FORCE REVVED UP FOR ANOTHER COUNTDOWN RUN
With 16 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championships under his belt, one would think John Force is going to back down it down a bit and not be at wide open throttle all the time. Especially since John secured his spot in the ever critical Countdown to the Championship during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals back in July. The winningest driver in NHRA history has won just about everything during his illustrious racing career while rewriting the record books by shattering track ET and speed records.
So why is John Force chomping at the bit to get strapped in his 8000 horsepower Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang Funny Car during this weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals? It’s simple, as long as he has air in his lungs, this 65 year-old racer will be blasting down drag strips at over 300 mph and competing with one goal in mind – to win races and championships.
“My job, if I am going to stay in this business, is to win. I’ve had over 35 years of training myself for moments like this weekend will present. You can only turn that switch on and off through time and experience. You cannot let anything get into your head. It’s all about mental preparation, and I have more seat time than anyone,” said John Force.
However, for John Force, it’s not just his driving capabilities or the performance of his race car that needs his attention. He also has three other drivers in his racing stable who are also competing in the Countdown to the Championship that require his time and consideration. The patriarch of this racing dynasty will make sure daughter’s Brittany and Courtney Force along with son-in-law Robert Hight perform well during this weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals as it kicks off the NHRA “playoff” season. John Force knows how important it is not only to their sponsors, but also to the loyal fans.
“If you look at my Traxxas Ford with Courtney and Robert Hight in the Auto Club Mustang, and me with Castrol, we work as a team. I think we’ve been in the last seven or eight final rounds. We won a bunch of them. Brittany’s Castrol EDGE dragster also started to come around earlier this year so we’re all on our game and competing in the Countdown,” said John Force.
As the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season starts to turn the corner and head down the home stretch, it hasn’t been that that easy of ride for the reigning NHRA Funny Car champ. Like other competitors, the Castrol High Mileage team was bitten by mechanical gremlins through part of the season that had John Force going out early in competition.
“I got hot at the beginning of the year then I struggled. We got hot again. And something happened at testing. We tried some stuff, got off our game and then we got back on our game with the Traxxas Nitro Shootout and got the win there. I need a championship as much as the other drivers out there want and my focus is going to be dead on,” said John Force.
With a runner-up finish less than two weeks ago at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, his 9th final round appearance this season that includes three wins (NHRA Winternationals, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, NHRA Northwest Nationals), John Force regained the lead with 2110 points over teammate Robert Hight.
We’d like to say it will be John Force’s laser like focus that will get him his 17th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship but it will be his un-parallel determination, drive and attitude that get him there and it will be those attributes that will ultimately rewrite the NHRA history books.
CHARLOTTE SUCCESS HAS HIGHT CONFIDENT TO START COUNTDOWN
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 10, 2014) — As the winningest Funny Car driver in zMax Dragway history Robert Hight knows how to get to the winners circle whether he is racing three competitors or racing for a championship. He has won Four-Wide and side by side in the heart of NASCAR country. This year Hight will start the quest for his second Mello Yello NHRA Funny Car championship from a relatively unfamiliar spot. For thirteen races in a row this season Hight was the No. 1 Funny Car driver but a surging John Force will start the play-offs as the No. 1 driver with Hight 30 points behind the 16-time champion.
“We had a great regular season. I led the points for thirteen races in a row which is a record for me. The key is to be leading the points after the last race of the season. It is a whole new ballgame now. The first 18 races are in the past and now there are 24 rounds of racing left and if you want a championship you better be on top of your game,” said Hight, a five-time winner in 2014.
Hight used a win at the Pep Boy NHRA Carolina Nationals in 2009 to jump start his first NHRA championship run. Last season Hight took the win to start the Countdown but was unable to keep the momentum going as once again John Force took the title with a win in Las Vegas a month later.
“I love racing at Charlotte. You see a lot of NASCAR fans and the enthusiasm for NHRA is really cool. You can tell there is a higher level of intensity starting Charlotte. There are so many tough Funny Cars and I have some of the toughest competition coming from my own teammates. John has been hot lately and Courtney’s Traxxas Mustang is starting to come on. In the Countdown anything can happen and you just have to be ready starting with the first qualifying session,” said Hight.
This season Hight has picked up five wins and had a run of six straight final rounds earlier this season. Hight started a three in a row streak with a win at the Four-Wide Nationals and also picked up a win at the top of the mountain in Denver. Since that Denver win Hight has only picked up one round win over the past four races. The 34-time Funny Car winner is not worried about his recent performance mainly because of the confidence expressed by his championship caliber crew chief Mike Neff.
“We didn’t go into test mode the last month and we aren’t lost. This is a tough, tough category and if you slip up just a little you aren’t going to get any freebies. (Crew chief Mike) Neff and I have been talking and we have a great game plan for the Countdown. I have so much confidence in Neff and my Auto Club crew guys I can’t wait to get to the track on Friday. I want to get that second championship and it would be cool for Neff to win another Funny Car championship as a crew chief with a third different driver,” said Hight.
