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J. FORCE STAYS NO. 1 AT ST LOUIS AAA INSURANCE NATIONALS
ST LOUIS – The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion is in championship mode, as he will go into tomorrow’s final eliminations from the No.1 spot during the third stop of the 2014 NHRA Countdown to the Championship. The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will mark the 6th time this season John Force will be racing from the pole position and the 152nd time he’s been the number one qualifier during his iconic racing career. It was during yesterday’s second qualifying session that the 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang laid down an awesome 4.022 second run and blistered the top end with a speed of 319.52 mph. No other competitor was able to surpass Force’s great run during all four qualifying sessions.
“Qualifying No. 1 152 times in my career means we can still do it. Jimmy Prock (crew chief, Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) is doing a great job for us, but with the understanding all the crew chiefs work together and help each other and that’s the key to it, it’s very important that we continue to help each other,” said John Force.
John Force will be racing Brian Stewart in the opening round of elimination. Stewart is the 136th unique opponent Force has faced in his 30-plus years of racing nitro Funny Cars. These two drivers have never raced each other in the past and despite Stewart’s No. 16 qualifying spot, Force isn’t taking any chances, and knows Stewart can easily put him on the trailer. Force will not cut him any slack when he lines up next to him in round one.
“I’m going to watch him it’s no different than if I was racing Matt Hagan. I was an unknown at one time and every now and then I’d whip somebody like Kenny Bernstein or the Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, maybe I was just lucky but luck’s what it’s all about,” said John Force.
On Force’s first qualifying run today, his Castrol GTX Mustang blasted off the line with a stout 4.080 second pass at 311.85 mph. It was the quickest of the session and the reigning NHRA Funny Car champ was able to pad his lead in the Countdown with three additional bonus points.
“I choked last week, gave away 20 points but I got back 15 or 16 today just in qualifying and I owe that back to my team. We’re really focused and that thing got there and it shivered and I had my hand on the brake handle in case it was going to do anything, but it made it. The cool air came in because the race pushed into the evening so it made it good,” said John Force.
In the final qualifying session, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang once again catapulted off the starting line, and blasted straight down the groove of Gateway Motorsports Park with the header flames shooting eight feet up in the air. When the scoreboards lit up on the other end, John’s stallion had made another stout run of 4.039 seconds at 313.95 mph.
John Force will be ready for tomorrow’s final eliminations and if his qualifying performance is indicative of his focus and energy, he’ll be a formidable opponent to anyone who lines up in the lane next to him. Force knows a win at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will be career victory 142 and another step in his quest to get his unprecedented 17th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Championship.
“You can look in history at people that made mistakes and dropped or fumble the football and you don’t want to live with that. It’s not like my career is starting, I still have some time and I want to be good, when I’m not good, I’ll quit,” said John Force.
Robert Hight and the AAA Insurance Ford Mustang Funny Car evaluated all their data last night after a sub-par run in the Friday night session. In the first session on Saturday the conditions were considerably warmer and the Mike Neff tuned Funny Car charged off the starting line and hazed the tires just past half track. It slowed to a pedestrian 5.133 second run but the team now know where the “edge” is on the Gateway Motorsports Park race surface.
In the final qualifying session Hight’s AAA Insurance rolled up to the starting line with outstanding atmospheric conditions and a great chance to jump up to the top half of the field. Hight blasted down the track with a solid 4.040 second run at 316.15 mph and moved the 2010 AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals winner up to the No. 3 qualified spot. Hight will race Chad Head in the first round. This duo matched up in the first round of the Carolina Nationals with Hight getting the win to run his career record against head to 4-1.
“We needed that last run. I feel good about where the tune up is on this AAA Insurance Ford Mustang Funny Car. Chad Head will be tough in the first round. We need to make up some ground on John (Force) but I like our chances. I love racing here and I especially want to put on a good show for the Auto Club people that are at the race,” said Hight.
For the third year in-a-row Courtney Force has found herself in the No. 4 spot going into race day at Gateway Motorsports Park. The 26-year-old driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car prepared for eliminations by making three solid qualifying passes throughout Friday and Saturday.
“We were going after it on that last pass. We pushed it hard because we had nothing to lose. It went down there and spun the tires and dropped a couple holes on one side immediately when it started spinning and threw me over close to the wall, took the care sideways, but we saved it. Not a scratch on the paint and this Traxxas Mustang is going to be ready to race tomorrow,” said Force.
Also sitting in the fourth position in the 2014 Countdown to the Championship standings, Force made qualifying worthwhile as she picked up bonus points in the first, second and fourth sessions for a total of three additional points. She will take on Bob Tasca III in the opening round on Sunday. This is the thirteenth time the pair has met in eliminations. Force is currently 10-2 to the fellow Ford driver in previous events. They have raced each other three times this season, the last time being Indy.
“We’re qualified in the No. 4 spot and have Tasca in the first round tomorrow. I’m really proud of my team, they’ve given me a good race car so far throughout qualifying and I’m hoping to continue it tomorrow. We hope to bring our luck from Dallas and pick up more points in elimination rounds. We’re looking forward to race day tomorrow,” said Force.
Brittany Force wrapped up final qualifying at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in the 11th spot with that great 3.809 second run at 323.81 mph during yesterday’s second qualifying session. The sophomore Top Fuel driver has rebounded nicely these last two days at Gateway Motorsports Park and is solidly in the field after an uncharacteristic DNQ at last weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year will face former NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown in the opening round tomorrow. These two tough competitors are no strangers, and have raced each other twice before and ironically, both times were in the final rounds of the Phoenix and Chicago races earlier this year.
“I’m definitely excited for first round tomorrow and to be back in the game. It was really unfortunate what happened to us last weekend in Dallas, and it was really unexpected, especially looking back at how our year had been going. We’re in the chase for the Countdown and that was the last thing we’d thought would happen. For tomorrow, we’re going to race one round at a time, regardless of who’s in the next lane,” said Brittany Force.
In the third session, Brittany’s dragster experienced a loss in traction and almost immediately smoked the massive Goodyear slicks. She wisely shut down her machine as to not damage her engine. The result of the run was a 4.725 second pass at 156.03 mph. She remained in the 10th spot after that qualifying run.
Quickly, the Castrol EDGE team regrouped back in the pits, led by Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli. They guided the crew in making the right adjustments to the clutch and fuel management systems on the 10,000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine.
During the fourth and final session, Brittany’s crew had made the right call, as the Castrol EDGE Dragster went straight down the groove at Gateway Motorsports Park and laid down a consistent 3.813 second pass at 323.81 mph. That’s exactly what the team wanted to get the dragster consistent and dialed-in for race day conditions.
“We turned our attitudes around from last weekend, everyone is smiling, having a good time and cheering everyone within the Castrol EDGE team. The car performed better, made some good runs, and we get to play tomorrow and that’s what’s most important,” said Brittany Force.