CHEVROLET AT CHICAGO
Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by K&N
Friday, July 7-Sunday, July 9
Route 66 Raceway at Joliet, Illinois
FS1: Eliminations and finals live – 3 p.m. ET Sunday
FS1: Qualifications live – 5 p.m. ET Saturday
Chevrolet Drivers Aim for Quick Start to Second Half of the Season
Six-race push to the Countdown to the Championship Begins at Route 66 Raceway
DETROIT (July 5, 2017) – “Contender” has a nice ring to Brittany Force’s status through 12 races of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello season.
The fifth-year Top Fuel driver of the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster for John Force Racing is sixth in the standings. During the recent stretch of four events on four consecutive weekends that capped the first half, Force picked up the second-most points available in the class with her first victory of the season, two semifinal appearances, a 9-3 elimination round record, and a pair of No. 2 qualifier positions.
The Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by K&N this weekend is key to a successful six-race push to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship – the six-race stretch that determines series champions. Following the 20th annual event at Route 66 Raceway, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series embarks on a three-race western swing on consecutive weekends through early August.
Last year at Route 66 Raceway, Force set the track elapsed time record of 3.692 seconds on the way to earning the No. 1 qualifier honor. She was the event runner-up in 2014.
“It’s really about staying in the top 10 and figuring our race car out,” said Force, who will celebrate her 31st birthday Saturday. “Once the Countdown begins, it’s game on. You can’t screw up at any point. Everybody has to be on their game, the car has to go down the track. It’s crazy that the season has gone by so quickly.
“But we’ve turned things around in the last few races. I think we’ll be ready when it gets here.”
The John Force Racing Funny Car trio of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, Courtney Force and Robert Hight also is solidly in the top 10. Hight (Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS), who has qualified no lower than fourth in the past eight races and has advanced to at least the semifinals in four of the past six events, is fourth in the standings.
Courtney Force, who will drive the Chevrolet Camaro SS with a special Advance Auto Parts/Conquest Auto Parts livery for this event, is a two-time runner-up this season who holds a class-leading five No. 1 qualifier honors. She is 15 points out of fifth place.
“Our AAP team is looking forward to having six races left, and I think we’re in a pretty good position,” she said. “We’re still really excited; I’ve got a great team and we’re pumped up with where we are. We just need to go rounds.”
John Force, who won at Gainesville and is seventh in the standings, tested extensively last week in Indianapolis in an effort to further develop the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“First, I said, ‘We’re trying to get back. I got my money back, I got my band back,’” said Force, a three-time winner at Route 66 Raceway who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the world champion Chicago Cubs game Thursday at Wrigley Field. “The next story is, ‘We’re starting to turn the corner.’ “
Bo Butner, with his class-leading third victory of the season at Norwalk in the Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS, paces the Pro Stock field that includes nine Chevrolet drivers in the top 10 of the standings. Part-time racer Shane Gray (Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS) is only 14 points out of 10th place.
During the four-race eastern swing, Butner earned 76 percent of the available points with one victory, two runner-up finishes, one No. 1 qualifier spot and an 11-3 round record. KB Racing teammate and four-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) is 126 points arrears, while Tanner Gray (Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS) is in third place. The 18-year-old, who has two victories, a runner-up finish and four semifinal appearances, is the leading candidate for rookie of the year honors.
Pro Stock drivers will be utilizing a new tire compound mandated by NHRA for the first time in competition this weekend. Most teams have tested the rubber on-track.
FOX Sports 1 will telecast qualifications live at 5 p.m. ET Saturday along with eliminations and finals live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.
Jeff Strickland of Red Bay, Alabama, who won the Stock Eliminator class June 25 at Summit Racing Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, leads the Chevrolet COPO Camaro entries at Route 66 Raceway. Representing Illinois will be Bruno Massel of Elmhurst, Jeffrey Tietz of Spring Grove, and L. Scott Libersher of Wilmington.
Also among the 65 entries in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros are Robin Lawrence of Rockfield, Kentucky, Joey Wilkes of Zanesville, Ohio, Tim Lowe of Macy, Indiana, Al Corda of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, Richard Bierie of Acworth, Georgia, and Clarence Harding of Lowell, Indiana.
