POINTS BATTLE TIGHTENS AT O’REIILY SPRING NATIONALS
HOUSTON, TX —- At the conclusion of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings tightened up as Matt Hagan class points leader lost in the first round and only two of the top eight drivers advanced beyond round two. Unfortunately for John Force Racing team leader and 15-time Funny Car champion John Force came the closest to racing live on ESPN2 in the semis.
Force, the 2002 Funny Car winner at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals, took out Blake Alexander in the first round before dropping a close race to veteran Tim Wilkerson. In the battle of the Ford Mustangs Force left on Wilkerson and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was charging down the track when it hazed the tires. Wilkerson who tunes and drives the Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang made one of the quickest runs of the session to defeat Force. At the top end it was Wilkerson 4.198 to Force’s 5.719.
“Every time you can win a round that is something, as tough as these Funny Cars are in this class. I am never going to take round wins lightly or for granted. This is part of the lesson. Our whole team and operation is focusing on getting better. The biggest things with some of the moves we have made is we don’t expect this to be perfect for a while. This is a long season and going back to back actually helps us. Every run we can make we can get better. I know my guys are working hard and we’ll get this Castrol GTX Mustang going rounds,” said Force.
The AAA Texas Mustang of Robert Hight made a strong showing in qualifying, grabbing the No.3 position, but unfortunately with only two rounds of qualifying due to weather it did not give the team much info. Strong thunder storms blew through the area on Saturday and conditions were dramatically different for all the teams as they took the track this morning.
“This track was completely new for us today compared to what we qualified on. It was tough for everybody. We were right on the edge of going right down the track. Jimmy Prock had this AAA Texas Mustang ready to go rounds today. The only good thing is we will be back on the track in a couple of days in Atlanta,” said Hight, the 2009 Funny Car champion.
“I am going to the Mello Yello Champions banquet on Wednesday night in Atlanta and I am going to get motivated. You don’t need much as tough as this class is. The points leaders in Top Fuel and Funny Car lost in the first round today. There is a lot of movement in the points and everyone is looking to go rounds. There are no easy rounds and we are going to be ready next weekend.”
The leader in the points for John Force Racing sophomore sensation Courtney Force lost to Alexis DeJoria in the first round. It was a rematch of last season’s first round and this time the driver of the Tequila Patron Toyota outran a tire smoking Traxxas Mustang piloted by Force.
The second year driver held onto her Mello Yello top five position despite her early exit. She is only a handful of rounds out of second place in the point standings.
Force qualified in the top half of the field on Friday in the No. 5 spot and was 2-0 against DeJoria in previous match-ups. This time the green and black car took the win.
“All in all, I think we did an okay job this weekend. We made two consistent qualifying runs on Friday. This race makes the second event in a row that we were shorted two shots to qualify. Those are really important to figure out the track and get your set-up right,” said Force.
“We won the Winternationals in Pomona at the start of the year and now we’ve had two back-to-back races without getting past the first round on race day. It just goes to show you, you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to just take it race by race,” said Force.
“I know all the crew chiefs had their hands full today. I also know that our Traxxas Ford Mustang is one of the best cars out here. Ron Douglas and Dan Hood and my Traxxas guys make up a top notch team, so we’ll get things figured out. I just really want to get to Atlanta next week and see what we can do there. None of us are hanging our heads. It was a tough day, but we have a whole season ahead of us,” said Force.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster piloted by Brittany Force missed the tough field for the first time in 2013. The entire contingent of JFR race cars will be in Atlanta for the Summit Racing Southern Nationals next weekend.