Auto Racing / Sports

Courtney Force outduels famous father for Funny Car victory

SONOMA, Calif. -- Courtney Force outdueled her legendary father to make NHRA Funny Car history Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

The 26-year-old was treated with a champagne drenching after she beat John Force, a 16-time world champion, in the finals of the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

Not only does Courtney now own a 2-1 advantage over her dad in finals matchups, she also earned her fifth career win, the most ever for a female Funny Car driver and one more than her older sister, Ashley.

Talk about family bragging rights.

"I had my eyes set on Ashley for a while," Courtney Force said. "A big group of (women) had four wins, and I kind of became obsessed with going for number five. . . . She's just done so well, and I look up to her. I feel like I've done a pretty good job if I can do half as well as my sister did."

Ashley stepped away from racing in 2010 after a four-year career to raise a family.

Sunday was the first time this season that Courtney and John have gone head-to-head in the finals. Courtney won with an elapsed time of 4.253 seconds at 296.24 mph over the 1,000-foot track. John had a time of 4.405 seconds at 237.05 mph.

In Top Fuel, Khalid alBalooshi celebrated his 35th birthday with his second win of the season. He beat Shawn Langdon, his Al-Anabi teammate and last year's champion at Sonoma, with a time of 3.912 seconds and speed of 309.42 mph.

AlBalooshi, the first Middle Eastern driver to compete in a major U.S. motor sports series, won for the fourth time overall in his three-year career and gave the Al-Anabi team its fifth straight win in California races. But this birthday victory was one of the sweetest.

"This is very special for me," alBalooshi said. "Getting this trophy, maybe this is one of the best gifts I've been given in my life."

Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also division winners.

Courtney Force entered the final day of racing as the top qualifier in Funny Car but got off to a rocky start. She smoked her tires in the first round but moved on because opponent Peter Russo's car had a battery pack problem and didn't make it to the starting line.

"Pure luck we were actually able to get a win by smoking the tires," Force said. "You definitely have to look at it and say we got lucky."

Force went on to beat Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals and Matt Hagan in the semifinals to reach the finals for the 11th time in her three-year career.

And racing her dad never gets old, especially when a trophy is on the line.

"I think about way too many things when I'm pulling up there against dad," Courtney said. "Normally, I'm calm and collected, but I was so wanting this win."

Though John Force took the loss to his youngest daughter, he still clinched a spot in the Countdown and guaranteed a spot in the top 10 for the 30th straight year.

Brittany Force, John's middle daughter, was the top qualifier in Top Fuel but was upset in the first round of eliminations. She's still seeking her first career win in the division.

(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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