Strickland defeated Jim Boburka in an all-Chevrolet COPO Camaro final at Norwalk for his 16th overall NHRA national event trophy. The 2016 Stock Eliminator champion also won the Top Dragster class to double up on a race weekend for the second time in his career.
Greg Stanfield of Bossier City, Louisiana, and Daniel Condon of Avon, Minnesota, will compete in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros in Super Stock.
CHEVROLET RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVROLET RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “Chevrolet teams and drivers enter the second half of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with short- and long-term goals. Straight ahead is winning at Route 66 Raceway, while remaining in the top 10 of the standings in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship is also on their minds. For John Force Racing teammates Courtney Force and Robert Hight, earning a victory in the next five races to qualify for the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend also is important. Team Chevy drivers have amassed 14 victories and 19 No. 1 qualifier honors across Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock through the first 12 events. We’re confident of seeing continued success in the second half of the season.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET TOP FUEL DRAGSTER (winner at New Hampshire; set Route 66 Raceway elapsed time record in 2016 and earned No. 1 qualifier honor; runner-up at track in 2014; celebrates 31st birthday Saturday): “It was great to have a weekend off after going four in a row, and after a weekend off, we’ll be anxious and ready to get to Chicago. We had some success there last year – went No. 1, but we didn’t win the race, so that’s what we’re going for this year. We were able to get a victory at Epping, and hoping to win the race in Chicago. We’ll be ready. I’d love to win there. It’d be the best present – to be in winners’ circle and get that Wally.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS/CARQUEST AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 or 2 qualifier in eight or the 12 races; two-time runner-up and two-time semifinalist; earned first career finals appearance at Route 66 Raceway in 2012): “There is where I went to my first final round, and a track near where a lot of my crew guys and my crew chief (Daniel Hood) are from, so I guess you could say this is their home track. I know a lot of them are going to have a lot of family and friends out here. I’m looking forward to making it a great race for our team, and hope to put the turn things around from last race and get ourselves in that winners’ circle.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up at Norwalk; two-time runner-up at Route 66 Raceway; No. 1 or 2 qualifier in past four races; has advanced to at least semifinals in four of past six races): “We want to go and build on a runner-up finish that we had in Norwalk and put four good runs on Sunday together. We know we can do it. We’ve just got to get it done. We came up one round short last week. The way I look at it, there’s only one way to go from there, and that’s get that fourth run in. Never have gotten a win in Chicago. My team is focused. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and my guys have been helping John (Force’s) team. We’re going to have very similar cars, and I think that’s going to help us both this weekend, being able to work together and help each other. With any luck, both of us will be in the final.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT & MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Gainesville this season; three-time winner and eight-time finalist at Route 66 Raceway; six-time No 1 qualifier at track): “With my situation changing over the years, I had to go through a rebuilding stage like any football team. Basically, (crew chief Mike) Neff kept my ship afloat for two years and did a great job. He’s a very savvy racer. Our teams evolved, and it was time to evolve the combinations. Jimmy Prock (crew chief for JFR teammate Robert Hight) came with a lot of ideas and a lot of things we’re trying. The evolution of any ideas takes time and moves from team to team, and the process is continual. We evolve our combinations slowly. We’re evolving some of Jimmy’s stuff into our car, and it shows potential.”
BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO, BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (three-time winner and two-time runner-up this season; three-time No. 1 qualifier; sits atop point standings; runner-up at Route 66 Raceway in 2016): “Right now, we’re clicking. Everything is going our way, we just need to keep it rolling. I think we’re surprising people. It’s really getting good – you had eight cars (in Norwalk) that could have won the race. Every race is exciting, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen once we get to the Countdown.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Englishtown for second victory of season and 88th of career; second in standings; 2016 winner at Route 66 Raceway; track speed record-holder, set in 2015): “Route 66 Raceway is a great Pro Stock track. I don’t know what the secret was to cracking that racetrack for me – we never had a real good excuse, we love the facility and ran well there, but for some reason I just couldn’t close the deal until 2011. Now that we’ve been able to do it twice, it should be easier – at least you hope it is – because you don’t have that monkey on your back anymore. We’re racing well right now. We aren’t out-performing anyone in the class, and we’re all tied together now like school kids holding onto the rope on a field trip. It all comes down to how well the driver does his job and how well the crew chief can tune the car on Sunday. It’s been hot lately, and it’s been a crew chief’s race the last few race weekends. We’ll have that again this weekend, but I put (crew chief) Rob Downing at the head of the class as far as track management. That’s a big advantage for us.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Las Vegas to become youngest winner in NHRA history; also won at Topeka and runner-up at New Hampshire; third in point standings): “I am looking forward to racing at Route 66 Raceway this weekend. I am able to bring a fresh perspective when it comes to racing there. (crew chief) Dave (Connolly) and my dad (Shane Gray) have mentally prepared me to drive the race car the same no matter what track I am at, which has worked out well for us so far this season. We are now mid-season. I would say my Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro team has experienced early success and I would like to continue on with that success in pursuit of the championship.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (two-time runner-up and three-time semifinalist this season; three-time No. 1 qualifier; five-time Pro Stock winner at track): “On the Pro Stock level, we’ve kind of licked our wounds from the last couple of weeks so we want to rebound well and see if we can’t go some rounds on Sunday again. I’ve got all the faith in the world in (crew chiefs) Mark Ingersoll and Rick and Ricky Jones.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning Pro Stock champion; won season opener at Pomona; two-time semifinalist; four-time No. 1 qualifier; three-time winner at track): “We have some good momentum right now as a team, and all three of our KB Racing Chevy Camaros ran really well at Norwalk. I think we learned a few things, like always, and that certainly contributes to the momentum as we go into this race. Greg (Anderson) and I both have wins in Chicago, and Greg is the defending event champ. Both of our Summit Racing cars are more than capable of going there to win. The big challenge in Chicago is really always the weather – you just never know what you’re going to get, no matter what the weatherman says. It’s a great facility and a nice racetrack, but the weather is a big variable there, for sure.”
ERICA ENDERS, MELLING PERFORMANCE/ ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (two-time Pro Stock champion; won at New Hampshire this season; semifinalist at Bristol): “Chicago has a lot of meaning to me because we won our first Pro Stock race there in 2012 after seven long years of trying. It was such a huge deal, a culmination of so many things. It felt wonderful. It was a big relief and also immediately made you want to do it again. I’m always excited to head back to Chicago. We’re doing so much better this year, but we’re nowhere near satisfied yet. There’s a lot more on the horizon and our goal right now is to reach a strong level of consistency before the Countdown to the Championship starts. Having Melling Performance step up and take the doors for the rest of the summer is really big for our team. We’re going to do everything we can to put our red Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle at least few times.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up at Phoenix; two-time semifinalist; No. 3 qualifier at Norwalk: “We’re optimistic, starting the second half of the season, that we have uncovered some of the performance issues that we fought in the first 12 races. We have to go rounds to pick up points and solidify our position in the Countdown. There are only six races left until the playoffs. It all starts at Chicago.”
SHANE TUCKER, TUCKER RACING, AUZMET ARCHITECTURAL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (missed the past three races; running limited schedule): “We really hurt our engines in Epping and we’ve been working hard to get back to the track. Waiting on parts to complete the motors was a big waiting game but now we’re ready. Our Auzmet Architectural Chevrolet Camaro team is ready to really qualify well and go rounds on Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.”
CHRIS MCGAHA, HARLOW SAMMONS RACING, HARLOW SAMMONS OF ODESSA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Charlotte this season; semifinalist at Gainesville; running limited schedule)
ALEX LAUGHLIN, LAUGHLIN RACING, GAS MONKEY ENERGY/360 WRAPS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Bristol as the No. 8 qualifier; competing in fifth race of the season; earned first Pro Stock national victory at St. Louis in 2016)
VINCENT NOBILE, MOUNTAIN VIEW RACING, MOUNTAIN VIEW TIRE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up at Englishtown; semifinalist at Topeka)
KENNY DELCO, JCM RACING, JCM CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (competing in seventh race of season and 157th of Pro Stock career; reached quarterfinals at Epping)
VAL SMELAND, DVS RACING, DVS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (competing in seventh race of season)