JOHN FORCE WINS No. 137; TAKES POINTS LEAD
READING, PA —- For the 28th time in his legendary career John Force has won back to back races taking the title at the 29th annual Auto Plus NHRA Nationals today at Maple Grove Raceway. Force outran rookie driver and former John Force Racing crewman Chad Head in the final 4.106 seconds to 10.002 seconds. Winning from the No. 1 qualifier position for the first time since at the 2004 Auto Club NHRA Finals, Force gave credit to not just his Castrol GTX crew chiefs but the entire John Force Racing team of crew chiefs and crewmen.
“This is a good race car. (Crew chiefs) Jimmy Prock and Danny DeGennaro have things really going. Robert (Hight) told me that this was a great team when I came over here. What is most exciting is the team work,” said Force. “The other crew chiefs are all trying to win but they are also helping us when we are headed to the semi-finals or the finals. They were up on the starting line rooting for me and you could see the sincerity. Back at the trailer the crew chiefs are going over the computers and Robert is showing me the videos so I can see anything that can help me on staging.”
“To get this win meant a lot to me. They all mean a lot. I have a good hot rod. What we have right now is consistency. Jimmy Prock likes to swing for the fence and that scares me sometimes. When he is hot, he is hot,” said Force.
Chad Head becomes the 46th different driver to race Force in a final but ironically Head’s father, veteran driver and tuner Jim Head, never raced Force in a final during his career. Chad Head became the 39th different driver to lose to Force. Force had nothing but praise for the second generation driver.
“Chad Head is just a good kid with a lot of heart. When he worked for us he wanted to get experience. He is just a heck of a guy. He worked for Al-Anabi for years. He is doing a heck of a job. I was reading all day and seeing that he was hole-shotting everybody out there. I kept hearing that and hearing that. I had to fudge on that tree just so I could look like I was in the game with him,” said Force, a seven-time winner at Maple Grove Raceway.
“In the final up against Chad Head his dad (Jim Head) will throw a hard ball and he is a heck of a racer. He ain’t afraid of John Force. He ain’t afraid of nobody. None of these guys are afraid of me anymore. We played strategy all day and we stayed with what we knew would run down the race track,” said Force. “That is Jimmy Prock. He is the final call. I am really proud of him. He struggled since him and Robert won the championship in 2009, then they get hot at the beginning of the year last year and win four in a row. Now he is hot at the end of the season.”
Throughout the day Force and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car had to race consistently tough drivers and he kept his focus by reviewing timing sheets and huddling up with his team.
“There was good competition today. (Ron) Capps is hungry. I was fudging on the lights against Cruz (Pedregon). I was going in deep on some and not so deep on others. You had to be ready for anything today. You had to think it out in case you had to pedal it. You have to watch the car you might have to run the next session. If they run a big number then you have to go after lane choice,” said Force. “I have struggled with the lights. I have to jump in deep just to match Robert who is dead shallow. I rolled in a little bit against Capps and he rolled in a little too. You don’t want to give too much away but you don’t care about the next round against a guy like Capps because you just want that win.”
Force entered the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals in second place after his win last weekend in St. Louis but leaves Reading, Pennsylvania with a 65 point lead over Hagan. This is the 19th different season Force has led the Mello Yello Funny Car points.
Force defeated Jeff Arend, Pedregon and Capps en route to his seventh final this season. HIs winning time, 4.106 seconds, was the slowest elapsed time he recorded all weekend. Force had the quickest elapsed time every time his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang ran down the track with the exception of the third qualifying session. Force’s average elapsed time was 4.083 on race day when the track temp climbed every round.
After the race Force dedicated the win to his wife Laurie and tried to make amends for a missed opportunity last weekend in St. Louis. It was the couple’s 32nd wedding anniversary and with Laurie’s blessing Force gave the win trophy to the new AAA Missouri president and crew chief Jimmy Prock.
“After 32 years of being married this is a pretty good anniversary gift. Especially since the first nine years we were married I never saw one of these. This is awesome,” said Laurie Force from the winner’s circle stage.
