BRISTOL, TN – John Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang took control on the first day of the 13th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Ford Dealers. The 15-time Funny Car champion and three-time Thunder Valley Nationals champion was the quickest Funny Car of the first session and wound up No. 6 at the end of Friday.


“I am gunning for a win on Father’s Day. Courtney (Force) and I are in right now. Robert (Hight) will be OK tomorrow. Those were pretty good numbers and it will be warmer tomorrow. I have no complaints. I watched Brittany (Force) run right down to the end with that 3.82. She stayed in the top half. We went up on the hill together and we were counting cars to see where she would wind up. We went across the tunnel and the fans mobbed us. It was awesome and she loved it. She stays in the top half I think she has a good shot at winning,” said Force.


“I have always had confidence in my Castrol GTX Mustang. (Crew chief) Mike Neff has a good handle on this car. He nearly won this race a few years ago and he was in the championship hunt that last two years. We are going to be there.”


Force could have been joined by Courtney in the top half of the provisional qualifying field but during his daughter’s second run Johnny Gray crossed the center line and stopped the youngest Force’s timing system. She was left with just her first qualifying time. She ended the first day of qualifying in the No. 11 position. Force ran a 4.134 ET at 309.56 mph in the first qualifying session and had the top speed of the round.


“We went out and ran a decent pass, running a 4.13 and going to the top half of the field. We had top speed on our first run and my dad had low ET,” said Force.


“We were really hoping to get around my dad to take that No. 1 spot from him. It was really awesome coming out and launching off the starting line and seeing header fire out my window. It’s always so exciting to have a night session, especially here in Bristol. This track has the name Thunder Valley for a reason, so it’s really nice to come here and put on a show for the fans while we’re doing what we love.”


“We were trying to make a low 4.0 pass on that final qualifying run, but unfortunately it spun the tires a little down track so we couldn’t get a good run out of it. We still stayed in the top twelve, which is important for us going into tomorrow. We’re going to try to move up the ladder tomorrow and get in the top half of the field, if not the No. 1 spot. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what out Traxxas Ford Mustang can do here in Bristol,” said Force.


The Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang driven by Robert Hight was on one of the quickest runs of the second session when it overpowered the track at the top end. Hight’s 1/8 mile ET of 3.303 would have easily been a low 4.0 second run.


“It was hauling on that last run. The conditions were great and (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) put a strong tune up in this Auto Club Mustang. It just couldn’t hold on at the top end. We’ll make some good race day runs tomorrow and be ready to win this thing again,” said Hight, the 2011 Thunder Valley Nationals winner.


Hight will have to post a qualifying time tomorrow when qualifying resumes at 1 p.m. with Top Fuel and then Funny Car.


It was a banner day for the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster tuned by Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Eric Lane. Brittany Force was racing at Bristol Dragway for the first time and she loved the feeling of being in the middle of Thunder Valley.


“First run we didn’t quite get down the track like we had hoped. The second run we definitely improved and stepped it up. We ended up running a 3.828 and that leaves us in the top half of the field, so I’m hoping we can hold that until tomorrow and through the weekend going into Sunday. I’d love to end up qualifying way up there. We haven’t quite made that yet, so I’m really going for that this weekend. I have a great team behind me and I know the guys can do it, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” said Force.


In the second session Force blasted to the No. 3 position at the time of her run with a 3.828 second elapsed time. This was her second quickest time of the season behind her 3.822 at the season opening Winternationals.


“It’s great to come out here and run that 3.82, that was one of the best runs I’ve made so far competing this year. That’s exactly where we want to be and just have to keep moving in the right direction.”