COURTNEY FORCE REACHES SEATTLE SEMIS
KENT, WA —- On the anniversary of Courtney Force’s first NHRA Funny Car win at the NHRA O’Reilly Northwest Nationals, the Traxxas Ford Mustang team came up short, but showed progress in the NHRA Funny Car point standings by moving around Jack Beckman to claim the No. 6 spot in the Mello Yello point standings.
“It’s great to be back here in Seattle where I picked up my first win last season in my Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car. We got qualified on the last shot which was a little too close for comfort. It was stressful on all of us,” said Force.
Force took on fellow female competitor Alexis DeJoria in the opening round. The 25-year-old former cheerleader posted a 4.086 to DeJoria’s 4.161 ET. This was their 6th meeting in eliminations and Force is now 5-1 to DeJoria.
“We had a great car today on race day and we were able to get that first round win over Alexis. She’s a good friend of mine, but we are both competitive out here, being the only females in the Funny Car category. We both want to win,” said Force.
Force went on to race veteran driver Johnny Gray in the second round. Force took the win, the first time she has beaten Gray on race day. Force made a 4.106 second run to Gray’s 4.722 ET.
“Second round we had a tough match up with Johnny Gray. He’s a great competitor. They can pull out a good run like it’s nothing. Their car got in the show in the No. 16 qualified spot, but took out the No. 1 qualifier in the opening round today, so I know it would be tough to beat him,” said Force. “I was trying to stay shallow (when staging) all weekend so we could get lane choice. Lane choice is pretty crucial out here. It kind of killed my lights every round, but I’m doing my best as a driver to try and improve those lights and it got me to the semis,” said Force.
Force lost on a hole shot in the semi-finals to eventual winner Matt Hagan, who ran a 4.12 to Force’s 4.11.
“Hagan is one of the toughest leavers in the business. We ran a 4.11 and my Traxxas Guys did a great job on my race car. We lost by just that much; from the reaction time at the start. It’s definitely a tough loss when you lose that way. Nobody likes to get beat on a hole shot, but I’m doing the best I can to follow the directions on the game and just go in shallow to get lane choice,” added Force. “You have to kind of weigh those things out and see the bigger picture there. I’m pretty bummed that my light cost us the race, but we’re going to get back after in in Brainerd. I’m just happy that we moved up a spot and I’m excited to go after it in Brainerd,” said Force.
Robert Hight racing in his 200th NHRA national event held onto his position in the Mello Yello top ten with a quarter-final finish. Coming into today’s race he had 266 round wins and had raced in 43 finals with 27 wins. He picked up another round win over rookie John Hale but came up a short against fellow Ford racer Tim Wilkerson in the second round. Hight left on Wilkerson and was pulling away when the Goodyears on his Auto Club Ford Mustang smoked (lost traction) and Wilkerson drove around him moving on to the semi-finals.
“I thought today was going to be our day. We made two good runs yesterday and made a strong run against Hale in round one. The positive is we are still in the top ten and there are two races left to get into the top ten solid. The bottom of the top ten is really tight so one good race can make the difference,” said Hight.
“This was our seventh race in eight weekends and next weekend I will be in Norwalk at the Night Under Fire. We will be doing some testing and getting ready for Brainerd. I am excited about these next two races. I have a great Auto Club team behind me,” added Hight.
In the first round Hight and his Mike Neff tuned Auto Club Ford Mustang made the second quickest run of the session a strong 4.077 second pass as Hale red-lit in the other lane. Cruz Pedregon made the quickest run of round one, 4.064 seconds and he was defeated in the second round losing to Bob Tasca III.
The biggest upset of the day for John Force Racing occurred when John Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was ousted in the first round by veteran Paul Lee in a Funny Car owned by former JFR driver Gary Densham. Force covered the course quicker than Lee, 4.086 to 4.133, but Lee had a starting line reaction time advantage and was able to steal a win from the winningest driver in NHRA history.
It was a solid seven weeks of racing for the 15-time Funny Car champion reaching the finals last weekend in Sonoma and moving from 9th in the Mello Yello point stands to 4th just a round out of third place. Force is heading to the Night Under Fire as well and then will return to Brainerd where he raced to the final round last year and has won eleven times.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster wrapped up their first pass through the Western Swing with a tough loss to Khalid alBalooshi in the first round. Force’s Top Fuel dragster was the No. 13 qualifier and the loss of half of the qualifying runs due to rain had a negative impact on the lone JFR Top Fuel dragster making its first appearance at Seattle.
“This was a tough weekend for us in Seattle. We lost out on our first two qualifying runs Friday because of rain. We had two other qualifying passes, but we didn’t quite get it down the track. We weren’t as prepared as we wanted to be for the first round of eliminations,” said Force. “We ran Khalid alBalooshi in the first round, so I was excited to run him, he’s a great driver. Unfortunately, we went out to him in the first round. My Castrol EDGE dragster went right up into tire smoke at about 60 feet. I tried to pedal it, but it got a little sideways so I lifted and he was way out ahead of me. We’ll just take everything we learned here and go on to Brainerd.”
The Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award contender for rookie of the year had a busy weekend away from the track as well participating in the NHRA press conference at the Space Needle, catching fish at the famous Pike Street Market and touring Starbucks Coffee headquarters and experiencing her first coffee tasting.
“Western Swing wasn’t exactly what I expected. I was definitely hoping we’d get a win on the swing. I’ve been coming to the Western Swing since I was a kid. It’s just cool to be out here and be able to say that I’m driving a Top Fuel car and I get to come out here and compete on the Western Swing. I watched my dad do it and it’s exciting to be out here.”