FORCE STAYS No. 1 IN PHOENIX; EXTENDS QUAL STREAK
PHOENIX – John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang held onto their No. 1 qualifying position at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. On the strength of his run of 3.99 seconds on Friday night at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals Force will start from the top of the order a record 148th time in his career and for the fifth race in a row dating back to Reading, Pennsylvania last season. Force has raced to six consecutive final rounds and has talked about having the “magic.”
“We have had the magic the last couple of races but this weekend we don’t have the magic. I will be honest it makes me feel better. I don’t like to live right on the edge. We know what we can’t do out there. We will go the other direction,” said Force.
Force and the Jimmy Prock tuned Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car have been searching for the performance edge leading up to and since his track record setting 3.99 second run. On their three other runs their Ford Mustang Funny Car made it varying lengths down track before the Goodyears lost traction.
Force will race Jeff Diehl in the first round but the 16-time Funny Car champion is not taking the upstart driver lightly.
“I beat somebody once. When (Don) Prudhomme and all of them thought I was a joke and a leaker I had to race. Some days you have your day. I respect anybody I race. I am not just saying that. I mean it. These kids work real hard to be here. They spend their money and they all have a dream that I have,” said Force. “I don’t want to look back in 25 years and say there is the new champ and I took him for granted like they did me years ago. I am going to go out and get my boys together for a meeting and we’ll be ready for tomorrow. We will try and win first round and see if we can keep on this roll.”
Words of wisdom from his father ring in Force’s ears when people start positioning him as being unbeatable or beyond defeat.
“Like my dad said don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper because you told them that stuff. When you are doing good you want to say you are doing good. Don’t believe your own bullcrap so I am not,” concluded Force.
This will be Force’s eighth No. 1 at Phoenix and he won as the No. 1 qualifier in 1996 and 1999. Force has not won this race since 2005 but won seven of eight years from 1994 through 2001.
It was a tough weekend of consistent qualifying for all the Funny Car teams. Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang will roll into Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 3 qualifier but they too are looking for some consistency. Hight will race Cruz Pedregon a tough draw for any No. 3 qualifier. Hight blasted down the track on Friday in 4.030 seconds and only one driver improved on that time on Saturday, Tommy Johnson Jr.’s 4.029 second pass.
“We are going to give it our best shot tomorrow. Everybody has been looking for the right combination. The good news is we are the No. 3 qualifier and we will have lane choice. Cruz will be tough because he is a world champion and he can throw down a number. We won’t take him lightly and I know he won’t take us lightly even though we haven’t been super consistent. I am not worried,” said Hight.
Courtney Force wrapped up qualifying in the No. 12 spot today. She will face No. 5 qualifier Del Worsham in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
“We came out this weekend with the intention to kind of redeem ourselves after the Winternationals in Pomona and I think we’ve put our Traxxas Ford Mustang in a pretty good position to do so,” said Force.
The 25-year-old posted a 4.096 second elapsed time at over 304 mph on Friday to open qualifying. She posted a 4.104 on Saturday, but did not improve beyond the 4.096 pass, putting her No. 12 in the Funny Car field.
“Qualifying went well. We made a pretty good pass in the right lane when a lot of the cars weren’t making it down in that lane in the heat.
“We went out in Q4 and tried to step it up a little bit to see if we could improve on our time in that lane. Unfortunately it didn’t go as we had hoped, but we’re still learning about this car and trying some new things. We’ve made two pretty good passes in qualifying so we’ll just go back to our set up then and we’ll try to get around (Del) Worsham in round one,” said Force.
This is the eighth time she has faced Worsham in eliminations and the third time they have matched up for first round.
“Del is a really good racer and I’m sure he will give us a run for our money, but my Traxxas team is awesome with my crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, and I know that we have a great race car going down the track, so I have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow against Del,” said Force.
This is a memorable track for the Traxxas Funny Car driver, who got her first win against her father at this track and went to her first semi-final round of her career her rookie season.
“The track has changed a lot since we were here last, but it’s definitely a track that sticks out in my mind as one of my most memorable tracks. I raced my dad here for the first time. It was my rookie year and it was something that I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid. That was really special for me,” said Force.
Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE Dragster have been a model of consistency these last two days at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. She generated consistent numbers, running 3.813, 3.814, 3.828 and 3.839 elapsed times during the ever-changing weather and track conditions. Despite getting bumped from the top half of the field and racing from the No. 10 spot this Sunday, Brittany’s 10,000 horsepower dragster has made four solid runs in a row and is dialed-in and ready for Sunday’s eliminations. Brittany will have a round one rematch with David Grubnic during the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.
It was at this event last year that Brittany lost a close one to David Grubnic in the opening round. Having a better reaction time, Brittany was out on Grubnic, but her dragster experienced violent tire shake that actually deployed the parachutes before the finish line. All she could do was watch as Grubnic drove around her to get the win light. Brittany’s record with Grubnic is 1-1 and she’d like another tick in the win column after round one tomorrow. “Our car’s been running pretty consistent, so to be going up against Grubnic is exciting. He got us last year but it’s our turn this year,” said Brittany Force.
Hopefully, tomorrow’s first round outcome will be different for the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year, as Brittany’s been improving as a driver to get her Castrol EDGE Dragster to the final round. Todd Smith, Dean “Guido” Antonelli and the rest of the team have been working hard to give Brittany a car she can win with, regardless of where it qualifies and the track conditions on race day. “It feels good to make four great laps. It pumps me up and it pumps up my crew guys and they’re all excited for tomorrow. Most important, we’re all happy our Castrol EDGE Dragster made four great runs down the track,” said Brittany Force.
With her rookie season behind her, Brittany’s showing more confidence during her sophomore year. “During my rookie season, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was a new track to me and I’d never been down it before. Now, on my second year out, I know what it’s like to get down the track and it really boosts your confidence,” said Brittany Force.