JOHN FORCE RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO
JOLIET, IL—- John Force raced to his 219th final but came up a few hundredths of a second short of picking up his 136th NHRA Funny Car win at the 16th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway today. In a tremendous final with Matt Hagan Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang ran 4.113, his slowest run of the weekend, beside Hagan’s winning 4.065 second run. Force’s Mustang began chucking spark plugs at half-track bleeding off power as the 10,000 hp Funny Car tried to accelerate down the race track.
Prior to today’s final Force was 2-1 in final rounds against Hagan who he outdistanced for the 2010 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title, his unprecedented 15th NHRA Mello Yello world championship, on the last day of the season. Today Force was masterful on his way to his third consecutive final round defeating Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham and Ron Capps to reach the final.
After his semi-final round win over Capps Force’s parachutes became tangled with Capps’ NAPA Dodge Charger R/T as the Funny Cars turned off. Luckily, no one was injured and neither Funny Car sustained damage.
Over the first nine races of the 2013 season Force’s round win record was 6-9 but since a remarkable turnaround led by crew chief Mike Neff and Force the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang is 10-2 over the last three races. He has moved up from 9th in the Mello Yello point standings to 3rd over that span and he is less than two rounds of racing 36 points behind No. 2 Cruz Pedregon.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team held onto their Top Ten position but Bob Tasca III closed the gap to three points as he sits in 11th place heading to the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, next weekend. Hight defeated rookie Chad Head in the first round with a 4.059 second run. Over the course of the weekend Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang posted runs of 4.055, 4.052, and 4.059 and in a losing effort to Capps, 4.096. His lone off-run was the final run of qualifying last night when there was a Christmas Tree malfunction that forced a restart.
Hight’s 4.059 second run was the quickest of the first round of eliminations. In the second round his 4.096 second run against Capps would have trailered eventual semi-finalist Bob Tasca III (5.056) and eventual winner Matt Hagan (4.105) in that same round.
“We made a great run in the first round our third 4.05 run of the weekend. This Auto Club Ford Mustang is turning around. We slowed down a little bit in the second round against Capps but we know how to make it run quicker in Norwalk,” said Hight. “The tracks are going to get hotter and I think we have a race car that can run in different conditions. We are still in the Top Ten and you need to hang onto those spots to get into the Countdown. It was good to see John get to another final.”
Courtney Force made a brief appearance today in eliminations before she was dismissed in an upset against No. 10 qualifier and Ford racer Tim Wilkerson. Force posted a 4.123 ET to Wilkerson’s 4.090.
“It was a little bit of a rough start this weekend. The rain didn’t help either. We only got one run on Friday because of it and we smoked the tires later in the evening. I mean, right as I hit the throttle it just went up in smoke. We probably should have put some newer tires on. The track was a lot better than we thought it was going to be,” Force said.
Force made her best run of the weekend in the second session on Saturday when she posted a 4.04 second run.
“Coming out on Saturday, we just had a malfunction in the electrical system in the car and the battery went dead. We were just having some bad luck. We finally got our car in the show on the last run. We went out and ran a 4.04, which is a great run; close to being one of my career best runs. It was such a great track on Saturday. You saw some great numbers on the board. But that 4.04 shot us up to the top half of the field, which was good for us,” said Force.
Force qualified in the No. 7 spot for race day, but got outrun by Wilkerson in their 6th career match-up. Force is now 5-1 against Wilkerson in previous events.
“Going up first round today, our car just went slower than we expected it to early on in the run. We started to drive around him down at the end. We were definitely gaining on him, but just ran out of real estate. He got the win over us, which was unfortunate for our team.”
“It’s just one of those days. You have to go through it. We came here off a win last weekend, and then we went out first round, but it’s all part of NHRA drag racing. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car has been a pretty good car. We can run some good numbers. We can put 4.0’s on the board so I know we have a good car and we’re up there in the points so we just have to get back at it next weekend,” said Force.
After three tough runs in qualifying with engine failures a plenty, Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force laid down a solid run in round one of eliminations Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.
Facing fellow competitor Bob Vandergriff Jr., Force ran a 3.846 second pass at 322.11 mph, but fell short to his 3.843 pass. Amidst an early round loss, Force and her Castrol EDGE team are proud of the work they had accomplished in overcoming those engine issues.
“It was a close run against Vandergriff,” Force said. “I had never run him before, so I was excited to go out there and run against him. He had a great car all weekend. We finally stepped our car up and didn’t blow it up like we had been doing the entire weekend. Glad we stepped it up. We had a good run, but it just wasn’t quite good enough. I saw him right next to me, so I knew it was close. We’ll just have to give it another shot next weekend.”
Crew chief Dean Antonelli felt the heat all weekend long as well as he and co-crew chief Eric Lane called the shots to get the 26-year-old down track smoothly. It was no easy task, but entering the first round of eliminations, they hit on something golden.
“Our weekend started out not too bad the first qualifying session,” Antonelli said. “We ran an .84, but nicked the motor a little bit down track. We lost the night session that night. In Q2, we put a hole out early and probably should have had her shut it off and the motor got real unhappy and blew up. Last night in Q3, we thought we’d go for it, but something unhappy in the engine, but we haven’t really found any one particular thing. We made several changes and it responded good. We were trying to run .84 and ended up running a 3.84 in the first round, but we just kind of got clipped in the lights. It was a good race and a good recovery from how qualifying went. Hopefully we’re on track and look forward to Norwalk.”
Even with the set-back today the Castrol EDGE team has confidence in their abilities. Brittany has qualified for the two quickest fields in NHRA history this weekend and Pomona1 (quickest field in history).