into race day on Sunday because this is such a familiar track for me. I raced in Super Comp, A-fuel and even made my first full pass in my Top Fuel car in Las Vegas. I got my first round win on Sunday and the first round win in a Top Fuel car for John Force Racing which was such an honor and so exciting. I jumped out of the car screaming and hugged my dad. I remember telling my guys I was so proud of them and I couldn’t believe we were going to the second round.

Earning my first round win was a big accomplishment for my team and me. It is proof this dragster is headed in the right direction and we are going to do great thing this year. Going in to second round against Tony Schumacher was unreal to me as a rookie driver. I have wanted to race Tony Schumacher forever. He is the seven-time Top Fuel champion and is such a big name in the sport of drag racing. He has given me so much advice over the past year during my year of testing and has been someone I have looked up to as a driver. My dragster shook really hard so I lifted early and Tony went on to win the race. I am looking forward to running him again and can’t wait to head to Charlotte for the Dollar General Four Wide race in two weeks!


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