TEAM JFR RACE REPORT
12th of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series
17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals
Route 66 Raceway
June 29, 2014
Photos courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography for media use only
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Final round results from Sunday’s 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, twelfth race in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
TOP FUEL – Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco dragster, 3.814, 317.34 mph, def. Brittany Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol EDGE dragster, 3.850, 320.89 mph.
FUNNY CAR – Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, 4.098, 310.48 mph def. Tommy Johnson Jr, Avon, Ind., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T, 4.147, 308.50 mph.
PRO STOCK – Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, NY, Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro, 6.655, 208.01 mph, def. Jason Line, Mooresville, N.C., Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, 6.637, 209.26 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Hector Arana III, Milltown, Ind., Lucas Oil Buell, 6.925, 193.93 mph def. Hector Arana, Milltown, Ind., Lucas Oil Buell, 6.946, 192.82 mph
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BRITTANY FORCE RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO
JOLIET, IL — Brittany Force drove her Castrol EDGE Dragster to its second final Top Fuel appearance of the season at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Illinois. Even though this 27 year-old is in her sophomore year strapped in the seat of a 10,000 horsepower Top Fuel car, she drove like a champion today and almost scored her first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
In the final round, Brittany went up against former NHRA Mello Yello World Champ Antron Brown. She had lane choice over Brown and she knew he would be tough competitor. Brittany stayed focused, went through her routine and did her job as a driver as she had a great reaction time. Unfortunately, so did Antron, as Brittany’s .063 light verses Antron’s .064 wasn’t enough to hold off his 3.814 second run to her 3.850.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what happened on that last run, everything went by so fast, we didn’t have time to warm up, I got ready in the pits, and we pulled up there and I thought; okay, I’ll have a moment to get in and take a deep breath, and there were funny cars going down the track, and we were the next pair, so I jumped in, suited up and didn¹t have time to think about anything, so before I knew it, the tree was coming down and we were heading down there. I knew I had to cut a good light, because Antron (Brown) always has good lights, so that was my number one thing I wanted to do make sure the crew guys know that I’m working hard and working on my tree, and I left on him, by a little bit, and I’m happy about that. I’m proud of every single one of these guys, because they’ve worked so hard this weekend, and even though we went out in the final, it’s still a great weekend. We had a consistent car it went down the track every single round and I’m so proud of these guys. I’m excited I’m pumped now for Norwalk,” said Brittany Force.
Brittany’s Castrol EDGE team, under the guidance of crew chief Todd Smith has produced a consistent, fast race car that is now a major threat. Combine the car’s performance to Brittany’s awesome driving skills and the Castrol EDGE Dragster is now a force to be reckoned with among the other Top Fuel teams but it takes an overall team effort, especially when you’re going rounds on race day and you’re crunched for time.
“We couldn’t have made it to the finals without a great effort by John Force Racing, and every member of the other three teams here helping our guys out and contributing to this thing. The turnaround is very quick and we’re not as quick as we need to be but we’re improving and getting better, and so the other teams helping us was monumental,” said Todd Smith. “There are some great teams out there. Both nitro classes are really tough. On race day, you just can’t slip up at all. We had a great day today, and the car has been good. We’ve needed an ounce of luck, and didn’t get it in the final, but the guys performed well today, and did good, and I couldn¹t be happier.”
Along the way to her second final round Top Fuel appearance, Brittany faced Terry McMillen in the opening round. At the first hint of green from the Christmas tree, Brittany and McMillen’s dragsters leapt off the starting simultaneously, as both drivers had nearly identical reaction times. The Castrol EDGE Dragster went right down the track and posted a winning 3.828 second pass to McMillen’s tire smoking 9.608 second time.
