A GOOD MEMORY KEEPS FORCE FOCUSED
15-Time Champ Trying to Fend Off Hagan, Beckman, Hight for 16th Series Title
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Since he has fought his way back to the top of the NHRA Funny Car standings with consecutive victories in the Mello Yello Series, one might logically expect a little swagger from John Force when the Countdown to the Championship moves this week to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
However, if rivals Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman as well as teammate Robert Hight expect to face an overconfident points leader in this week’s 13th annual Toyota Nationals, they’re going to be terribly disappointed.
That’s because drag racing’s biggest winner enters the season’s next-to-last race with a sense of apprehension that might suggest he is 65 points behind Hagan instead of 65 ahead.
That’s because the current scenario is eerily similar to 2010 when, coming into Vegas, the roles were reversed with Hagan in the lead and Force 64 points back.
Anyone even remotely affiliated with the sport knows how that one turned out. Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang past Hagan’s Dodge in the final round at LVMS, then went on to win the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif., and earn the most unlikely of his record 15 career championships.
For that reason alone, the 137-time NHRA tour winner isn’t going to be talking smack. He knows that nothing is yet written in stone because a lot can happen in eight competitive rounds.
“We got past him three years ago,” Force said of Hagan, “but, at the end of the day, he could do the same thing to us this time. He’s got a fast hot rod over there with Dickie (crew chief Dickie Venables) and (car owner Don) Schumacher, he’s a great young driver and he’s motivated. That’s a dangerous combination.”
As a result, instead of talking title, Force has retreated to the comfort of the fallback position he always has maintained in pressure situations: “be humble and keep on working.”
It’s a fail-safe mechanism for the man who already has been inducted into the two major U.S.-based motor racing Halls of Fame – the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Detroit (2008) and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladeaga, Ala. (2012).
“I just want to keep my nose clean, keep working the gym and stay focused,” said the 64-year-old racing icon who now has won three-or-more NHRA tour events in a record 21 different seasons.
“(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock’s given me a good car, the ‘Prock Rocket,’” he said, “but there are a lot of good cars out there including two in my own camp (the Fords of youngest daughter Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight). With all these young kids, I just have to stay up for the fight.”
If the developments of 2010 aren’t enough to keep the former big rig truck driver humble, there always is the memory of what happened to him in 1992 after winning his first two Funny Car titles.
“We had a lead and we thought we couldn’t be caught,” Force recalled, “so we went into test mode. Cruz Pedregon had to win almost every race to catch us. Well, he won five-in-a-row and he beat us. I thought my career was over right there and I told myself I’d never make that mistake again.”
Thus far, it’s a philosophy that’s worked pretty well.
HIGHT BETTING ON VEGAS SUCCESS TO KEEP CHAMPIONSHIP IN SIGHT
LAS VEGAS (October 22, 2013) — It is fitting that the penultimate race of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is contested in Las Vegas. Robert Hight and the Auto Club team will need a little bit of luck to go along with their hard work to reel in a surging John Force as they try and win a second Funny Car championship. Hight sits in fourth place but the 2009 Funny Car champion still has his eye on winning another Funny Car championship.
“We are definitely still in it. Mike Neff and I have been talking since Reading and there is no reason we can’t get on a roll and do some damage. There are qualifying bonus points out there and we need to go rounds. There are eight rounds of racing left and if you win the last two races you can get 200 points,” said Hight.
Hight trails points leader and teammate John Force by 134 points. He is only eight points behind 2012 Funny Car champion Jack Beckman. Matt Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car champion sits in second place. The last four Mello Yello Funny Car champions will be battling down to the wire over the last two races.
“The competition has never been tougher in Funny Car. I won the championship in 2009, then John won, the Hagan and last year Beckman got the championship. We are all coming down to the wire for the championship this year. That is why the Countdown is exciting. It will be battle but we are ready for it,” said Hight.
In 2009 when Hight won his first Funny Car championship he took the win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to essentially lock up his title. Hight has had success at the Las Vegas track winning in the fall and the spring, including a win in 2012 in the desert. Hight knows that familiarity helps when it comes down to crunch time.
“Las Vegas and Pomona are tracks where I have had a lot of success. I feel comfortable racing at Las Vegas because we test here and run her twice. Neff and I have talked about our strategy for this weekend and we feel confident coming into this weekend,” said Hight, a two-time winner this season.
“We won the first race of the Countdown in Charlotte and then reached the semi-finals the next two races. Our only misstep was Reading but we put that behind us and we are focusing on winning the last two races. I think we should have a really good shot at the championship if we can pull two more win off,” added Hight.
Hight knows that he is trying to ultimately catch the winningest driver in NHRA history John Force. The fifteen time champion has reached the last three finals in the Countdown with back to back wins in St. Louis and Reading. As a former crewman for the championship driver Hight understands he is chasing a legend.
“John is the best and if we can’t win this championship we definitely want John to get it. We are one team at John Force Racing but we all want to win. John has had a great season and has been awesome in the Countdown with Jimmy Prock. You can’t expect them to make any mistakes. We are going to have to make our own luck and hopefully we can take out as many Countdown cars as possible and then battle John for the championship. We haven’t won the last two championships and we don’t want to go three years without raising that Mello Yello Funny Car championship trophy,” said Hight.
