Courtney Force grabbed the headlines during the first round of qualifying at the NHRA New England Nationals when her Advance Auto Parts entry suffered a massive engine explosion at the end of a track-record run that placed the second-generation Funny Car driver No. 1 on the qualifying sheets.
Force, who already has four top starts this season, made a clean 3.842-second, 331.53-mph pass on her first trip down the New England Dragway dragstrip for the weekend, but the track-record run quickly went from clean to less than perfect. As Force crossed the finish line, the 10,000-horsepower engine let go in a big ball of flame that shredded the body on her Camaro and sent Force on a wild ride through the shutdown. Force’s entry made contact with the guardwall past the finish line and bounced through the finish line. Force exited the vehicle under her own power and was evaluated and released by NHRA medical staff.
“Our Advance Auto Parts team was on an incredible run,” said Force. “I believe we’re still No. 1 qualifier, so that makes things a lot more awesome. It was on a great run. As soon as I went to hit my parachutes, that’s when there was just a huge explosion in my lap, and I was just trying to get the car shut off. I mean, what more can you do at that point? I was driving a Chevy convertible. I couldn’t really do anything but just try to get the car stopped, so I was on the brakes, just trying to slide it down the wall and just try and get out of the car as soon as I could. I could see the flames, but everything was pretty much gone at that point, so I was just happy to get out of the car and get away from it.
“This is my first convertible that I did not ask for, and someone better have gotten a great picture otherwise it’s totally not going to be worth it. That’s definitely my first big explosion. I’ve had my fair share of walls, but nothing like that. Not fun for sure, but I really feel for my guys right now because they’re putting together an entire new car. Obviously, our car from today is toast.”
While Force was uninjured in the incident, the same cannot be said for her car, which suffered significant damage, forcing her to a back-up entry for the rest of the weekend. The team got to work on the back-up chassis right away, and Force is expected to return for the second session. However, the team noted the Q2 pass will be a planned early shutoff just to shake down the new car.