EPPING, NH — The reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Champion drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car to a semifinal finish at today’s NHRA New England Nationals with skill and horsepower. Despite not having lane choice, John Force used his starting line advantage to go rounds over his opponents. Even though last year’s runner-up couldn’t repeat today, he still very happy that he was able to get back in the groove and start going rounds again.

“Things were starting to look desperate for a round win. I’m going to nuts out here because I built my name on these race tracks. Years ago, I came here with junk and no help and I was expected to be a loser. Now, to come back here with great sponsors like Castrol and Ford, crews and equipment, we’ve been struggling to past the first round. I don’t care who it is, I’m getting whipped by everybody,” said John Force.

The John Force fighting spirit began in round one in which he faced his archrival Matt Hagan. With lane choice in Hagan’s favor, the Castrol GTX High Mileage crew had to make sure their 8000 horsepower Mustang wouldn’t overpower the track and send the enormous Goodyear slicks up in smoke. John also knew he’d need a good reaction time to gain a starting line advantage as his opponent’s car was running strong and qualified better than John’s Mustang.

Just as the Christmas Tree was transitioning from three amber lights to green, John’s Castrol EDGE High Mileage Mustang launched off the starting line with a .048 reaction time to Hagan’s .062. The Mustang charged right out of the gate and never looked backed. It stopped the timers with a 4.12 second pass to Hagan’s quicker but losing 4.11 effort.

“Matt Hagan is tough and we’ve faced each other a lot and here I am screaming after I won first round. It’s unbelievable, I’m excited, and I want to stay in this sport. It’s like I won Indy and yet we didn’t do nothing, just won the first round, said John Force. 

In the quarterfinals, John Force would go up against his son-in-law and fellow teammate Robert Hight. Once again, John staged deep to gain a starting line advantage as he knew new Hight’s Mustang was faster. Force parlayed a great reaction time with a strong run of 4.09 to Robert’s much quicker but losing 4.06. John got the win light which would advance him to the semifinals.

“I doesn’t matter what the tire or the tree says, I stole all the light and almost put the top bulb out. When you’re racing Matt Hagan or Robert Hight, those two are the best leavers out here and in the business; it’s the only way I can get them until my race car can start running faster. Jimmy Prock (crew chief, Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) and the guys are working on it,” said John Force.

In the semifinal round, John went up against Alexis DeJoria. Force knew he’d have to cut a good light again and Force’s Castrol Mustang left first with a .050 reaction time to her .087. Unfortunately for John, DeJoria just caught his Mustang at the finish line and ended his day of racing.

“I was rolling in deep all day to get a better reaction time but it actually slows the car down. It worked against Matt (Hagan) and Robert (Hight). I was hoping I could get around Alexis (DeJoria) but it was close. I’m just excited my hot rod is running consistent and we can go rounds and stay in the top of the points chase,” said John Force.

Even though Force didn’t make it to the finals as he did at last year’s New England Nationals, he broke his string of first round losses that have plagued the Castrol GTX High Mileage team for the last few races. Other than the first qualifying run on Friday, John’s Mustang made a total of six solid, consistent runs at New England Dragway.

The Castrol GTX High Mileage team leaves the NHRA New England Nationals with 713 points and in third place in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car standings. The team will head right to Joliet, Illinois for the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals. John Force will keep the momentum going as he  once again has a consistent race car that can go rounds and win races.

Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car, qualified in the No. 7 spot this weekend and took her hotrod to the semi-finals before bowing out on race day. Force took the win over Dave Richards in the opening round, followed by Del Worsham in the second round to get paired up beside Ron Capps in the semi-finals.

In eliminations, Force posted a 4.089, a 4.124 and a 4.10, proving to be one of the most consistent Funny Cars on race day.

“It was cool just to have a good weekend out here. We have a great car and I think we showed that throughout qualifying and eliminations,” said Force.

The 26-year-old celebrated her birthday on Friday with top speed and set a track speed record at 323.35 mph.

