JOHN FORCE RUNNER-UP AT SONOMA NATIONALS
SONOMA, CA —- John Force was racing for his 8th win at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals today against veteran Ron Capps. It was Force’s fourth final round in the last six races this season and even though he came up on the wrong side of the ET slip the 15-time Funny Car champion was not hanging his head.
“I have no complaints. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock brought this Prock Rocket back. I wasn’t where I should have been today on the tree. I thought I could get there. We’ll go to Seattle. I’ll work that gym harder and get up again. Ron Capps is a good driver but I had the best race car,” said Force after the final round.
Force has seven wins at Sonoma Raceway and this was his twelfth final round at the Northern California race track. His career record versus Capps stands at 44-26 and his final round record is 8-7 now.
The most amazing stat for the winningest driver in HRA history came to fruition when Force reached his 220th final round at today’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals which was the 800th NHRA national event. It is even more incredible when you consider that Funny Car has only been contested at about 60% of those 800 races.
Force started the day beating former teammate Tony Pedregon in the opening round then he took out Johnny Gray with a 4.057 second run in the second round. The semi-finals Force had a tough match-up against Alexis DeJoria and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang stepped up posting a 4.086 second pass to DeJoria’s equally strong 4.095 seconds.
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team came out swinging today at the 26th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
The 25-year-old qualified in the No. 7 spot with a time of 4.057 seconds. She took lane choice over No. 10 qualifier Cruz Pedregon in the opening round on Sunday. Force was quickest of the pair off the line and the Traxxas team posted a 4.088 ET at the 1,000 ft mark to get the win.
“Having Cruz is always really nerve-wracking. I get pretty hopped up against him because he’s a tough competitor. It’s hard. You have to be good on your lights and have a good race car because you never know what to expect. Cruz’s team can make a killer run out of nowhere. They have had a consistent car all season long. I was nervous going up there, but Ron Douglas gave me a great race car. We went down there and ran a 4.08. We made a great pass,” said Force.
Force lost lane choice to Jack Beckman in the second round of eliminations, but won the race right off the starting line. She ran a 4.089 to his 4.067, but had a .056 light over his .094 attempt.
“Unfortunately, we lost lane choice to Beckman in the semis. That’s another one of those top notch cars that’s really tough to beat. I knew I had to be on my game. I’ve been struggling a little bit with my lights. I’ve been really hard on myself and practicing a lot. I went after it, was able to leave on him and get my first holeshot win. I’m very proud of our team today. It was pretty close down at the other end,” said Force.
Force lost in the semi-finals to Ron Capps after an issue with the Traxxas Ford Mustang’s fuel system.
“We went up against Capps in the semis and we really wanted to get to the win so we could have an all Force final. We had a malfunction in the fuel system which caused the motor to go lean and it popped off the burst panel. It obviously slowed our car down quite a bit. When the burst panel blows, in order to save the body, it shuts the whole car down and shuts the fuel off and deploys the parachutes automatically. Tough, but it’s part of it.”
“I’m just proud of my guys. They have been working really hard all weekend long. We’ve had some tough first round match-ups lately and it was good to keep working at it to go further this weekend. It’s exciting to get to race at Sonoma. I love this race track. Sonoma Raceway holds a special place in my heart because for Eric Medlen and we all had fun this weekend” said Force.
Robert Hight achieved one of their main goals today leaving the event in the Mello Yello Top Ten. While it is a slim lead over the No. 11 driver it is a lead the Auto Club team can build on. They earned qualifying bonus points in two sessions this weekend and their opening round victory over Bob Tasca III with a jaw-dropping 4.01 second pass turned heads at Sonoma Raceway.
“We had a great chance to do some damage today once we won the first round. We moved into the Top Ten which is big. The most important thing is we have three more races to lock into the Countdown. This Auto Club Ford Mustang has been running great. That 4.01 in the first round was such a smooth run. It was about a perfect run,” said an enthused Hight. “We are going to build on the positives from this weekend and not worry about anyone else. We are barely over one round out of eighth place in the Mello Yello point standings. Mike Neff and I are really working well together. I am excited to see Jimmy and John running so well. We almost got three JFR Mustangs to the semi-finals. That is a pretty good weekend if you ask me.”
Hight and crew chief Mike Neff will continue to fine tune their working relationship as the Western Swing wraps up in Seattle next weekend. The first round win today was also the 300th round win for Mike Neff as a crew chief. Neff has made the tuning calls for five different drivers starting with Scotty Cannon, Gary Scelzi, John Force, himself and now Robert Hight.
“I am glad we will be back on a race track in a couple of days. Seattle will have great air with all the trees and this Auto Club Ford Mustang will be ready. We can get some qualifying bonus points and start from the top half of the field. That will be a great way to end the Western Swing.”
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster continued to develop a consistent qualifying and race day routine. They rolled into the final qualifying session yesterday needed to break into the Top 16. They were able to post a an elapsed time quick enough to race today but they wound up No. 14 and had to race veteran Doug Kalitta in the first round.
“We struggled a little in qualifying but we wound up No. 14. We would have liked to have been in the top half of the field. This was still a positive weekend for the Castrol EDGE team. We made some solid runs and everyone was safe at the end of the day. We are going to head to Seattle and go after that first win. We’ll want to get in the top half of the field and go some rounds on Sunday,” said Force.
For the rookie driver Brittany Force facing off with the most dominant Top Fuel driver at Sonoma Raceway was a tall order even though in her young career she was already 2-0 against the five-time Sonoma Nationals champion. Unfortunately for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award hopeful she could not make it 3-0.
In the first round her Castrol EDGE dragster lost traction and the rookie driver attempted to pedal the 8,000 horsepower dragster to no avail.
“Every run I learn something new. I am getting more experience with every run. I learned something on that first round run against Doug Kalitta. I tried to pedal it a little too quickly. My dragster wasn’t lined up perfectly straight when I got back on the throttle and it went over towards the center line. I have never been that close to the center line so I lifted,” added Force.
“I am going to get with the crew chiefs and review the video that really helps so you can talk about what you think is happening and then see the video. It is really helpful. When I pedaled it the dragster just smoked the tires again and didn’t hook up.”
“Kalitta is an awesome dri
ver. We talked before the run and I congratulated him at the top end. All the drivers in Top Fuel have been really supportive and helpful.”