When she climbs behind the wheel, NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force is used to going straight on a racetrack.
But Force will be doing a lot of turning Saturday night when she serves as honorary pace car driver for NASCAR’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
The clash is the annual non-points event that features the top drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Saturday night’s field will include 2016 pole winners, past Clash champions, past Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016 and last season’s drivers that qualified for the playoffs.
Force, who drives the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, is the daughter of record 16-time Funny Car champion John Force. Courtney is coming off a strong run in last weekend’s NHRA season-opening race in Pomona, California, reaching the final round.
She’ll go from a 1,000-foot dragstrip to a 2.5-mile tri-oval on Saturday.
“I’m extremely nervous but honored at the same time to be driving that Chevy pace car before the veterans and young up-and-comers take on the track,” Courtney Force said in a media release. “Being a girl that races the NHRA in a straight line for a living at over 330 mph, I hope I can keep the pace in front of the pack and keep turning left.”
Only two drivers are safely in the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski secured spots through their wins at Charlotte and Talladega.
That leaves six spots to be decided Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty broke down the drivers competing for spots. Both of them agreed that Chase Elliott, who has finished in second in three of the five playoff races, has a great chance to make it all the way to the championship race in Miami.
“If Talladega had played out, he was either going to be in victory lane or in the top two or three,” Petty said. “When you look at that, he has had the most solid playoffs of any driver out there. We keep talking about the big three: Larson, Busch and Truex. This guy is a sleeper. But he’s my No. 4.”
Said Kligerman: “He’s been the biggest surprise. That 24 team has been incredible through the playoffs. One thing I’ve noticed about that team, just speaking to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson, speaking to Chase, it’s almost as if they want that first win more than they care about the playoffs.”
Watch the above video for more on the playoff drivers.
Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Kansas Speedway
The last two drivers to win NASCAR Cup titles are in precarious positions ahead of the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.
Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, is outside the top eight in ninth. He sits seven points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman debated who they think had the best chance to advance to the Third round after Sunday.
Petty put his money behind Busch, who has finished in the top five in each of his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track.
“He’s one of the big three: Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” Petty said. “I don’t see where these (last) two races (Charlotte, Talladega) have changed anything. The one thing Kyle Busch brings into Kansas City … he brings speed. These guys have had speed all year-long.”
Johnson on the other hand has produced only four top fives all season and just one since he won at Dover in June.
But Kligerman explained why he thinks the seven-time champion will prevail on Sunday.
“Jimmie Johnson knows how to pass and that is what has become evident throughout this season,” Kligerman said. “No, they have not had the fastest cars at Hendrick Motorsports. No, they have not qualified well. They’ve actually been sort of abysmal at qualifying of late.
“… He has three wins this year. Two of those he started at the back.”
Watch the video for more.
NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez’ racing roots
Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.
Carolyn Manno hosts with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut.
On the show:
We’ll debate which past Cup Series champion will advance to the Round of 8. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson currently leads 2015 champ Kyle Busch by only seven points for the final transfer spot. Who has the edge going into Kansas this Sunday? This elimination race will be a heated competition just to finish above the cut line. Log on to NBCSports.com/NASCARVote and weigh in!
Xfinity Series playoff driver Daniel Hemric calls into the show to talk about his chances of advancing to the championship four in Miami. He’ll also describe his experience being one of the four drivers to participate in the recent tire test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval.”
We take a look at the Daniel Suarez’s Racing Roots and discuss his transition from Xfinity Series champion to Monster Energy Cup Series rookie.
Parker Kligerman hops into the iRacing simulator to preview Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, as well as the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.
Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.