PHOENIX, AZ —- John Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang got back into competitive racing shape today racing to the semi-finals at the 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. Force won his first round match-up against Alexis DeJoria with his best run of the weekend a 4.047 second pass at 316.82 mph. He caught a lucky break in round two when Todd Lesenko was unable to get his Funny Car started and Force was awarded a single.
At the hit of the throttle in the second round Force’s Mustang went up in smoke and coasted the length of the race track. His “winning” time was 8.107 second. This slow ET spelled doom for Force in his semi-final race against Matt Hagan since he lost any chance for lane choice.
Hagan put Force in the suspect left lane and bucking the odds Force and his Mike Neff tuned Castrol GTX Mustang were able to post a solid run of 4.105 seconds. Unfortunately Hagan was in the right lane running 4.049. Force’s Funny Car actually was a little quicker than the scoreboard reflected.
“That last run I cheated the light a little, it probably ran 4.04 again. If you want to have a chance to win you have to get qualified. We gave everyone a chance when we got all four of our hot rods in the show. That is what is important. Robert Hight is still struggling. My Castrol GTX Mustang ran pretty good. We ran 4.04 in the first round and I have a car I can race with. (Crew chief) Mike Neff and (asst. crew chief) Jon Schaffer are doing real good. We are going to stay and test with Robert Hight. We’ll see what we can do with that. Brittany is learning every time she goes rounds and Courtney just missed in the first round. She had the hot Funny Car all weekend.”
Force moved from the outside of the Top Ten to No. 7 in the Mello Yello point standings, he is joined by No. 2 Courtney Force and No. 10 Robert Hight another JFR driver that moved into the critical Top Ten with today’s effort.
Despite Courtney Force’s outstanding performance at the O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. for the first race of the season and her team’s No. 3 qualifying effort this weekend, the 2012 Rookie of the Year exited the show in the first round of eliminations today.
Force made her best pass of the weekend on Friday to go to the top of the Funny Car field before slipping to the No. 3 position going into race day. She made a 4.064 second run at 315.71 mph, a track speed record, and picked up a total of 5 qualifying bonus points before Sunday.
In the first round of eliminations, Force faced Todd Lesenko and lost when her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car smoked the tires right off the starting line. This was Force first loss to the Canadian whom she had defeated in three previous meetings.
“We were qualified good. It’s definitely a tricky race track. Man, you know things happen. We stumbled in the first round. We were a little surprised, but we learned something from it. It blew the tires off, I pedaled it and I couldn’t get around him. Congratulations to Lesenko and his team. We’re going to just have to get after it in Gainesville,” said Force.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang had a tough day at Firebird International Raceway. Robert Hight, the No. 16 qualifier, won a pedalfest over No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray when Gray’s Pitch Energy sponsored Dodge brushed the guardwall in round one. Hight was smoking the tires himself and dodged a first round loss with Gray’s mistake.
In the second round he faced fellow Blue Oval driver Tim Wilkerson. Both Mustangs launched and Hight’s Auto Club Mustang went up in smoke almost immediately as Wilkerson pulled away with a 4.102 second run. Hight moved up into the Top Ten for his race day effort. The team will return to Firebird International Raceway for a full day of testing tomorrow.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster was on the cusp of winning its first round of racing when victory slipped away due to a timer in the dragster deploying the parachutes slowing Brittany Force just as David Grubnic sped past her at the finish line. At the hit of the throttle both Top Fuel dragsters lost traction and Brittany pedaled her Castol EDGE dragster and was able to get it under control as Grubnic was in the right lane doing the same in his Optima Batteries dragster.
As both dragsters staggered down the track the seconds ticked by and at five seconds Brittany’s chutes deployed just before the finish line. The timed deployment is one of many safety featured a number of cars have to insure driver safety in the event of a runaway Funny Car or Top Fuel dragster. For the rookie driver is was a learning experience that she took to heart and did not begrudge.
“That first round was the first time I stepped on it and had to pedal it. It was a good experience for me since I had never done that before. That is not something you can test. I stepped on the gas twice and it got a little close to the wall so I lifted. We think my chutes came out because of the five second timer on my Castrol EDGE dragster. That slowed us down but it was a good experience for me,” said the Automobile Club Road to the Future Award contender.
“It is a lot more challenging to pedal this Top Fuel dragster than my A Fuel dragster. It was easier to keep my A Fuel dragster under control. This one surprised me but I was able to handle it. I just need a little more practice and I’ll be fine.”