Going into the quarter-finals, Brittany Force ran reigning To Fuel champion Shawn Langdon. Brittany was 0-2 against Langdon in prior events. Once again, the reaction times between Brittany and her opponent were nearly identical, as Brittany had .074 to Langdon’s .075. Again, both dragsters left the starting together but then Langdon’s slicks went up in smoke. For Brittany, her Castrol EDGE Dragster went right down the groove and got the win with her 3.940 second run.
In the semi-finals, Brittany raced J.R. Todd. Brittany was 1 – 0 against Todd in prior events. Todd took a starting line advantage and led almost to the finish line, the Castrol EDGE Dragster drove around Todd at the finish line stripe and got the win by a mere 0.0018 seconds which is approximately 10 inches.
“Looking at the ladder and the guys I’m going to be going up against; Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown, (Terry) McMillen, these guys have been out here forever, and they know what they’re doing. I use that to make sure that I do my job in the car. I jumped on the tree and got the car down there. There wasn’t a single round that felt smooth to me. It felt all over the place and was crazy but I hung on to it and got it down there and I’m excited. We went rounds this weekend and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Brittany Force.
The 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year has moved up to the seventh place and has 638 points. With the Countdown to the Championship looming in the not so distant future, Brittany has some breathing room.
Traxxas, The Fastest Name in Radio Control, not only had a fast, but consistent race car to start and finish the weekend at Route 66 Raceway here in Chicago. Courtney Force was the only John Force Racing driver to make four consistent passes throughout qualifying. She qualified No. 5 overall with an average qualifying ET of 4.086 after four runs down the race track. She also posted top speed of the race weekend at 322.50 mph.
“We’re leaving Chicago on a positive note. Our Traxxas team did a great job. This car represents not only The Fastest Name in Radio Control, but it was the fastest out here this weekend. We had top speed of the meet at 322 mph so we’re looking forward to Norwalk,” said Force.
The 26-year-old driver went up against Bob Tasca II in round one on race day. She threw down a 4.138 ET at 312.93 to his 4.21 for the win, but gave up lane choice to the one and only 16-time NHRA World Champion and her father John Force in the second round.
“It was an interesting day all around, having to race Tasca in the first round. I think we both got screwed up on the lights. He put the top bulb out on me and messed with me a little bit and it happened to work. Luckily we were able to take the win even after the starting line mishap.
“We went on to the second round and had to face my dad, who has had a pretty good race car. We were able to take him down, only to be taken out by TJ in the semi-finals,” said Force.
Courtney had a small advantage off the line, but took the win when John Force’s Castrol GTX Ford lost traction. She posted a 4.151 to his 5.543 ET. She was interviewed at the top end about racing her dad and adding another round win to her name.
“You know what it feels great to have this Traxxas Ford Mustang team get down there. Traxxas is The Fastest Name in Radio Control and we were able to outrun the 16-time Champ. So it definitely feels good. They out- qualified us by one spot, but we got the car down there and got the win light. That’s’ all that matters,” said Force
In the semi-finals, Courtney faced Tommy Johnson Jr. She has only faced him once before, when she got the win over him at Topeka this year. This time was different story. Courtney’s Traxxas Ford Mustang hazed the tires and sent the team home.
“We had a consistent race car all weekend right up until the semi-final round. We smoked the tires, but obviously we were going after a good run and trying to get around Tommy Johnson Jr. It wasn’t enough. I pedaled it trying to get it down there, but he was already swinging through the finish line and had turned on the win light.
“Our day was cut short, but we kept our spot in the points. We didn’t slide back, which is always a positive thing when you’re leaving a race. We’re looking forward. No one went around us in points and we’re creating more of a gap between our team and the No. 11 spot in the points which is what we’re really focused on doing. Next weekend we’ll get back out there and hopefully have another consistent race car and I’ll try to do my job.
“I’m just very proud of this team. They worked hard. They did a great job all weekend and gave me a great race car. I really couldn’t ask for anything more as a driver so I can’t wait for next weekend at Norwalk,” said Force.
