CAREER BEST ET HAS FORCE 5TH GOING INTO CHICAGO ELIMS
JOLIET, IL – The conditions were some of the best the NHRA has ever seen and the Funny Cars took advantage as four drivers made three second passes, a record for an NHRA Mello Yello Series national event, in the final qualifying session. John Force had the quickest Funny Car on Friday and in the first session today but in a long final session the 15-time champion Force’s career quickest ET, 4.010 seconds, was only good enough for the No. 5 qualifying spot. Ron Capps recorded the first three second pass at Route 66 Raceway and will be the No. 1 qualifier on Sunday with his 3.988 second run. Force will race former teammate Tony Pedregon in the first round tomorrow at the 16th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
“We ran 4.0s every run this weekend. Three runs in a row in the 4.0s out of three qualifying runs. Courtney got in on the last run with a 4.04. The Don Schumacher Racing teams stepped up and put a bunch of threes out there and so did Del Worsham (Kalitta Motorsports),” said Force.
“The conditions were there and it was trying to run a three right there at the end but it dropped a cylinder and still ran 4.01 seconds. We are OK and I will have to race Tony Pedregon in the first round. He threw a 4.09 out there. This was a great race for the fans. We found the consistency that we want. (Auto Club crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) right there at the end just like (Matt) Hagan didn’t get to do a burnout. You can’t look at performance from that run. Tomorrow will be a different situation.”
When Force is talking about consistency he can look back at the previous two races where his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang has posted the quickest ET five out of seven sessions and was 5th quickest in the other two sessions. He has also had a consistently quick Funny Car on race day earning seven round wins over the past two weeks.
Force’s 4.010 second run tonight was a career best for the winningest Funny Car driver in NHRA history. His previous quickest run was 4.011 seconds at the Reading national event in 2011.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team stepped up in the first session on Saturday running 4.052 seconds and grabbing the No. 5 qualifying spot. It also earned the 2009 Mello Yello Funny Car champion one qualifying bonus point as the third quickest run of the session. The run was quick enough to put Hight at the back of the pack for the night session. His two runs this weekend of 4.055 and 4.052 seconds show the team has the consistency to go rounds.
As the second session came to a close Hight was paired with Matt Hagan right in front of John Force and Jack Beckman. As Hight and Hagan staged the Christmas Tree staging system remained dark and as each team brought this to official starter Mark Lyle’s attention fuel was being consumed rapidly in each Funny Car. The decision was made to push each team back and let them add fuel then run after Force and Beckman. It was a reasonable solution to a terrible situation. Both teams smoked the tires at the hit of the throttle bringing a tremendous night of performance to an anti-climactic end.
“I am just glad we got two runs in today. When you looked at the forecast it was a shaky deal. I am glad we got all three Funny Cars in the top half so we will all have lane choice. We could get three Funny Cars to the semi-finals tomorrow,” said a dejected Hight. “The conditions tomorrow will not be anything like tonight so it will be anybody’s race. I have Chad Head and I know Jim Head his dad and crew chief will give him a good race car. We will be ready. We want to keep the John Force Racing winning streak alive.”
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team made one of their best runs to date tonight at Route 66 Raceway. The team ended the day in the No. 7 spot and will have lance choice over fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson in the opening round on Sunday.
“I’m very proud of my team. We struggled a little bit during qualifying, but the fact that we could make such a big come back and run such a good number in the last qualifying session, especially under that pressure, says a lot for our Traxxas Ford Mustang team,” said Force, the winner of last weekend’s inaugural race in Epping, New Hampshire.
Force came into Saturday not in the show after qualifying was shortened to just one round on Friday. The Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car team had traction issues and ran a 9.742 second pass, leaving them in the No. 18 spot.
“We only got one qualifying run in yesterday due to the rain, which is a little unfortunate. The track cooled down and was actually a lot better than we expected it to be. It cooled down quickly. The sun went down and when we got out there to run we probably should have switched to a different set of tires,” said Force. “We went there and didn’t realize how good the track was and struck the tires immediately. We didn’t get a good run out of it, but luckily we got two more chances today.”
Since the 25-year-old Funny Car driver did not make the top 12 after the first qualifying session, she had to enter Saturday with a clean slate.
In the first session today, the Traxxas Ford Mustang had a short in the electrical system and that, in turn, drained the battery. The car shut off on the starting line after the burnout and the team went back to their pit area to prepare for the final session to qualify.
“First run we had a little bit of bad luck. We couldn’t make a pass on that run so there was definitely some pressure getting our Traxxas Ford Mustang qualified in the final session. It was a lot of pressure on me as a driver. I was nervous, but I felt okay. I know we have a great car tuned by Ron Douglas, it’s just a matter of getting it down there and my team came through in a big way,” said Force.
Force drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang straight down the track to make a 4.04 second pass and jumped up to the top half of the field.
“I have all the faith in the world in my guys, so I knew that we would be able to get the job done. If not, I was planning on just pedaling it all the way down there to make sure we got it in the show. Luckily we went out there and ran a 4.04 and it took us to the top half of the field,” said Force.
Brittany Force, driver of the Castrol EDGE dragster, wound up 14th on the ladder going into Sunday’s elimination rounds.
With a run of 3.849 seconds at 317.49, she will face fellow Top Fuel competitor Bob Vandergriff in round one for the first time in her career.
“This is the first time I’ll be running Bob Vandergriff. He’s an awesome driver, so I’m excited to go up against him. Hopefully we can make some changes to our car and go some rounds tomorrow.”
Despite having two engine failures in her final two qualifying attempts, Force managed to make consistent runs, allowing her to qualify for her 11th race of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Series season.
“We were able to get two runs today. The first run it threw the rods out and the second run it had a hole out, so it caused the engine to blow up right before the lights. I’m hoping we can make those changes before tomorrow because we completely destroyed the engine. That’s not good for this Castrol EDGE team, but I know we’ll figure it out and make those changes.”