NEFF’S RETURN BOOSTS FORCE’S VEGAS STOCK
15-Time Champion Tries to Replicate 2010 Performance at The Strip at LVMS
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – John Force will be the first to admit that he’s never had much luck in Las Vegas.
Still, it would be ludicrous to bet against the 134-time NHRA tour winner this week when he sends his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after the Funny Car title in the 14th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
At The Strip at LVMS, a track on which his record streak of 395 consecutive starts ended in 2007 and on which he was eliminated in one of the most bizarre racing rounds in history in 2001, Force once again is attracting attention for all the right reasons.
The 63-year-old icon is one of the pre-race favorites, a status he owes to the off-season return of Mike Neff as crew chief on his 10,000 horsepower Ford. With Neff, Force never has lost at LVMS. Without him, he’s rarely won.
In fact, in 22 Las Vegas appearances with someone other than Neff making the tune-up decisions, Force has won just once – at the 2002 Las Vegas Nationals. With Neff, he’s 8-0 in elimination rounds; without him, he’s 19-19 with a pair of DNQs
“I can’t explain it,” Force said of his uncharacteristically poor showing in the desert. “It’s a great track, a Bruton Smith track, and we’ve run some good numbers there, but we haven’t had the results.”
His first round exit at the inaugural fall race at LVMS is one example of the kind of luck he’s had.
After qualifying No. 2, Force rolled to the starting line against former boat racer Bob Bode who, inexplicably, left the starting line long before the timing system was activated. Reacting to his rival’s action, Force, too, sped down what then was a quarter mile course.
Unfortunately, by rule, even though Bode clearly was the first violator and even though Force vehemently protested, both drivers were disqualified. The NHRA has since rewritten the rule to penalize on the first offender.
As for Neff, he’s back with the boss after chasing his own championship in 2011 and 2012 in the dual role of driver and crew chief on the Castrol Mustang vacated by Ashley Force Hood when she left the tour to start a family.
However, that grind ultimately proved too much for the one-time motocross rider.
“I never had time to relax and just think,” Neff said. “It just got to be too much. The mechanical side has always been the challenge for me anyway. I’m glad to be out of the spotlight and back doing what I really enjoy.”
Force shares that enthusiasm although the reunion has yet to pay dividends. In three starts this season, Force has directed his Mustang out of the first round just once, losing in the first round last month to youngest daughter, Courtney, against who he is just 1-3 in his career.
“I’m excited to be back racing with Mike Neff instead of racing against him,” Force said, “but nobody’s cutting us any slack. It’s just like being an ol’ gunfighter. Somebody’s always wanting to prove they’re quicker than you. That’s what keeps me motivated.”
BRITTANY SEEKS HISTORIC ROUND WIN
Racing Schoolteacher Tries Again in Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragstrip
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – There is little doubt that, before the year is out, rookie Brittany Force will make drag racing history. However, the odds of that happening this week, when she sends her Castrol EDGE dragster to the starting line in the 14th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals, are better than average.
At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track on which she has had more experience than any other, the 26-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force will try to become the first Top Fuel driver in 42 years to win a competitive round in a Ford-powered dragster.
The last to do so was the late “Sneaky Pete” Robinson, who used Ford power to beat Bob Murray in the second round of the 1970 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.
Although she earned her teaching credentials after graduating from Cal State-Fullerton, Brittany put a traditional career on hold to further her high speed education in an exceedingly non-traditional classroom.
In a dragster powered by the Ford BOSS 500 nitro motor, she qualified for the quickest field in Top Fuel history (at the season-opening O’Reilly Winternationals) and came frustratingly close to winning her first round match in last month’s Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.
The first driver ever strapped into a John Force Racing Top Fuel dragster, Brittany is trying to join sisters Ashley and Courtney, who won their first rounds in the Funny Car division in 2007 and 2012, respectively.
Nevertheless, the second youngest of Force’s four daughters has refused to put extra pressure on herself by being drawn into career comparisons.
“When Ashley came out, she had her own set of goals,” Brittany said. “Same with Courtney. Same with me. I’m going down my own path. For me, it’s not about comparisons to Ashley or Courtney. It’s about setting my own goals and achieving them myself in my time.
That’s not to say she isn’t ambitious.
“I would love to qualify for every national event,” she said, “and I would really like to get my first (race) win.”
Although all three racing daughters drove Super Comp dragsters and A/Fuel dragsters before turning pro, Brittany was the only one who lobbied to stay in one of the rear-engine cars. For one thing, dragsters were what she had driven since she first attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
For another, she admitted that she suffers from just a hint of claustrophobia, which made a full-bodied Funny Car a little intimidating. Of course, no sooner had she completed licensing in Top Fuel than her dad opted to install a canopy on the dragster.
“I was like, ‘oh, no,’” she said, “because it was just like putting the body down on a Funny Car. It took a little getting used to, but now I feel very comfortable, especially after Antron’s crash (a reference to how the canopy worked for reigning NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown during an accident in the season-opener).”
