JOHN FORCE HOLDS ONTO FUNNY CAR TOP SPOT AT EPPING
EPPING, NH – John Force was not content to just run quick when conditions were ideal at the Inaugural Auto Plus NHRA New England Nationals. On Friday night Force posted the quickest run of the evening session a 4.051 second pass that electrified the crowd and gave him the provisional pole. Today Force was the quickest of both sessions grabbing six more qualifying bonus points and jumping from 9th to 7th in the Mello Yello Funny Car points. In both sessions on Saturday he was the only driver to run in the 4.0s running 4.089 and 4.094 seconds.
Today John Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was the best car in the category but Force is not taking anything for granted going into the first round against rookie Dave Richards.
“We will be racing earlier tomorrow so we will have cloud cover. I think we can win with a 4.05 or 4.08. I don’t race the guy in the lane next to me. Every time I tried to do that it screwed me up. You run the race car the way you always have. Try to do everything the same for consistency. You don’t have to run the quickest times now unless it is crusher conditions,” said Force, who grabbed the top qualifier spot for a record 142nd time in the Funny Car class. “Now you have to race smart and win rounds. If you run the national record you can get 20 points that way but only if it is out there. We won’t know until tomorrow. You go up there with your mind right and anyone can beat you on any given Sunday.”
So far this season Force has raced two other drivers for the first time. In Houston he beat Blake Alexander in the first round and in Atlanta he outran the son of veteran driver Jim Head, Chad. Force continues to bring out the best of himself against the rising stars of the NHRA.
“I raced a kid last week that about whipped me Blake Alexander. I don’t know Dave Richards but I bet he is a young guy and that is the future. As long as he loves it as much as I did he will never quit,” said an energized Force.
“I just wish I was younger so I could be here forever. I love these cars and I love NHRA. These fans are crazy and awesome. We are going to give them a great show here and great TV on ESPN. If anything is my downfall in life is that I love things too much. You give it your whole life and your life goes by you. You wake up one day and ask what happened. The good thing is I have never woken up yet. I wake up and say another race bitchin. I am out here with my kids and I want to drive to show them.”
Richards will be the 136th different driver Force has faced in competition over his career. He is not taking anything for granted and knows that he will get Richards’ best shot. At the top end the winningest driver in NHRA history will accept whatever race outcome awaits him.
“I am just going to say, ‘Kid I wish you luck and I wish I was your age.’ I’ll be right there on the tree with you and may the best man win. If he beats me I will walk right over there and shake his hand. That is what it is all about,” said Force.
“Losing fuels me more than winning. I have to keep my energy up when I am winning but losing makes me a tiger. I go back to the pits and look at my race cars, talk to my people and I fight my way out of that hole. I have had fans come up and say this ain’t the John Force we knew. I was a leaker. That was the good ole days when we would sleep five guys in a hotel room.”
Force is joined in the top five in qualifying by daughter Courtney Force, No. 3 and son-in-law Robert Hight, No. 5.
Courtney Force wrapped up qualifying in her Traxxas Ford Mustang today and is sitting solidly in the No. 3 spot going into Sunday’s eliminations. She will go up against fellow female driver and No. 14 qualifier Alexis DeJoria in the opening round.
In the first session of qualifying today, Force smoked the tires at 330 feet and shut down early on a track nearing 125 degrees, but came out for the second session and drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a 4.287 ET at over 228 mph.
“We got qualified in the No. 3 spot on Friday night so we went out there today to see how quick we could get the car to go down in the heat for tomorrow. We were on a good pass in the second session, but it was moving around on me so it spun the tires and we couldn’t quite get it down there,” said Force.
Force did not improve from her 4.083 she posted on Friday evening at New England Dragway, but made a good, important run in the heat of the day.
“When we ran that 4.28 today we were actually on a run better than Friday night’s session. We were actually really excited about Q4 it just couldn’t get all the way down there. We’re hoping for some good weather tomorrow and we’ll just have to see what this Traxxas Ford Mustang can do,” said Force.
Force is 2-1 to DeJoria in previous match-ups.
Robert Hight is excited to get to the track tomorrow even if he has to race his friendly rival Del Worsham. Last weekend it was Del who had the better qualified Funny Car when the pair matched up and Worsham outran Hight. Tomorrow Hight will bring an improved AAA Ford Mustang to the starting line. His No. 5 qualifying time of 4.088 seconds at 313.80 mph gives him some confidence. In the final qualifying session Hight posted the third quickest time picking up a qualifying bonus points and some momentum going into Sunday.
“We are racing Del (Worsham) again in the first round. He will be a tough car for sure but I like our chances. Last night we made a good run and we were right there on the edge today. It rattled pretty hard in the first session. Jimmy and Danny will look at the data and all the crew chiefs will get together. This track has been great and the fans have been unbelievable. I am looking forward to going rounds for AAA Northern New England,” said Hight.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster had the most trouble adjusting to the new track at New England Dragway. The three JFR Funny Cars were getting three times as much information as session as the lone JFR Top Fuel team. Data is critical and as a one dragster team Force and her Dean Antonelli/Eric Lane tuned dragster had a much steeper learning curve. Only Steve Torrence and his Capco team, also a one car team, out qualified Force and the Castrol EDGE dragster. Of the sixteen dragsters that qualified the bottom four were one car teams.
“We got two runs in today. The first one we got down the track and ran a 3.91, so we were happy about that. The Castrol EDGE dragster ended up 13th at the end of the day and I’ll be running Tony Schumacher for first round of eliminations. I’ve ran him before in Las Vegas. I’m excited to be running him again. I’ve been watching him race for years so it’s pretty exciting to be running up against a champion like him. I’m excited and hopefully we kick some butt tomorrow,” said Force.
“I’m happy to be out here. It draws a whole different crowd and the fans just have so much energy. We’ve been out there signing autographs and we did a question and answer session at the AAA display and I couldn’t believe how many people were out there watching and cheering us on. It’s pretty exciting to see how many people are coming out to this event and I think they’re excited we’re here.”