John Force broke a streak of defeats when he outran Alexis DeJoria in the opening round of this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Ironically, his first round competitor today was the same opponent that put John on the trailer last week. These two fiercely competitive drivers have faced each other fourteen times in the past. This time, it was the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion to exact a little revenge as both he and DeJoria were fighting for second place in the NHRA Mello Yello point’s chase at the time.
As the Christmas tree barely blinked green, both drivers left the starting line, with John Force getting a slight advantage with a better reaction time. Side-by-side, the two Funny Cars thundered down the track and at the top end, it was John Force getting the win light with a 4.079 second run to DeJoria’s 4.089. It was one of the closest races in round one and it moved John into the quarter-finals.
“Me and Alexis had a good old drag race. She’s a tough competitor and that kid gave me a run for the money. We’re finding consistency in our hot rod, so we just want to keep going rounds,” said John Force.
Heading into the second round, John would face his daughter and fellow teammate Courtney Force in her Traxxas Mustang. John wasn’t going to cut her any slack, as both these driver are in the hunt for points and to make the Countdown to the Championship.
Both cars left the starting line very close to one another, but soon things would go wrong for the reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Champion. At the sixty foot mark, both Mustangs were dead even and it could have been anyone’s race. Then, at 300 feet down the track, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang started smoking its slicks and got out of shape. John did his best in trying to control his 8000 horsepower race car by pedaling it but it was to no good as Courtney sped away with a 4.151 second run to John’s losing 5.543 pass.
“The only thing Courtney and I talked about, instead of trying to go deep, and trying to kill her, was go shallow and go with lane choice. It makes her light terrible, but if you’re going to go deep, Courtney, just be honest, because I’ll go deep with you. But if we want to go with lane choice, and try to get the rounds, well, then let’s go shallow, and that way, it ain’t somebody, you know what I mean,” said John Force.
Even though John Force lost in the second round, he’s still optimistic and is already looking forward to getting strapped back in his Castrol GTX Mustang and doing battle again. He knows the starting line strategy is key in going rounds and winning races.
“I’m good and we’ve gone some rounds, you know, Robert, he always goes shallow. He don’t care. I always look good racing Robert, but it’s kind of bogus, it ain’t real. I gotta go deep, to even be in the game. Or I get laughed at, I even said to (Matt) Hagen: ‘You and (Jack) Beckman got after each other out there the last round, light goes, I said now you’re talking you guys want to play that game, I’m ready’”, said John Force.
Mello Yello points leader Robert Hight started race day as the No. 3 qualifier and was facing Jeff Arend in the first round. When his Auto Club Funny Car left the starting line it was pulling hard and it pulled the tires loose on the veteran driver. Fortunately Hight expertly pedaled his Mustang Funny Car and was able to chase down Arend to get another first round win, 4.531 to 4.734 seconds.
“That first round was a handful. The hardest thing about pedaling one of these Funny Cars is being patient. You have to wait for the car to settle down and then ease back into it. I caught it pretty quick and then was able to get around Arend. It was so close at the finish line I wasn’t sure I got the win light,” said Hight a two time finalist at Route 66 Raceway.
In the second round Hight was giving up lane choice to veteran Ron Capps. Once again the Auto Club Ford Mustang was in the first pair of Funny Cars to take to the track. Running early is a strategic decision by crew chief Mike Neff who wants to give his crew the maximum amount of time between rounds and also not let too much heat get into the track. His confidence in his tune-up and his crew is evident in the team’s 27 round wins this season.
Unfortunately for Hight his Auto Club Mustang once again left strong but hazed the slicks just past half-track as Capps pulled away with a 4.179 second run.
“We have the points lead but we are not taking anyone lightly and losing in the second round hurts. We went to six finals in a row earlier this year and we want to get back to that kind of dominance. I am proud of my guys because we got some good info during the night sessions and we are figuring some things out for hot tracks. No one is hanging their heads around here,” said Hight.