HIGHT: WINNING INDY CREATES COUNTDOWN MOMENTUM
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 10, 2013) — Robert Hight walked into the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner’s circle with a huge smile and a big sigh of relief. It had been 35 races since the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion was able to hoist the fabled “Wally” winner’s trophy. For the crewman turned test driver turned world champion the drought created a sense of doubt that was easily erased with four win lights on Labor Day.
“You start asking yourself if I am the problem. Right before first round on Monday (crew chief Mike) Neff came up to me and said, ‘Listen regardless of the outcome we are in this together. We are going to believe in each other and we are going to stick together.’ It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I am up there trying to do a good job for him and his team. They were doing well until I stepped into the seat. It was the perfect time to win,” said Hight, a three-time U.S. Nationals winner.
With his first round win over Cruz Pedregon in Indy combined with a Bob Tasca III first round loss Hight locked up his spot in the 2013 Countdown. Hight went on to defeat Johnny Gray in a tire smoking pedalfest, then Del Worsham and finally Jack Beckman. It was Hight’s first win of 2013 and one of the most memorable of his eight year career against some of the toughest competition.
“This is definitely the biggest win of my career. In fact I think competition is tougher now than when I won the championship in 2009. You don’t see people going out there and winning three races in a row any more. It just doesn’t happen,” said Hight. “From the No. 9 position we are going to have to put together a hot streak. If we want to win the championship we are going to have to win at least two or three races and go to the semi-finals in the rest of the races.”
Hot streaks are nothing new to Hight. Last season he drove the Auto Club Ford Mustang into four consecutive winner’s circles including the winner’s circle at zMax Dragway at the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals. In 2009 Hight was winless in the regular season before winning three of the last six races including the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals. Hight jumped from 10th place to 1st place in two races in 2009.
“I look back at 2009 and winning four in a row in 2012 and that definitely gives you confidence. History can repeat itself but a lot has changed since those streaks. I am with a new team and the competition is definitely better. I am excited to get to Charlotte and start the Countdown. I love starting with four races in a row too,” said Hight.
“You get into a groove racing back to back. I know as a crew guy I liked to race every weekend. These guys on this Auto Club Funny Car do a great job and I have been lucky to work with two great crew chiefs and two awesome teams for my career. The hardest part is the competition from our own teammates. John Force has 15 championships and Courtney Force could go on a tear and win this thing as well with the Traxxas Ford Mustang,” added Hight.
Starting this Friday at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals Hight will have 24 rounds of racing over the next six races to try and win his second NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship. The first two rounds of qualifying will begin at 5:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. under the lights at zMax Dragway.
C. FORCE ONLY FEMALE IN MELLO YELLO CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 10, 2013) – Piloting the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car, Courtney Force is ready to get the 2013 NHRA Countdown to the Championship underway beginning this week at the 6th annual Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, Sept. 13-15.
“zMax Dragway is one of the best race tracks out here, not only because their facility is great, but their staff and the fans who show up to this race are amazing,” said Force. “Bruton Smith built the Bellagio of drag strips here in Charlotte so it’s always fun competing here. Everyone is really excited, especially because it is the first race of the Countdown.”
Force will start No. 7 in points going into the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown to the Championship, just 80 points (four rounds) out of first place.
“Our Traxxas Ford Mustang team is really looking forward to it and we want to get a good start in order to get a lead on these guys to go after the championship. This is the time where all the pressure is on and you really gotta make some moves early. We’re going to try to pick up those points during qualifying and hopefully we can move on up the ladder,” said Force.
The 2012 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future award winner for NHRA’s top “Rookie of the Year” qualified No. 6 at this event last year and for the second year in a row, will be the only female driver in a nitro class to race for the championship.
“Going into the Countdown for the championship this weekend, I’m feeling confident and excited. Last year as a rookie my main focus was on the basics of the car, but this year I’m trying to push my own limits to improve myself as a driver.”
“I work closely with my crew chief, Ron Douglas and Dan Hood and my Traxxas team, in order to be more consistent for them and not make mistakes. I’m tougher on myself this year as opposed to last year, but I’m very eager to get this countdown started. I think we have a Championship-ready car to battle it out with the rest of the boys,” said Force.
This event in 2012 also marked the third time the then 24-year-old raced against her father, John Force. She brought a 2-0 record against the 15-time champ to the starting line, but lost the round when her Traxxas Ford smoked the tires at the hit.
AUTO CLUB ROAD TO THE FUTURE NOMINEE BRITTANY FORCE LOOKS TO CONTINUE STRONG SHOWING AT ZMAX DRAGWAY
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 10, 2013) – Coming off a strong weekend in Indianapolis, Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force returns to the Charlotte area for a second time this season in search of her first career win at zMAX Dragway for the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Force, the third oldest daughter of 15-time Funny Car world Champion John Force, was No. 1 qualifier twice out of four qualifying runs at Lucas Oil Raceway, the highest she has been on the qualifying ladder in her rookie season. She’s hoping to continue riding that momentum heading to the “Bellagio of Dragstrips”.