Despite her degree, Brittany never planned to go immediately into teaching.
“I love the sport of drag racing,” she said, “(and) I always thought I’d be involved in it in some way although I never thought it would be in Top Fuel.”
THREE-TIME LAS VEGAS SPRING CHAMPION HIGHT LOOKING FOR FOUR OF A KIND
LAS VEGAS (April 2, 2013) — If a driver was trying to turn their luck around then getting on the track at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway would seem like the natural venue to make a move. For Robert Hight, driver of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang Funny Car, Las Vegas has been one of his “luckier” tracks and the three time SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals winner is ready to return to the winner’s circle.
“I love racing at The Strip in Las Vegas. We test here a lot and we have won a lot of races here. I have won the last two SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals so I am ready to go. We figured some things out in Gainesville a couple of weeks ago so I am expecting more progress this weekend,” said Hight.
Hight has won this event three of the last six years including the 2011 and 2012 titles. Teammate John Force won the spring race in 2010 on the way to his 15th Mello Yello Funny Car world championship.
“I don’t know what it is about The Strip at Las Vegas but all our Mustang Funny Cars seem to do well here. Ashley (Force Hood) raced to her first final here during her rookie season, Tony Pedregon won here when he was on our team, and John won here in 2010,” added Hight.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang tuned by Jimmy Prock is off to a slower than expected start based on it
s previous performance stats. Since 2005 Hight and Prock have won at least once before reaching Las Vegas’ spring Mello Yello event six of the past eight seasons. A curious silver lining is one of those two years without a win for the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals was 2009 when Hight won the Fall Las Vegas race and all but clinched his first Mello Yello Funny Car championship.
Hight has won multiple events every year of his career which started in 2005 and he has led the Mello Yello point standings at some pointe every season as well. He is currently in the No. 7 in the points 88 back of points leaders Ron Capps and Johnny Gray. He is less than one round of racing away from being in the Top Five and he is well within striking distance of the top spot.
“We know this is a long season. We have started hot and then stumbled in the Countdown. Our goal is to dominate as much as we can in the regular season and then carry that momentum into the Countdown. We want to keep going rounds and win races along the way. A great start would be this weekend at Las Vegas,” said Hight, last year’s Summit Racing NHRA Nationals No. 1 qualifier.
In the off time between the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals and the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas Hight and team owner John Force attended the Auto Club 400 NASCAR event. Seeing other forms of racing gets Hight excited about his career and getting behind the wheel of his Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car.
“I wish there weren’t two weeks between races. I am excited to get back to the track. I went to the Auto Club 400 in Fontana with John (Force). We got to hang out with some of the Ford NASCAR drivers and it just makes you want to jump into the action,” said Hight.
TRAXXAS DRIVER EXCITED TO BE GETTING BACK TO VEGAS TRACK
LAS VEGAS (April 1, 2013) – Courtney Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang team, part of the four-car John Force Racing operation, has rolled out of Brownsburg, Indiana and is making the 26-hour trek to Las Vegas this week. The driver will be wrapping up media obligations in Yorba Linda, California and they will meet in the desert for the 14th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, April 5-7 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Two weeks ago, Force beat one of her biggest competitors on the track, her father and 15-time World Champion John Force, in their fourth side-by-side meeting on race day to date. Taking the win, Force went to the second round against Del Worsham for their first ever matchup, and lost when her Traxxas Ford Mustang ran a 4.135 at 310 mph to Worsham’s 4.122 at 306 mph, sending the Kalitta Racing team driver on to the semis to compete against Force’s teammate and brother-in-law, Robert Hight.
“It was definitely good for us to get that first round win over my dad, and to get it with a 4.09 on our first pass of the day. That told me our team really had their stuff together,” said Force. “Second round wasn’t what we had planned. They were able to drive around us for the win so we’re excited to get back out there and do our best in Vegas.”
Last year at The Strip, Force qualified No. 4 and lost to Johnny Gray in the first round when the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car malfunctioned and threw out the parachutes just before Force clicked it off.
“Last year in Las Vegas our Traxxas team qualified really well, but had a tough competitor with Johnny Gray in the first round. I had a good feeling our car would perform, I was ready for it to, but we just had a little malfunction with the parachute. It caused a load of problems for me on my run and (Gray) was able to drive around me and get that win,” said Force.
The 24-year-old Funny Car driver was raised just four hours away in Yorba Linda, Calif.
This year, Force is ready to compete for the inaugural NHRA Mello Yello series championship. She is now holding on tight to the No. 3 spot in the Funny Car point standings, just 28 points behind a two-way tie between Ron Capps and Johnny Gray.
“We have been doing really well so far this year and I’m excited to get back to this track. The Strip at Las Vegas is one of the nicest facilities we travel to,” said Force. “This might only be the fourth event so far this season, but I think our Traxxas team is looking good. I’m excited to see what happens.”