No. 2 qualified Courtney Force made an appearance in the quarterfinals today at the and stayed in the Mello Yello points chase for the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year took the win over Blake Alexander in the opening round when she ran the third-quickest ET out of 16 qualified hot rods. Force got the best start off the line with a .44 light to Alexander’s .72. The Traxxas Ford Mustang was able to post a 4.083 ET at over 316 mph to Alexander’s 4.148 ET at 302 mph.
“I had a tough first round matchup. We had Blake Alexander and he had a pretty stellar pass out there, but luckily we got down with a solid pass ourselves with a 4.08. It was one of the quickest runs of the session.”
“We actually swapped tires before the run. A lot of people were smoking the tires ahead of us so we were a little nervous going up for that round. The conditions had changed since what we had gotten used to in qualifying. We switched tires last minute and lucky for us it was a good decision that Ron Douglas (crew chief) made and it sent our Traxxas Ford Mustang sailing down there with a 4.08 to get that win light. It was a good race for us,” said Force.
In the quarterfinals, Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang fell to No. 10 qualifier, Del Worsham. Force’s hotrod dropped a cylinder and put a 4.125 ET at 303 mph on the board next to Worsham’s almost identical time of 4.121 ET at 311 mph. Despite the female driver’s quick launch off the starting line (.089 to his .111), she did not get the round win.
“Second round we just weren’t as lucky. We were matched up against Del Worsham and we had a good car. It just went down the track and dropped a cylinder and slowed us to only 303 mph when it did that and we handed the win over.”
“It was a tough loss for our team. We know we have a good race car. It’s unfortunate when things like that happen, especially when they’re unexpected. It started to pull me over to the left, and I tried to get it back in the center of the groove to get that win light, but he just went around me by a little bit right at the end,” said Force.
The three-time tour winner will stay No. 7 in points going into Las Vegas for the second-to-last event of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season.
“It’s a bummer for us. We’re trying to climb back up in the points right now, but the good thing is all the right people went out in eliminations today that we needed to and no one passed us in points this weekend so we’re just going to look forward to Vegas where we had a runner-up finish last year at the end of the season,” said Force.
Robert Hight started his 200th NHRA national event today but for the 29-time Funny Car winner his race ended in a first round upset to eventual finalist and rookie Chad Head. The No. 6 qualifier was in the first pair of Funny Cars to roll through the water
box on Sunday. At the hit of the throttle the Auto Club Mustang went into immediate tire smoke as Hight’s Goodyear tires lost traction. Hight tried to get back on the throttle and chase down Head but even though Head hazed the tires just before the finish line the damage was done.
“That was a surprise for sure. We were definitely looking to go rounds today. We haven’t had an issue like that in so long. There were all kinds of surprises in Top Fuel right in front of us. It was just one of those races. We aren’t out of this championship chase by a long shot. We’ll take a few weeks off and get ready for Las Vegas and Pomona,” said a disappointed Hight.
“It has definitely made it a must win situation for the last two races. It is going to be exciting. We are going to be watching the rest of the Funny Cars and see where we wind up,” added Hight.
Rookie Top Fuel driver Brittany Force lost her first round match-up with veteran driver Doug Kalitta but kept her focus on improving as a driver and tea, The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster qualified No. 11 but more importantly consistently made passes down the Maple Grove Raceway track.
“This weekend was pretty good for the Castrol EDGE team. We had a consistent car all weekend and were running in the low 3.80s every run. Today the conditions were completely different and we stepped up and ran a 3.80 in the first round,” said Force.
Countdown contender Steve Torrence did not qualify and joined a list of Countdown qualified drivers who have missed a start that includes 2012 Top Fuel champion Antron Brown (Charlotte) and Khalid alBalooshi (Dallas). The Automobile Road to the Future Award contender is pleased her dragster has performed in the Countdown eventhough she is relegated to the role of spoiler.
“Getting qualified for all the Countdown races really pumps me up and pumps up my team. To be able to come out here and run with the top ten teams who are running for the championship is pretty cool. That keeps us really focused and in the game. We are going to look at these last two races and our chance to get that first win,” added Force.
Force did record her career best speed in today’s first round 324.12 mph beside Doug Kalitta.