Courtney Force heads JFR’s 1-2-3 effort on 1st day of Four-Wide Nationals qualifying

Courtney Force heads JFR’s 1-2-3 effort on 1st day
of Four-Wide Nationals qualifying

Courtney Force (bottom) and Robert Hight Photo credit: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery

CONCORD, N.C. (April 28) – Courtney Force’s record pass of 3.851 seconds at 323.27 mph led a John Force Racing sweep of the top three Funny Car qualifying positions Friday, the first of two days of qualifying for Sunday’s Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Force, the No. 1 qualifier the past two events, established the time in the second qualifying session in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, as JFR set both ends of the track record Friday. The third and fourth rounds of qualifying take place Saturday, at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Eastern, respectively.

The sixth round of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, the Four-Wide Nationals, is scheduled to begin at noon ET Sunday.

“I’m excited to be 1-2-3 as a team after the first day,” said Force, the No. 1 qualifier at Las Vegas and Houston. “I want to stomp on the throttle every time a see a light change because there are so many. But it’s so much fun, this race. This track provides a lot of challenges, and makes everyone a better driver. A lot of people make mistakes, and you have to be on your ‘A’ game.”

Force was the No. 1 qualifier for the 4-Wide Nationals in 2015. With hotter temperatures and higher humidity levels expected Saturday, Force stands a strong chance at holding on to the top spot again. It would be her third straight and fourth consecutive for the team; team owner John Force – Courtney Force’s father – was No. 1 in the NHRA Gatornationals last month at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.

“I thought we should have had it after the first round, when comparing 60-foot times to my Dad’s,” said Force, whose primary sponsor – Advance Auto Parts – is located in Raleigh, N.C. “My car left the starting line and just immediately went left. It was a weird scenario, and I had to check the steering, check everything out to make sure everything was all good. So I was really careful on that second run to go straight down the center. I was most worried about Dad, that he would take it away from me.”

While Courtney Force set the track record on time, teammate Robert Hight was fastest. The current No. 2 qualifier, Hight took his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to a time of 3.873 seconds at 333.91 mph, the second fastest speed of his career. His time also came in the second round, in the lane next to Force.

“It’s awesome, but it’s better for Chevrolet,” said Hight. “When (Chevrolet Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports) Jim Campbell wakes up in the morning and sees that his Camaros are 1-2-3, he’s going to be pretty proud of us.”

Hight was the Four-Wide Nationals winner in 2012 and 2014, and the No. 1 qualifier in 2010 and 2012.

“Friday sets the whole tone for race day,” said Hight, whose second-round effort erased a disappointing first-round showing. “We’re going to be running into each other first and second round. It’s going to be later in the day and hopefully two of them on the final. I’m happy with the Auto Club car. We had some big problems I the first run with the ignition, and to rebound from that and run that good and get my second-fastest speed ever, hey, we’re looking good.

“Tomorrow’s going to be hot, so we need to go up there and get points both runs. That’s race day.”

John Force, in the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS, was third after two sessions. The quickest driver in the opening round earlier Friday, John Force completed a pass of 3.889 seconds at 323.43, improving on an earlier time of 3.904 seconds at 328.54 mph.

“These kids work really hard, the crew chiefs especially,” said John Force, the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals winner in 2010. “And the sponsors all invest in us: PEAK, Auto Club, Advance Auto Parts, Monster and Chevy. It’s good for them, and it builds morale with the team. You can have all the money in the world, you can have the best crew chiefs, but if you’ve got no morale, you’re dead. And that’s what we’re building. We’re trying to build John Force Racing. We had a lot of great years, and then we had some bad ones. We’re coming back.

“That felt good: 1-2-3. We’ll be in the heat tomorrow, and I’d like to stay that way – and move Brittany up in the field. That way, they’re not so quick to pick you off.”

Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster driver Brittany Force sits in the No. 7 position after the first day. The defending Top Fuel race winner, her best time of 3.745 seconds at 324.75 mph was also set in the second session.