Neff has led Gary Scelzi to a Funny Car championship in 2005 and was crew chief with Hall of Famers Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly in 2010 when John Force won his 15th championship. No crew chief has won Funny Car championships with three different drivers. Only one driver, Cruz Pedregon, has more Funny Car wins in the Countdown races than Hight. Pedregon has eight wins versus Hight’s six wins.
“Winning in the Countdown is what it is all about. You have to go rounds and there are only 24 rounds left in the 2014 season. I need to get these four round wins in Charlotte and then head to Dallas,” said Hight.
BRITTANY FORCE READY FOR CHARLOTTE COUNTDOWN
Despite not having a great outing less than two weeks ago at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy, sophomore Top Fuel driver Brittany Force is ready to go rounds and even win her first nitro race during this weekend’s 7th annual Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. With the stunning zMAX Dragway being the stage for this epic battle, the rolling hills of Concord, North Carolina will thunder when the ground pounding nitro machines roll to the starting line jockeying for positions in the all-important Countdown to the Championship.
For Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team, they’ve steadily and consistently improved this season despite some minor setbacks. The 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year is primed and ready to compete in her first Countdown bid with her 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster and bring home a first time Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
“It was a tough first round loss for us at U.S. Nationals but we’ve learned to put it behind us and move on. We’ve had a week off to recover from Indy and I’m ready to jump back into the seat of my Castrol EDGE Dragster. I’ve been looking forward to coming back to zMAX Dragway for some time now as this is one of the best tracks we race at all season,” said Brittany Force.
The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season has seen a metamorphous for the Castrol EDGE team. With crew and personnel changes, Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster has been in the finals three times and has raced from the top half field on Sunday 12 times, three of those from the No.1 spot. Led by seasoned tuners Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli, Brittany knows she has the best crew in the pits. She also knows she’s a capable driver and can give any opponent a run for the money.
“I’m definitely pumped and excited to be racing in the Countdown for the first time. Last year we missed it but we’re a different team now. My guys have been working hard and we’re ready to go rounds and be in the hunt,” said Brittany Force.
For the 28 year-old Brittany Force, securing a spot in the Countdown to the Champion was a milestone for her. She also knows all eyes will be upon her as she fires up her Castrol EDGE dragster and pulls into the water box at zMAX Dragway this weekend. One could argue the added pressure would affect most drivers’ ability to stay focused but luckily for Brittany, she has her legendary father who also happens to be the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion to offer her some valuable advice and guidance while putting it all into perspective.
There’s also that confidence booster that Brittany earned her way into this year’s Countdown contention and being shut out from last year’s NHRA “playoffs” is just a distance memory. Now, she is more focused than ever in being the best driver she can be and is more determined than ever in winning.
At last year’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, Brittany lost a close race to Spencer Massey in the opening round. Her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster had run a 3.834 second pass to Massey’s 3.822 but she came up just a few hundredths of a second short. However, being in the Countdown to the Championship this year, Brittany knows it’s important to go rounds and make a move up in the standings as she’s currently 9th place with 2010 points going into this weekend’s race.
COURTNEY FORCE READY FOR CHAMPIONSHIP RUN IN THIRD PRO SEASON
Courtney Force, the winningest female in Funny Car, and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team will return to zMAX Dragway this week to kick off the 2014 NHRA Countdown to the Championship. Tension is high for the 26-year-old driver as she enters the third Countdown of her career, this time clinched in the No. 6 spot.
“I’m so excited for my Traxxas team and all my sponsors to have our car locked in to the Countdown to the Championship! I’m proud of my team because it reflects all of their hard work to this point. We will officially be competing in the Countdown to the Championship for the third year in a row now. I’m so fortunate to have such great guys on my team and excited to see what we can bring to the table throughout this countdown,” said Force.
In 2012, the same year Force earned the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award for the NHRA’s Rookie of the year, she positioned herself in the No. 6 spot going into the first race of the Countdown to the Championship and finished her first season in the No. 5 spot. In 2013, she started from the No. 7 position and after some movement throughout the Countdown, rounded out the year with a seventh place finish. This year, Force has set her goals higher.
“Our Traxxas team has our eyes set on the Championship this season. I’ve learned a lot through my last two seasons in the Funny Car category and hope to use what I’ve learned to an advantage,” said Force. “I think we could have a good shot at the Championship this year and with enough consistency and positive attitude we could have a good shot.”
This will be the sixth time the youngest daughter of John Force has competed at the track recognized as the “Bellagio of Dragstrips,” the third for this particular race. At both Carolina Nationals events, Force has qualified in the top half of the field and had lane choice in the first round on race day. Last year, she went to the semi-finals before losing to her brother-in-law and teammate Robert Hight.
“Our team has done well in Charlotte in the past while only being taken out during eliminations by my teammates. So knowing that we have had a good car on Bruton Smith’s race track helps give us the confidence to push forward and hopefully continue to improve at this track this year. Our goal is to start off this Countdown on a good note,” said Force.