Female drag racer Courtney Force kicks butt in the boys club

Drag racing champion Courtney Force shares her advice for staying fearless in a male-dominated sport.

Photo credit: Mike Windle/WireImage/Getty Images

Don’t be fooled by her fit physique and pretty, blond locks, Courtney Force is no pinup girl. Though the beautiful 25-year-old has been featured in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Courtney is a force to be reckoned with.

As the youngest daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car national champion John Force, it’s no surprise that this young lady grew up to become a butt-kicking bad girl.

Over the past few years, Courtney has secured three major Funny Car wins for her team, earned the 2012 Auto Club Rookie of the Year title and was the first driver in her sport — male or female — to break the 325 mph barrier.

Now, don’t be confused. We’re not talking about clown cars in the circus.

Funny Car is a category of drag racing where both men and women compete side by side, and Force controls an extremely physically demanding Ford Mustang.

“There is so much physical strength that goes into racing these cars,” says Courtney. “Usually it is a guy in the other lane and if you are both battling your race cars, it is tough because most of them have more experience than me. The biggest challenge is overcoming the experience disadvantage I have, but I get better every run. I work hard and just try and keep up with them as best I can.”

It appears her best is pretty good. Courtney has beat out many of the top male drivers, including her famous father.

“There are a lot of major sports where you have a women’s league or a men’s league,” says Force. “I think it is cool that I am in a sport where we compete against men on an even playing field. There are a few drivers that it kind of gets to them when they get beat by a girl, but that almost gives me a little bit of an advantage over them, which is kind of nice.”

That can-do attitude coupled with her bold personality is what gives Courtney an edge on the track.

“You have to be fearless in our sport,” says Force. “Anything can happen in these cars. They have blown up right in front of my face a number of times. My love for this sport overrides the fear. I have butterflies in my stomach every single run. I am going to be nervous and a little fearful, but I think that is what gives you that fire in your stomach to make you better.”

And that fearlessness has carried over to other areas of her life. Though you’d never see her being timid on the track, Courtney admits that she’s actually a bit shy.

“I am actually kind of a scaredy-cat about a lot of things,” she admits. “People look at me, and ask how I can race a 300 mph Funny Car and be fearful of other things. [Racing] has made me more fearless to open up to people, and be more talkative and social.”

We’re guessing that openness helped in scoring her cute new boyfriend, IndyCar series driver Graham Rahal. The adorable couple has been dating for about five months, though the Force chose not to discuss the relationship.

She did, however, offer up her tips to women for building confidence, whether in the working world or personally.

“Don’t listen to what other people say,” advises Courtney. “The number one thing that will bring me down is when I start to think about what other people say. You start to believe it, and you can’t do that. I ignore comments that people make that are negative. I just try and throw that stuff out the window, and stay true to myself.”

And for any women looking to break into a male-driven field, Courtney says her best advice is to stay strong and stick with it.

“Go for it,” says Force. “You just have to just keep pushing forward. I have been hard on myself, and you wonder if you are good enough. But I am not a quitter. I get down, but I use that to push through and try even harder the next race.”

More inspiring women

Arizona woman jumps out of plane six times a day
Boston mom takes on NYC after Sandy
Real story: I’m surviving lymphoma