COURTNEY FORCE AIMING FOR STRONG FINISH TO SECOND SEASON
LAS VEGAS (October 22, 2013) – Courtney Force, one of the top female athletes in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, will travel to Las Vegas this weekend with hopes of adding another victory to her list of ac
complishments at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 24-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Our Traxxas team has had some pretty good luck in Vegas in the past so I’m hoping we can get out there, have a consistent car all weekend and get qualified in the top half of the field,” said Force. “It’s always exciting coming out to The Strip at Las Vegas because the energy of the town and the fans is unbelievable. Our teams have had pretty good luck here in the past so were hoping to continue that in such a crucial point in the Countdown. This is such a great facility so our teams always look forward to coming here,” said Force.
The 25-year-old Funny Car driver will also be running a black and turquoise “Rookie of the Year” car for this event as well as the NHRA World Finals in Pomona, Calif.
“I’m so excited to be running my second specialty car of the season and look forward to closing out the year with one that has so much importance to me. Winning the Auto Club Road to the Future Award or “Rookie of the Year” last season was such an honor and it meant so much to me that I couldn’t wait to help design the specialty body, with the help of Brandon Baker, our graphic designer.”
“This car represents my past and hopefully my future in racing. It represents the growth of me as a driver and our team and the foundation of it all. It shows where my passion for racing really began,” said Force.
The 2012 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner raced her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a final round appearance at the last national event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals held this past spring. She has an impressive qualifying record of a No. 4 position average at the race track.
“Now that the season is almost over the pressure is really on. The points are very tight and it’s easy to shuffle up or down,” said the driver who currently sits in the No. 7 spot in the NHRA Funny Car points. “Our Traxxas team is definitely hoping to make use of these last two races and shuffle back up in the points so we can finish strong at the end of the 2013 season. We just need to keep our focus and stay away from any mistakes, so as a driver you really need to go up there and stay consistent on every run because every point adds up,” said Force.
Force and her sister, Brittany Force, will sign autographs and meet fans at the NHRA Fremont Street Experience Fan Fest, held Thursday, Oct. 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Fremont Street. The event will feature a spectacular huge autograph session with the stars of the sport, an NHRA-themed light show, ticket giveaways and music.
“Every year I have gotten the opportunity to participate in the Fremont Street Experience so I’m looking forward to doing it again with my sister Brittany. It’s exciting being in the heart of Las Vegas right on Fremont Street with all the fans, getting to sign autographs and take pictures with them. They get to see and meet all the drivers before the big weekend so it’s a cool addition to the race weekend,” said Force.
For Immediate Release
BRITTANY AIMS FOR STRONG ROOKIE FINISH
Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster Hopes to Play Spoiler at Toyota Nationals
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Whether or not she wins the Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award as this year’s Rookie-of-the-Year in the Mello Yello Series, Brittany Force’s sense of accomplishment will be no less pronounced than that of sisters Ashley and Courtney after their first seasons.
In fact, entering this week’s 13th annual Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one could make a case for the 27-year-old would-be schoolteacher having done more in her debut year than either of her siblings, both of whom went on to claim NHRA rookie honors.
Granted, she hasn’t won a race like Courtney did last year in the Traxxas Ford Mustang and she hasn’t been to a final round like Ashley when she became the first woman in Funny Car history to reach that plateau at this very race in 2007.
However, while her sisters climbed into proven equipment maintained by some of the most accomplished Funny Car mechanics in the sport, Brittany’s challenge was made more daunting because she opted to go racing in the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster in a category in which John Force Racing, Inc., had no previous resume.
In essence, for her and her crew chiefs, Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane, it was on-the-job training in a 10,000 horsepower classroom.
“I am so proud of my team,” gushed the second youngest of John Force’s four daughters. “Each weekend we learn a little bit more about our car to keep it moving in the right direction.”
Make no mistake about it, Top Fuel was Brittany’s choice, not her dad’s. Always the most rebellious of the Force girls, she opted not to immediately follow her sisters into a Funny Car division in which her dad had raced successfully for more than 30 seasons, winning 15 championships.
Since she had driven competitively in nothing but dragsters and since she suffered from just a hint of claustrophobia, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton said she had no desire to be strapped into an enclosed Funny Car with the motor blocking her line of vision. However, she found the prospect of being the first JFR driver to compete in Top Fuel intriguing.
Not that it hasn’t been a bumpy ride. Early mechanical problems that led to a pair of DNQs effectively ended her hope of earning a Countdown berth. Still, she hasn’t given up on her other major rookie goal.
“To be able to come out here and run with the Top 10 teams who are running for the championship is really motivating,” she said. “It keeps us really focused and in the game. We’re going to look at these last two races as our chance to get that first win.”
That’s not as far-fetched as one might think. After all, Brittany has posted personal best 1,000 foot times in three of her last six starts (with a best of 3.795 seconds at 324.12 mph) and she has quality wins this season over Countdown contenders Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican along with tour winners J.R. Todd, David Grubnic and Brandon Bernstein.
“I am ready for Las Vegas,” she said. “I feel a lot more comfortable going back to tracks where I have experience. I love the The Strip at Las Vegas. I have run that track countless times in my Super Comp dragster and my A/Fuel dragster and I’m really comfortable there.”