CHEVROLET AT CHARLOTTE
Ninth NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
Friday, April 27-Sunday, April 29
zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina
FS1: Qualifications live – 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday
FS1: Eliminations and finals taped – 6 p.m. ET Sunday
Chevrolet Seeks to Add to Early-Season Success at zMAX Dragway
Event on NHRA calendar is the second of year to feature the four-wide format
DETROIT (April 25, 2018) – The scene last Sunday was reminiscent of Nov. 11, 2017, when Brittany Force’s elation upon clinching the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship poured out in the shoulder of her legendary father.
At Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston, John Force was on hand again to greet his victorious daughter as their emotions congealed in a long embrace. This time, though, the victory in the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster was significant for entirely different reasons.
A scary on-track incident nine weeks earlier in the season opener could have derailed Force’s drive to a second consecutive title. Force escaped serious injury and didn’t miss any races, and her resolve and the support of her crew was on full display from the first round of qualifying to the winner’s stage in the NHRA SpringNationals.
“That emotion was built off of the championship. It was built off of Pomona this season,” she said. “Leaving Pomona last season we were on a huge high. We won the championship and that is something every driver dreams about. We were able to do that and then, coming out to the opening race of the season, at the same track in Pomona, it was the ultimate low.
“It was really tough in Phoenix getting back in that car. My guys knew it and for me I didn’t care about winning the race. All I cared about was getting back in the car and making runs. The (Houston win) win is big for us. It puts Pomona behind us and it pushes us towards another championship.”
The healing powers of the Texas victory — the eighth of her Top Fuel career – will certainly play a role this weekend in the NGL Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina. Force won the event in 2016.
John Force Racing teammates Courtney Force (Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS) and Robert Hight (Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS) also enter the second four-wide event of the season with confidence and momentum.
Force, who has qualified first or second in the past three Funny Car races, set the track Funny Car elapsed time record last April on the way to the low qualifier honor. Hight was the No. 1 qualifier and runner-up in the NHRA SpringNationals, and he reset the track Funny Car speed record last April. He is a two-time winner of the four-wide event.
“We have qualified in the top four at every race this season. That is a testament to what this Advance Auto Parts team is capable of doing,” said Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier on the way to winning at Phoenix. “We have been running fast and just need to get it fixed up on race day. It is a whole different ball game on Sunday. It is nice to get that green hat as the No. 1 qualifier, but it is more important to get that yellow hat for winning the race.”
Chevrolet has won all five of the Pro Stock races, with a different driver holding the Wally at each venue.
The event at zMAX Dragway also will feature the second in the seven-race School of Automotive Technology (SAM Tech) NHRA Factory Stock Showdown series. Reigning champion David Barton of Robesonia, Pennsylvania, leads the field in his Chevrolet COPO Camaro.
Stephen Bell of Shreveport, Louisiana, the winner of the initial race of the season in March at Gainesville, Florida, and Peter Gasko Jr. of Monroe Township, New Jersey, winner of the 2017 race at zMAX Dragway also will compete in their Chevrolet COPO Camaros.
Other COPO Camaro drivers entered are L. Scott Libersher of Wilmington, Illinois; Waldemar Rodriguez of Cidra, Puerto Rico; Doug Hamp of York, Pennsylvania; Daniel Stevenson of Bolingbrook, Illinois; Jesse Alexandra of West Bend, Wisconsin; Bruno Massel Jr. of Elmhurst, Illinois, and a FS1 reporter; Daniel Janac of Caldwell, Texas; Aaron Stanfield of Bossier City, Louisiana; Robert Falcone of Pleasant Valley, New York; Daniel Condon of Wilmington, Illinois; Arthur Kohn of Richmond, Texas; Randy Taylor of Artesia, New Mexico; Jeffrey Bragg of Fort Myers, Florida; Leonard Libersher of Wilmington, Illinois; and Richard Bierie of Acworth, Georgia.
In the 56-car Stock Eliminator field, COPO Camaro drivers entered are Vic Cagnazzi of New York City; Adam Badgett of Mount Airy, North Carolina, Richard Rinke of Oxford, Michigan; Jim Boburka of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania; Thomas Fletcher of Churchville, New York; Darren Poole-Adams of Shelby, North Carolina; and Cody Phillips of Lumberton, North Carolina.
In the 63-car Super Stock field, Jeff Strickland of Red Bay, Alabama; Bob Bagley of Warsaw, Virginia; and L. Scott Libersher are Chevrolet COPO Camaro drivers entered.
FS1 will telecast qualifications live at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will telecast taped eliminations and finals at 6 p.m. ET Sunday.
CHEVY RACING ENGINEERING PREVIEW
ROGER ALLEN, CHEVY RACING NHRA PROGRAM MANAGER: “It was an exciting and productive race weekend at Royal Purple Raceway in Texas for Chevy Racing teams and drivers. Brittany Force took the Top Fuel victory in her new Chevrolet dragster, showing the resolve of a champion after her on-track incident two months earlier at Pomona. Robert Hight was the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier and finished runner-up for the second time this season, and Matt Hartford earned his first Pro Stock victory and became the fifth different Team Chevy winner in as many races. Now the second Four-Wide event of the season is upon us. With the experience and data gained from Las Vegas and past events at zMAX Dragway, we expect another impressive showing from Chevrolet teams and drivers.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (reigning class champion; No. 2 qualifier and winner at Houston in last race): “(About the Four-Wide Nationals) It will be nice since I am a little more familiar with it since we are just coming out of the Las Vegas race. You aren’t jumping into it right away. We won in Charlotte a couple years ago, so the team has confidence racing there. We would like to pick up two wins in a row.”
ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTO CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning class champion; No. 1 qualifier and runner-up at Houston; runner-up in season opener; two-time winner of event; holds track Funny Car speed record, set in April 2017): “I look at the four-wide races as a challenge. I don’t do anything differently. You just need to keep your focus and do your job. This Auto Club Camaro has won a lot of races at zMAX Dragway and that track is amazing. I don’t know what it is about Charlotte. We have had a lot of success here both at the four-wide races and to start the Countdown. I do think this Four-Wide Nationals will be different because we got a warm-up race in Las Vegas. I know I will be more comfortable, which gives me even more confidence. We had an awesome race car last weekend in Houston and just needed one more win light.”
COURTNEY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier and winner at Phoenix; No. 1 qualifier at Las Vegas; No. 2 qualifier at Houston; holds track Funny Car elapsed time record, set in April 2017; No. 1 qualifier in 2017 spring race): “We did it all in Phoenix. We were the No. 1 qualifier, top speed, low ET and won the race. It was a great weekend for this Advance Auto Parts Camaro team. I feel like I have the confidence in this team that we can do that every weekend. (Crew chiefs) Danny Hood and Brian Corradi have been doing a great job giving me a fast race car and we just need to get more round wins on Sunday. That is what makes this sport so exciting. You have to bring your best to the starting line every run. (About the Four-Wide Nationals) We will see what we can do, and we ran to the final quad in Las Vegas and we were No. 1 qualifier. Our goal will be to qualify strong and try and get three win lights.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK COOLANT AND MOTOR OIL CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (has 148 career Funny Car wins and 1,289 round wins): “I didn’t get it done in Houston but I am not going to let that get me down. Not making the show only showed me how much I love this sport and how much I want to keep winning. I want to get this PEAK Camaro in the winner’s circle in Charlotte for sure. It was hard to be on the sidelines in Houston. We ran well in Las Vegas at the four-wide and didn’t have any issues.”
BO BUTNER, KB RACING, JIM BUTNER AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (reigning class champion; earned sixth Pro Stock win and second in a row at Auto Club Raceway in season opener; sits atop class standings): “I wasn’t going to drive much of anything but the Pro Stocker this season, but we’re going to bring out Darrel’s (Herron, crew chief) Stocker, and I’m going to run it in Super Stock because it’s pretty fast. I’m very excited for that, and we’re just getting it ready for Darrel’s son, Cody Herron, who got his license a couple weeks ago and is going to be racing in the next two or three months. I’m excited about that, it’s a car Darrel is very proud of – and he should be. And who knows, it takes your mind off Pro Stock, so maybe we’ll do a little better. Plus, it’s four-wide again, and that’s getting to be fun.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (next final round will be 150th in his 20 seasons competing in Pro Stock; No. 1 qualifier the past three races; second in points; two-time winner of event; runner-up in 2017 spring race): “We’ve struggled on Sundays these last few races, and we are still trying to fix that same problem we’ve had all year. But the more we have to work on it, the more opportunity we have to learn. That should give us a better chance this week of not making that same mistake, and it’s a work in progress, but we’re getting closer. My Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro is fast, we just have to keep that going on race day. We love racing at home, we love this racetrack – it’s home for us. I don’t know if we have a homefield advantage, but we’ve spent a lot of time there, and that makes us excited to get the chance to go out there and race for a trophy.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (runner-up in first two races of season; seeking 50th national event win – 47 in Pro Stock, two in Stock Eliminator; holds track Pro Stock elapsed time record, set in 2015): “Aside from Ken Black’s home track in Las Vegas, this is home for us. We have a lot of reasons to enjoy coming to zMAX Dragway, especially because we get to have our families at the race with us. As a team, we’ve had some pretty cool moments at this racetrack, and the folks here are the best.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM/ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier at event last year; semifinalist and No. 2 qualifier at Houston): “We’ve been chasing it all year and it was very satisfying and rewarding to seemingly have it all come together for us this past weekend in Texas. We’re hungry for a victory and doing it together with family around would make it very special.”
TANNER GRAY, GRAY MOTORSPORTS, VALVOLINE GRAY MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (won at Gainesville; competing in 30th career Pro Stock race; resident of Mooresville, North Carolina; won at track in fall of 2017): “Getting to race at my home track is always fun because so many of my friends and family members come out to the track to support me and my team, so I’m excited to compete in front of the hometown crowd. The last time we raced at zMAX, I won the event. Even though this time around it’s four-wide, I know we’re capable of getting back in the winner’s circle. It’s also a special weekend because Gray Motorsports and zMAX Dragway have invited a dozen kids from the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County out to the track on Saturday to experience four-wide drag racing for the first time, so I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
DREW SKILLMAN, RAY SKILLMAN MOTORSPORTS, RAY SKILLMAN AUTO GROUP CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 2 qualifier in opener): “Because we have raced in a Four-Wide already this season, it won’t be as foreign to us this weekend at zMAX Dragway. It’s always a fun event and the fans are great. We made it through one round of the Four-Wide at Las Vegas and look to do better this weekend.”
JOHN GAYDOSH, GAYDOSH PERFORMANCE, PYPES PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS: “(About the Four-Wide Nationals) Doesn’t affect me too much. I find I have advantage with bracket racing background. Other drivers might have little advantage, but I’ve been at every four-wide since they hosted it. I’m excited for the race because I’m used to car more and the power under the hood. I do like Charlotte facility. The track always good. Beautiful place to race.”