“It was great racing my Traxxas car this weekend. Traxxas being The fastest Name in Radio Control and we were able to set the track speed record out here in Epping. It was great coming back to a track where I had won in the past, last year, and to go all the way to the semi-finals. You know what, my team gave me a great car, we just didn’t have it. We were right there at the finish line with Capps in the semis, but it wasn’t enough and he went around me and got the win. It was a great race. We were right there next to each other the whole way down. We had identical leave times and identical incremental times at the start,” said Force.

The Auto Club Ford Mustang team had one of the most dominant Funny Cars on the property at New England Dragway. On Friday they made the first three second run crossing the finish line in 3.988 second for Robert Hight’s 46th career No. 1 qualifier.

On Saturday in the last session they made the quickest run of the day running 4.06 seconds to solidify their position as the team to beat on race day. In the first round against Mike Smith Hight and his Mike Neff tuned Auto Club Funny Car ran 4.06 seconds again to get their 26th round win of the season. They ran their third consecutive 4.06 in a losing effort to teammate John Force in the second round but that did not take away from the momentum the team is carrying into Chicago next weekend.

“Mike Neff has this Auto Club Mustang dialed in. Three 4.06s in a row was pretty impressive. We will get two night sessions so you could see a lot of three second runs. We will be ready and I have nothing but positive things to say about this weekend especially all the great fans. This is one of the best race tracks in the country and I am glad we put on a good show for everyone here in AAA of Northern New England country,” said Hight, who holds onto the Mello Yello Funny Car points lead for the eigth consecutive race.

Even though Brittany Force lost in the opening round today the highly motivated 27 year-old driver is still optimistic and determined to put her Castrol EDGE Dragster in the winner’s circle. With the runs she made in qualifying, today’s early departure will not dampen Brittany’s or the Castrol EDGE team’s spirits in going rounds and pursuing a NHRA Top Fuel victory.

“I’m definitely a little disappointed to go out in the first round, we had four great runs in qualifying all weekend and then to come out and not be able to make it down the track today is a bummer. However, I have a great group of guys behind me and I love my Castrol EDGE team. We’re getting there, it’s definitely a challenge bringing a Top Fuel Dragster into John Force Racing as we’ve been racing Funny Cars for decades so we’re learning and we’re definitely getting there,” said Brittany Force.

In Sunday’s opening round, Brittany Force lined up next to Clay Millican. Brittany, who had qualified fourth, had lane choice over Millican. At the first hint of green out of the Christmas Tree, Brittany’s dragster leapt off the starting line s
lightly ahead of Millican’s race car. For Brittany, she has been practicing her reaction times and it’s starting to payoff.

“I haven’t been feeling good all weekend but when I was on the starting line for round one, I was really focused and concentrated on cutting a good light and found some energy. I got on it and had a good tree and I’m happy about that,” said Brittany Force.

Unfortunately, Brittany’s dragster started to shake the tires just past the starting as the massive Goodyear slicks were struggling to maintain traction for the 10,000 horsepower on New England Dragway’s surface. Brittany had to get off the throttle as not to lose control of her race car and let the chassis settle down. Once it calmed down, Brittany did an excellent job of jumping back on the throttle and chasing down Millican.

“The car just shook right past the tree at about 100 feet. I thought I could drive through it but it rattled the tires too hard. I got out of it, but then stepped back on the throttle and it hooked back up and drove right down the track. Unfortunately Millican was too far ahead and he was on a good run so there was no way I could catch before the finish line,” said Brittany Force.

The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year did move down one spot to ninth place and has 540 points. With the Countdown to the Championship looming in the not so distant future, Brittany is confident the team will get a firmer foothold in the points chase by the next race.

Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team won’t dwell on today’s first round defeat or their current point’s standings. There’s no time and it serves no purpose when chasing points, going rounds, and winning races. They will leave the majestic rolling green hills of the Northeast and head to the Midwest for 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois.