HIGHT HOLDS TOP SPOT AT EPPING
EPPING, NH – For the 46th time in his career Robert Hight was the No. 1 qualifier in the Funny Car class. He is fourth all-time in Funny Car behind only John Force (148), Cruz Pedregon (56) and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme (50). Hight blasted to the top of the class last night with a 3.988 second run but today’s final qualifying run of 4.066 seconds at 316.23 mph might have been more impressive to his competition. This is the second year in a row a JFR Funny Car driver has been the No. 1 qualifier at the Auto Plus New England NHRA Nationals. Last year John Force raced to the final round from the No. 1 spot before falling to daughter Courtney Force.
“I am pretty impressed with the 4.06 just now on a 116 degree racetrack. It was that quick and that smooth. It was fast too because 316 mph was top speed of the round. That was a perfect run. Later in the day tomorrow you never know we might need a 4.06 second run to win this thing,” said Hight, who secured his second No. 1 with crew chief Mike Neff.
“You have to make a good run on Saturday so that you are set up for Sunday. After that first run this morning it made it so far down track before it smoked the tires that (crew chief) Mike Neff knew what he needed to do to make it go. I am pretty pleased that it is responding to what he is doing. We are here with Northern New England AAA this weekend and we want to get them into the winner’s circle.”
Hight has won seven times in his career from the No. 1 spot. This is also the 20th different venue Hight and the Auto Club Mustang have been No. 1. For the first time John Force Racing has had all their professional drivers earn a No. 1 in the same season. So far this season John Force has Three No. 1s and Brittany and Courtney Force have two No. 1s each. This is the third time in four events that JFR has had at least one driver as the No. 1 qualifier.
In the final session Hight was in the last pair and under race-like conditions his Auto Club Mustang Funny Car made the run of the session. It was built on his first run of the day.
“That last round with the 4.06 was pretty stout. We were kind of on our way there on the first run today and right when it locked the clutch up it smoked the tires. Mike Neff made a couple tweaks and he told me we were real close to making it go. The closest Funny Car to us was a 4.10 so in this day and age if you have four hundredths on the field that is pretty good. Tomorrow is a new day,” said Hight. “What is encouraging to me is we are playing around with a few things. Mike Neff is already looking down the road to the Countdown. Luckily we have the great conditions here that we might see in the Countdown. Last year when John Force won the championship he out performed everybody in the Countdown under great conditions. These conditions let us play around and start testing for the end of the year.”
“We have a pretty good points lead now and it is encouraging to me that we are going up and down the track every run. I am excited. Mike Neff is the best. He will race it one round at a time. He is not going to go up there first round and try and set low ET of the round. We are going to look at each opponent and race smart. That is how we have won a lot of rounds this year.”
Courtney Force and the Traxxas Ford Mustang team are ready to defend their title. For the second year in a row, the team has qualified in the No. 3 spot at the top of the field and has lane choice in the opening round. Force’s best run of the weekend was made during Friday’s evening session. She posted a 4.031 ET at 323.35 mph to send her up to that No. 3 spot with a track speed record and also into the lane next to competitor Dave Richards tomorrow. Force has never raced Richards in eliminations.
“We qualified in the No. 3 spot, which is exactly where we qualified last year. We’ll be facing Dave Richards in the first round. It’s great coming into Sunday in the top half of the field. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow against Richards. There are no easy rounds. We have lane choice and a good race car so I’d say we have a lot to work with,” said Force.
Force made three good passes in qualifying leading up to race day. Last year, the team only made one good run throughout all of qualifying, but went on to win the race over Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman and finally John Force.
“I’m excited because I feel like this Traxxas team has got a pretty consistent race car. We’ve laid down some solid numbers in both the heat and in the cool air, which exactly what you need. You need consistency to win on race day and that’s what we’re going for. I’m going to come out here tomorrow and try to defend my title. Hopefully we’re starting early Sunday morning and going to have a long day,” said Force.
John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang made three strong consecutive runs during qualifying at the New England Nationals and ended up in the ninth spot with a run of 4.092 seconds at 311.70 mph.
The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Champion has been struggling during the last few races as crew chief Jimmy Prock and the team has been chasing clutch gremlins that can come out of nowhere and trip up the winningest team in NHRA history at any given time.
“We pulled our hot rod back to find consistency. We know in a good session, our Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang can run high threes just like Robert’s (Hight) 3.98 last night. We ran threes back in Pomona at the Winternationals. Right now, we’re trying to find consistency,” said Force.
