Courtney Force and Graham Rahal are to wed this fall, but before they say “I do,” Sonoma Raceway put them through their paces with a one-of-a-kind couples’ skills challenge July 22.
Rahal, second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings with three races left in the season, and Force, NHRA’s winningest female driver, squared off on the drag strip and road course and in an old-fashioned grape stomp.
First, the couple raced Traxxas remote-controlled cars. Force dominated the best-of-three matchup.
“This is definitely my comfort zone, so I’m really glad I could beat him out here,” she said. “It was fun to be out here on the drag strip racing against each other.”
The couple then headed to the Simraceway Performance Driving Center, where they utilized simulators to drive Indy cars around the 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course. Rahal outpaced Force by almost a lap to take the checkers in the five-lap race.
“I couldn’t let her win this one,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. “This was a great way for Courtney to understand what it’s like to race on this road course. It’s really challenging, and almost impossible to describe. And, I think we might need to get one of these simulators at home.”
The final challenge came down to a grape stomp in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle, where the drivers slipped off their shoes, rolled up their pants and stomped for three minutes in wooden barrels. Force took the win by collecting the most juice from the grapes in her barrel.
In addition to bragging rights “for as long as they both shall live,” Force received a magnum of Korbel champagne from the raceway.
“We’re both really competitive, but we’ve never gotten to do something head-to-head like this,” she said. “And, of course, I’m very glad I won.”
Following the activities at Sonoma Raceway, the couple visited media outlets in San Francisco. Force made a stop at Ghirardelli so she could buy some chocolate in bulk for her family and race team.
Rahal and Force will both compete at Sonoma Raceway in their respective series later this summer. Rahal, who boasts a best finish of fifth at Sonoma Raceway, returns to wine country Aug. 28-30 for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The Verizon IndyCar Series season finale carries double points. Rahal trails front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya of Team Penske by 42 points heading into the Aug. 2 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
For tickets or information, visit www.RaceSonoma.com or call (800) 870-7223.