This week in racing, girls rock!
Photo courtesy NASCAR
Danica Patrick, after making 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts leading up to her 2013 rookie season swept the pole position for Cup’s biggest race, the Daytona 500. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise; Danica’s always been quick on ovals and came one breath away from earning pole in her first, 2005 Indianapolis 500 start. She had pole for last year’s Nationwide Series race on the same, Daytona International Speedway circuit where she earned pole for this 500.
Anne Proffit photo
On the other side of the country, Courtney Force firmly debunked any sophomore slump talk that reporters posed to her during the lead-up for NHRA’s season-starting Winternationals on the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona dragstrip. Force, youngest (of four) daughter of 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force won the first race of the season, beating Ron Capps (who’s got to be tired of this) in the finals without lane choice; she was top qualifier in the Funny Car class after four rounds of time trials.
Brittany Force races Larry Dixon in qualifying (Anne Proffit photo)
During the same race meeting at Pomona, rookie Brittany Force began her Top Fuel career by qualifying for her first race, an achievement in itself for a newcomer to the 10,000-horsepower class. Sure, she lost in the first round after qualifying 15th and having to face last year’s World Finals winner Brandon Bernstein – also a second generation racer – but she qualified ahead of several veterans, including Terry McMillen, T.J. Zizzo, Steve Faria and Steve Chrisman.
By the way, nitro-powered drag racing cars like Top Fuel and Funny Car are impossible to measure for horsepower ratings – everyone estimates just how much moxie they’ve got but the numbers keep increasing. A few years ago, everyone said they had 7,000 HP; last year it increased to 8,000 and this year everybody’s talking about these 10,000-horsepower monsters. Monsters they are, but how much power they’ve got – well, we really don’t know, do we? No way to put these engines on a dynamometer…
After their accomplishments, both Patrick and Courtney Force gave a lot of credit to their teams. Patrick, of course is working with Tony Stewart Racing and has the estimable Tony Gibson as her crew chief. “It’s really amazing how much effort is put into a qualifying car for Daytona, for the 500, and really only the front row is what sticks for Sunday,” Patrick said. “It’s nice that all that hard work can pay off and that we can give ourselves that opportunity to lead the pack down into the tri‑oval for the green flag of the Daytona 500.”
Force, who seems more and more like her father every day was a bit more hyper when she emerged from her Ford Mustang. “Going against Capps I was honestly terrified. I knew the last time I ran him it was out here in the finals and I knew he wanted revenge,” Force said. “He was running well all weekend. He got lane choice over me and it definitely made me nervous. He’s a tough competitor.
“Going down there my car was flying. It got over to the centerline and I just held onto it because I didn’t know, I thought maybe he was right out my window. I wasn’t looking over in his lane, I was just paying attention to my own, trying to keep it straight and get past the finish line to get that win and was able to get the job done. I’m excited it was definitely a tough round not knowing where he was on the track, but we were able to do it,” she breathlessly said.
This coming weekend Patrick and Force will be back in action. Danica’s got to live through the Twin Duels on Thursday at Daytona before leading the pack to the green flag – with Jeff Gordon alongside in a similar Chevrolet race car. Both Force daughters will have to prove themselves all over again at Firebird International Raceway, race No. 2 of 24 on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series trail.
By Anne Proffit