John Force will face rival Matt Hagan in the opening round with lane choice gong to his opponent. These two archrivals haves face each other 19 times in the past with John taking the win light in nine match ups. But with his Castrol GTX crew taming his 8,000 horsepower Mustang, John’s ready to go some rounds tomorrow.
“What we’re trying to find is the consistency that we somehow lost for being too fast. We did make some pretty good runs and we’re right in the middle of the pack. We’re ready to go some rounds tomorrow and put this old hot rod in the winner’s circle,” said John Force.
The reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champ is calm, cool and collective going into Sunday’s eliminations. He came up just short in the finals last year at this race in which he faced daughter Courtney. Their Mustang Funny Cars were side-by-side charging down New England Dragway with neither driver lifting for a moment. Courtney got the win and it was payback for her father taking her out in round one at Bristol the weekend before the 2013 New England Nationals.
It’s John’s competitive nature but he’s also very proud about what his fellow teammates have accomplished, especially during qualifying at this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals.
“All our cars are running good Brittany’s Castrol EDGE dragster, Courtney’s Traxxas Mustang and especially Robert’s Auto Club Mustang for qualifying number one. All of them are right up there running strong with those big speed numbers. Tomorrow’s a new day so let’s see what happens,” said John Force.
Even though John Force still remains in second place in the point’s standings, he’d like to add some distance between him and his nearest rival. He’s working on his 140th career win and potentially a 17th NHRA Mello Yello World Championship.
The Castrol EDGE Dragster driven by Brittany Force set a track record today during qualifying. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of Year was strapped into her 10,000 horsepower race car and when the Christmas Tree flashed green, it launched off the starting line like a guided missi
le. When the dust settled, the scoreboards on the top-end of New England Dragway lit up with a 325.92 mph.
“I’m definitely excited as the car is running awesome. We made four great runs and the fact we set a new track record running over 325 mph say’s a lot about how hard my guys have been working on the Castrol EDGE Dragster. We even qualified number four so that’ll give us lane choice for the first round and I’m very happy about that,” said Brittany Force.
That record setting run earlier today also produced a time of 3.776 seconds and placed Brittany in the fourth qualified spot. This is what Brittany wanted – make four good solid runs, qualify in the top-half of the field and come out swinging on race day. Her first round opponent tomorrow will be Clay Millican whom she has raced twice in competition before and has a 1-1 record.
“Despite being down on power this weekend and feeling sick, I’m looking forward to running Clay in the first round. I’m going to bring it on tomorrow and go some rounds as I have a great team behind me and we have a great car that’s very fast and consistent,” said Brittany Force.
Brittany also picked up some additional Mello Yello bonus points for her excellent qualifying performance in three of the four sessions this weekend. From that standpoint, she surpassed her previous best which was the NHRA Mile High Nationals and NHRA U.S Nationals last year when she received bonus points for two sessions at each event.
This weekend, Brittany got the precious points in the second, third and fourth qualifying sessions for a total of three extra bonus points. These will come in handy in maintaining her hunt to stay in the top-ten in points going into the Countdown to the Championship which gets into gear immediately following the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
“Anytime we get points, we’ll take them. We’re currently number eight in the standings and we’ve been there for a while. We want move up this weekend and so we’re looking good come Indy. Then we’ll really battle it out, said Brittany Force.
In the second session, changing weather and track conditions would negate any improvement over the team’s earlier run but crew chief Todd Smith, co-crew Chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli and the rest of the guys had Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster tuned up as it marched down the track with a 3.829 second run at 322.11 mph.
“It’s a continual work in progress as we finally honed in on clutch and power applications and now it’s just working on consistency. We are real happy the way the car has responded and is performing and we’re given it what it wants and it’s accepting it. We’ll make some adjustments to the car tomorrow after we determine which lane is better before round one,” said Todd Smith.
However, going into race day, conditions always change whether it’s the track, atmosphere, or both. This is when the collaboration between Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli really starts to come together in making sure Brittany has a fast, safe and consistent and race car that’ll have the potential to go all the way to the finals.
“Both sessions from today will equate to one of the sessions tomorrow. Probably the second or third round on Sunday but overall, our tune up won’t change that much,” said Dean Antonelli.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team will be geared-up come race day. She is focused on going rounds, making it to the finals and maybe even scoring her first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.