PEAK driver John Force turns in career-best ET,
will start No. 2 in Sunday’s race at Gateway
MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 30) – John Force’s career-best elapsed time in Friday’s second round of qualifying netted him the No. 2 qualifying position in Sunday’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Force, chasing a 17th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, recorded a pass of 3.832 seconds at 334.65 mph. That pass set a track record for a few moments, as Force’s teammate Robert Hight topped him shortly after by just two thousandths of a second.
Still, the driver of the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro flashed a smile with his new mark and solid qualifying performance. Following a first-round exit in last weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., Force and his team turned to testing a day later and appeared to knock out the gremlins in the car.
That carried over to the St. Louis-area track. Force posted two strong performances Friday, with a 3.885-second pass at 335.32 mph right down the middle of the track, for the fourth quickest time of the first session. He then backed it up in the evening session, earning two points as he sought to stay within reach of this year’s title.
While he was unable to improve Saturday, he earned another two bonus points in the third session, with the second-best pass of 3.919 seconds at 317.27 mph. He lost a cylinder in the final pass, running a time of 4.268 seconds at a slowing 211.69 mph.
To make matters better, Force’s team of crew chief Mike Neff and co-crew chief Jon Schaffer have been working closely with Hight’s team of crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham to establish the consistency it had early in the season.
“I’d been struggling with my car, but bottom line, I made some good runs so far this weekend,” Force said. “I have a good race car. We won’t know until tomorrow what it will do though. We had the track record in ET there for about 15 seconds until Robert went out. We’re working together, my guys Schaffer and Neff are working close with Cunningham and Prock; that’s our new direction, so I’m excited about that.”
Force’s first-round opponent, No. 15 Brian Stewart, turned in a top performance of 4.014 seconds at 285.11 mph.
Elimination rounds for Sunday’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. Central. Fox Sports 1 will televise three hours of live coverage, starting at 1 p.m. Central.
Qualifying Round 1 (Left Lane): 3.885 seconds/335.32 mph; strong run down the groove for quickest run (time and speed) of career at Gateway and overall, fourth fastest speed of career (No. 4 of session and No. 4 overall; no bonus points in session)
Qualifying Round 2 (Right Lane): 3.832 seconds/334.65 mph; another run straight down the middle to tie his career-best elapsed time and set the sixth fastest speed of his career (No. 2 of session and No. 2 overall; two bonus points in session and two bonus points overall)
Qualifying Round 3 (Left Lane): 3.919 seconds/317.27 mph; drifted close to the wall at the end but managed second best of the session in warm conditions (No. 2 of session and No. 2 overall; two bonus points in session and four bonus points overall)
Qualifying Round 4 (Right Lane): 4.268 seconds/211.69 mph; started strong but slowed about halfway (No. 8 of session and No. 2 overall; no bonus points in session and four bonus points overall)
This is the fourth time this season and 115th time in his career Force has qualified No. 2 for a race. He is looking for his 23rd victory and 43rd finals from No. 2.
This is the fourth time Force has qualified No. 2 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Force’s last victory from the No. 2 position came last season at Denver, when he defeated daughter Courtney Force in the finals.
Force’s first-round matchup against Brian Stewart marks only the second time the two will compete against each other. Force won the only other matchup, in the first round of the 2014 race at Gateway.