“I’m glad to be going back to Charlotte,” Force said. “I love Charlotte. Bruton Smith has a beautiful track out there. I’m glad it’s not going to be four-wide this time around and it’ll be just a normal drag race with only one car in the other lane. I can’t wait to get back there.”
Prior to the previous event, the first ever Top Fuel team at John Force Racing added a new member to the roster. John Medlen, who oversees JFR’s research and development program, will now be assisting Force’s crew chiefs, Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane for the remainder of the season. Jimmy Prock, current crew chief on the Castrol GTX Funny Car team, will also be assisting the team.
“We did make some changes before the Indy race and even though we have had our struggles, there’s only one direction to go and that is up,” said Force. “We’re hoping to move forward and advance some rounds and go for our first win before the season ends.
“I love working with John Medlen. He’s family to me. My whole family has been close to the Medlen family for years. It’s really great to be working with him and I love having him on our Castrol EDGE team. Working with Jimmy Prock is great, too. My entire year of testing was pretty much with Jimmy and his team, so I’m excited to have both of them come over and be working on the first top fuel dragster at John Force Racing,” Force continued.
During the off week, the former schoolteacher and her team were able to test prior to the Carlyle NHRA Carolina Nationals. R
unning a new setup, they learned a few things that will help the team in future races. Crew chief Dean Antonelli believes this will help the Castrol EDGE team coming into Charlotte and the five races that follow.
“Testing went pretty well and we learned some things,” Antonelli said. “Hopefully we got the motor a little happy in the last 400-500 feet of the run. The car ran pretty good on a hot track and was very competitive. We still have room for performance beyond what we did.
“Charlotte has a real good race surface. The starting line is a little tricky I understand for dragsters. We raced there earlier in the year and the way the starting line is configured it makes the dragsters produce a little more driveshaft speed, but other than that it’s pretty much landmine conditions if the temperature is in the 80’s or less, so we’ll be real good there,” continued Antonelli.
The return to zMAX Dragway marks the beginning of a six-race battle known as the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. Despite not making the Countdown, the 27-year-old Yorba Linda, Calif. native still has her eye on one particular prize: her first Wally.
“There are six races left in the season and unfortunately we didn’t make it into the Countdown,” Force said. “The Castrol EDGE team and I are still going to go after our first win. With the changes we’ve made with Medlen coming on board, we think we are moving in the right direction.”
For Immediate Release
FORCE LAUNCHES BID FOR ANOTHER TITLE
First Step is to Reverse Fortunes at Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – From his best starting position in the last three years, John Force launches a new title bid this week in the sixth annual Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals, first of six races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Mello Yello championship.
After starting the Countdown from seventh and eighth the last two seasons, the iconic 64-year-old will start this year behind only three other Funny Car drivers, all of them driving Don Schumacher Racing Dodges.
For Force, that is motivation enough to get his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang back into the winners’ circle and himself back to the podium as series champion for the 16th time in a 36-year NHRA career.
However, if he is to add another chapter to his growing legend, the former truck driver likely will have to reverse his fortunes in the Carolina Nationals, an event in which he has won just one racing round in five tries and for which he failed to qualify in 2008.
That’s because every champion crowned in the Countdown Era advanced to the semifinals or beyond in the opening race.
Force was runner-up at the U.S. Nationals when it kicked off the Countdown during 2010 championship run. Robert Hight and Matt Hagan both won at Charlotte en route to their 2009 and 2011 championships and Jack Beckman (2012), Tony Pedregon (2007) and Cruz Pedregon (2008) all opened with trips to the semifinals.
It is impossible to pinpoint an exact cause for Force’s struggles in the fall race, especially since he has excelled in the 4Wide Nationals, the spring event contested on the same all-concrete track at zMAX Dragway.
Whatever the issue, it isn’t high on Force’s current list of concerns.
The 135-time tour winner is far too busy pursuing new sponsorship opportunities in the aftermath of announcements by Ford and Castrol that they are leaving the sport after the 2014 season. He also has been consumed with preparing his family for their likely return to reality TV in a new and as-yet-untitled follow-up series to Driving Force, which last aired on the A&E network in 2007.
That is not to say that he is ambivalent about what happens on the racetrack.
In fact, in light of recent developments, the 15-time Auto Racing All-American has admitted that “I’m more motivated to win now than ever.”
Of course, if he does win another title, it will be with a different crew and different crew chief. After winning 14 championships with Austin Coil making the tune-up decisions, Force won in 2010 with Mike Neff. Now, he’s going after another $500,000 Mello Yello bonus with Jimmy Prock on point.
Although the two have yet to win a race together (since hooking up six races ago), it’s through no fault of Prock, the veteran who tuned Hight to the title in 2009. Force admittedly just hasn’t been on his game at the starting line.
“I know what’s wrong,” said the 2012 inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, “and I’ll fix it. The big thing is we have a fast hot rod. Jimmy Prock swings for the fence with this ‘Prock Rocket’ and I like that. We’ve got a car that can win and that’s all you can ask for.”