CHARLOTTE, NC – The first day of the Countdown for the Championship started at zMax Dragway and both Brittany Force and John Force made the most of their two qualifying runs. The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster wound up in the No. 2 provisional spot while the 16-time Funny Car champion John Force will go into Saturday’s second day of qualifying as the No. 3 Funny Car. Teammates Robert Hight and Courtney Force held onto spots in the top half today at the Carolina NHRA Nationals.

John Force was impressive in both sessions today driving the Advance Auto Parts PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Camaro Funny Car. In the first session Force had the quickest Funny Car posting a 3.921 second elapsed time that was a track record. He also set the track speed record at 326.71 mph.

In the second session Force was in the last pair matched up with points leader Ron Capps. The conditions improved dramatically and Force’s team made the most of the chance to post a much quicker elapsed time. Force’s Camaro launched hard and powered down the track getting to the finish line in 3.881 seconds at a booming 331.04 mph. Force’s elapsed time was good enough to put the 145-time national event winner in the No. 3 spot and he reset his track speed record.

The two runs today earned Force four qualifying bonus points and gave the veteran driver a strong feeling of confidence going into Saturday.

“The Countdown is like Pac Man. You have to gobble up every point you can. At the end of the Countdown you count them up. Capps has a lead on everybody and Tommy Johnson go hot today. We are OK and this Advance Auto Peak Chevrolet is showing some improvement. We are only going to get better with Jon Schaffer, Jason McCulloch and Nick Casertano all working together,” said Force.

In his eight previous appearances at the Carolina NHRA Nationals Force has never started No. 1 and has opened up race day in the top half of the field four times. The importance of being in the top half of the Funny Car field is top of mind for Force.

“You have to stay out of the bottom of the pack. Anybody can beat you one race day. You don’t want to get cars that have been quick all year in the first round. You need to get that momentum on race day. Today we got this Chevy down the race track in the heat and ran 3.92. In the night session we stepped it up and ran 3.88. Tomorrow we’ll be running in the daytime so we don’t know who good it is going to be. We are going to try and get that No. 1 spot and get as many of these points as we can. That is what all my race cars are trying to do. The key is also to learn what you can run in the heat of the day,” added Force.

Right after Force stormed through the Funny Car field his daughter Brittany Force was getting on track in the Top Fuel class. In the first session Force’s Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster was a little off the pace running 3.82 seconds but the Brian Husen led team pulled together for the night time session and made an impressive run of 3.729 seconds at 324.67 mph. The run was the quickest of the day until the next to last pair of dragster ran and Mac Tools teammate Doug Kalitta ran .008 seconds quicker to grab the provisional No. 1 position.

“Having a race car that will go right down the track is exactly what we want. The first run was a little slow and we were pushing for a little more than that. We big time stepped it up in the second session. We jumped up to the No. 2 spot with that 3.72 second run. I have to thank this Monster Energy team for doing such a great job. We’ll get two more runs tomorrow and I am feeling good for this weekend,” said Brittany Force

Force picked up two qualifying bonus points for her Q2 effort and will be in a good position to earn more on Saturday.

Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car started the day with a strong run that was third quickest of the first session. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner picked up one qualifying bonus point and was able to run at the back of the pack in the second session. The Camaro rolled up and launched her but dramatically overpowered the track. Force’s first session time was quick enough at 3.939 seconds to keep her in the top half in the No. 8 spot.

The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and Robert Hight knew coming in that Friday was going to be a day to make a strong statement. In the first round of qualifying Hight’s Funny Car burned up a piston and the motor backfired before half-track. The redesigned Camaro body with its new side flaps to disperse the blast effects worked perfectly and Hight was able to bring the same carbon fiber body up for round two of qualifying.

The two-time Carolina Nationals winner ran to the provisional No. 2 spot briefly with a 3.91 second pass and managed to stay in the No. 6 spot by the end of the session. The second run gave the team some momentum going into Saturday where they can focus on a race day tune up.