POMONA, CA (November 7, 2013) – His Mello Yello Championship may be secure, but John Force still has work to do at this week’s season-ending 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Force started his bid for a record ninth victory in the season finale by driving the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang through the 1,000 foot timers in 4.105 seconds at 304.12 miles per hour, good enough for one bonus point and the No. 3 position after the first of four qualifying rounds.

“It is good to come out of the box first session and get down the race track. That gives you a strong tune up. I think we are all in the top four in Funny Car and Brittany is No. 7 in Top Fuel. Everybody is in the top half but tomorrow is a new day,” said Force, a 138-time NHRA National event winner. “We have wrapped up the championship but we are trying to win this race for all our sponsors from Castrol to Ford to Auto Club to Traxxas. Robert and Courtney are trying to get up to the No. 2 and No. 3 spot in the points. I have the championship but I still want to win the race because this is Auto Club Raceway and this is an Auto Club race.”

In fact, Force finished Day 1 just behind son-in-law Robert Hight and the Auto Club Mustang and just ahead of youngest daughter Courtney and the special edition Traxxas Mustang that commemorates the 25-year-old’s Rookie-of-the-Year season in 2012.

“That was a good start. We wanted to get a good run under our belt on the first day and go from there. That first run will really set up the event for us. We got some bonus points and we are trying to get up to the No. 2 spot. I am glad we put up a good number in the Auto Club Ford Mustang and I know Neff will start working on a great tune up,” said Hight.

The only quicker car was the Dodge of Jack Beckman, which took the provisional No. 1 at 4.077 seconds.  Hight was second at 4.096 and Courtney fourth at 4.115 coupled to top speed for Funny Cars at 314.97 mph.

Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car team came out today in the opening qualifying session and posted a respectable 4.115 second run at 314.97 mph to put their hot rod in the No. 4 spot for now.

“It feels good to be back at a racetrack where we took home a win to kick-off the 2013 season at the Winternationals. It seems to be a lucky track for our Traxxas Ford Mustang team,” said Force.

The 25-year old made her first qualifying pass in the right lane beside competitor Ron Capps. The duo was the first in the Funny Car category to make two full, clean passes right down the track. Force’s ET tied Johnny Gray’s 4.115, but the female driver took the higher qualifying spot on speed, her 314.97 to Gray’s 306.46 mph run.

“It looked like a couple of cars were struggling to get in when we were watching the qualifying session start. We went down and ran a 4.11 and ran top speed of the session at 314. Just got bumped to the No. 4 spot so we didn’t get to pick up any qualifying bonus points today, but my teammates, my dad and Robert Hight did so we’re excited for them. I think we’ve got some fast Ford Mustangs out here for John Force Racing. We’re looking forward to tomorrow for another qualifying session and hopefully we can move up to the top spot,” said Force.

Thursday’s qualifying effort assures a favorable spot for all three Ford drivers in Friday’s qualifying order.

While the JFR Funny Cars were off to a good start Thursday, so was the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster in which Rookie-of-the-Year contender Brittany Force sped to the provisional No. 7 spot at 3.843 seconds at 312.86 mph.

“I’m glad to be out here at Pomona at my home track. I love racing here. We get to race at Auto Club Raceway twice a year and it’s nice for us because it’s close to home and our friends and family can come out to watch us race,” said Force.

“On our first qualifying pass we went out and ran a 3.84 and ended up No. 7. We’re super excited about that, but we still get three more shots at trying to improve on that so we’ll just try to keep moving in the right direction. We had a hole out on that run so hopefully we can run a little bit faster tomorrow.”

John Force has won the Auto Club Finals a record eight times but has never won in an odd-numbered year.  His wins came in 1988, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.  The 64-year-old icon comes in on a three-race winning streak that ran his record total of tour victories to 138.