John Force Racing–Gainesville Qualifying

2014 NHRA Final Qualifying Summary
3rd of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series


45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals

Auto Plus Raceway

Gainesville, FL
March 14-16, 2014

Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography for media use only

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GAINESVILLE, FL – Courtney Force will take on the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car field from the No. 5 spot on Sunday at the 2014 Amalie Oil Gatornationals. Force entered Saturday not in the show, but quickly turned things around for her Traxxas Ford Mustang team. The 25-year-old started the day with a 4.131 ET at 308.85 mph and moved solidly into the show at the No. 7 spot and picking up three bonus points as the quickest Funny Car of the session.

“I’m excited that our Traxxas Ford Mustang team was able to come out here on Saturday of qualifying and improve on our last two qualifying sessions. We moved up to the top half of the field and that’s what we were going for,” said Force.

In the fourth and final qualifying session, the 2012 Rookie of the Year posted a 4.121 ET at 308.64 mph and moved up to the No. 5 spot and gaining her team two bonus points for being second-quickest of that session. That run set her up to take on competitor Matt Hagan in the opening round on race day.

“It definitely feels great. We changed some things around and it seems to be going in the right direction. We went out there and ran a 4.131 and a 4.121 so we were able to improve on the last run down the track,” said Force.

This will be the eleventh time the pair have matched up on race day since Force’s Funny Car debut in 2012. They are 5-5 in previous match-ups.

“We’re excited going into tomorrow. I think we have a good feel for both lanes. We have lane choice, but we have tough competition going up against Hagan. We’re just going to give it all we got and hopefully go some rounds,” said Force.

Robert Hight and the Auto Club Mustang team made a strong run to start the day. His Mike Neff tuned Funny Car posted the second quickest ET of the session and gave the team a great boost going into the final qualifying session. With temperatures cooling slightly after a number of delays in the Top Fuel session Hight’s Mustang hazed the tires at the top end and he will go into eliminations as the No. 10 qualifier and will race former teammate Tony Pedregon.

“Today was a good day. We made another solid run in the first session under race day conditions. In the last session Neff was looking for the edge and we just missed making another good run. Every time we go down the track we learn something plus we learn from our teammates. Courtney’s Traxxas Mustang made two good runs and we were right with her in the early session. The crew chiefs will get together tonight and we will all have a good game plan for tomorrow,” said Hight.

“The lanes are pretty even and I don’t see any reason we can’t have a long race day tomorrow. Tony Pedregon will be tough and we can’t look past him. I will do my job on the starting line and I know these Auto Club guys will give me a great race car.”

Hight is 9-15 against Tony Pedregon and he defeated him in the first round of last year’s Gatornationals.

John Force tried to tame the unpredictable track surface of Auto Plus Raceway for two straight days. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion struggled through four qualifying sessions and could only manage a 4.38 second elapsed time, placing his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang in the 16th spot.

“It’s been tough and we’ve struggled with this car but all our cars are in and the dragster is running good. Even though the Castrol car is struggling, but they said to me down there on top end during the interview after that last qualifying run, ‘Cruz is low qualifier like you were in Pomona and now and you’re number 16’. At the end of the day when you’re number one and I was low ET and got both ends of the track record, I was sick over that on Sunday morning because you know that car is right on the edge because no one else can do it. We’ll be fine tomorrow,” said John Force.

While most racers agonize by not qualifying in the top-half of the field, it doesn’t faze John Force who has won the Gatornationals seven times. 

“Being the 16th qualifier, I’ve got nothing to lose I’m going out there with a full heart and going after that kid. I love Cruz, it’ll be a fun race, a Toyota against a Ford and we’re going to have some fun.”

Force is 61-29 against Pedregon, 3-1 at the Gatornationals and 13-8 in previous first round meetings. Force has never won a race after qualifying No. 16 so this is an opportunity for him to achieve another milestone.  Force’s streak of No. 1 qualifying performances ends at five.

Coming off her first Top Fuel final round appearance just last month in Phoenix, Brittany Force struggled to qualify in the top half of the field today. Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster to ran a 3.86 second elapsed time placing her in the 13th spot. She narrowly missed picking up a qualifying bonus point in the first session on Saturday posting the fourth quickest Top Fuel run of the session.

“Qualifying didn’t actually go as expected as we’ve had some crazy runs and little bit of confusion in the first qualifying session,” said Brittany Force, who was recently named Rookie of the Year by RACER magazine. 

In trying to get a hold of Auto Plus Raceway crew chief Todd Smith has been trying to get Castrol EDGE Dragster back to its consistent ways. As a driver, Brittany knows the unpredictability of conditions come race day. She is 2-4 against Doug Kalitta but 2-1 in first rounds.

“It’s been very past two days for us but the important thing is we’re No. 13 and we’re are in the show and we’re ready to play tomorrow. We’re running Doug Kalitta and we’re beaten him before so I’m pumped and ready for tomorrow and we’re ready to go some rounds,” said Brittany Force.