JFR MUSTANGS HOLD ONTO TOP SPOTS FOR AUTO PLUS NHRA NATIONALS
READING, PA (October 5, 2013) – The trio of John Force Racing Ford Mustangs held onto their top qualifying spots at the 29th annual Auto Plus NHRA Nationals as qualifying concluded today. Led by 6-time winner at Maple Grove Raceway John Force who moved into the Mello Yello points lead with his No. 1 qualifying effort. The No. 1 spot was an NHRA record 144th top spot and his eighth No. 1 at Maple Grove Raceway. Force has three of his six wins from the No. 1 position at the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals.
Force picked up three more qualifying points today running 4.036 seconds in the final qualifying session in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
“It got a little warmer today so that 4.03 was kind of a surprise. Jimmy Prock will swing for the fences on you. My guys are really working together. They are watching everything including the points. I don’t want to watch that stuff. I’ll look at it at the end of the season when it is all over. I have a good race car right now. It is great to see the fans in the stands,” said the 136-time winner. “Getting to hear them cheer like that is pretty exciting it has been a while. I think I lost my focus in racing. I have always loved this sport. It is what I do. Sure running good makes you feel good when you can compete. I struggled as a driver earlier this year. My guys stayed by me and I got that new car and I couldn’t get comfortable in it.”
Force entered the race trailed 2011 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan by six points but going into the first round Force will hold a five point lead. In the first round the Castrol GTX Mustang will race veteran Jeff Arend while Hagan, the No. 4 qualifier, will face two-time Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon.
“This points lead doesn’t matter if you don’t win first round. I am going to leave here and go to the gym them I am going to have half a glass of wine so I can sleep because I am wound up. The credit goes to all my teams and to Jimmy Prock and Danny DeGennaro. I said I was going to come up here and say, ‘Enough said,’ and then just leave but here I go talking again. I can’t shut up,” said Force
In the first qualifying session of the day Force was paired with has daughter Courtney Force. It was the only session Force did not get bonus points this weekend. The run almost didn’t happen as Force described a chaotic burnout and staging experience.
“We fired the motor in Q3 and my air hose blew off. My guys are trying to put the air hose back on and I am yelling to turn off the air and then re-hook it up. No one was concentrating. My daughter was backing up and I knew we had a problem. I don’t have the right to mess her up so I did a real quick burn out. The shortest burn out I have ever done,” said Force, who made a career out of fan-pleasing long smoky burnouts. “The cockpit was smoked out and I couldn’t see when I was trying to back up. I am totally lost. I can’t see my man out front. We were screwed and I should have shut it off right there. When I pulled up to the line I am dead crooked. Jimmy is looking at me and I just stuck it in and when I left I tried to jerk the wheel. It just unloaded the tires. The whole run started wrong or it probably would have gone down the track again knock on wood.”
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team dominated the track this weekend in qualifying with low elapsed time passes and massive speeds to qualify in the No. 2 spot against Blake Alexander. This will be the first time the two have gone head-to-head on race day.
The sophomore driver took control of her pink Traxxas specialty car, which she debuted this weekend for breast cancer awareness month, and drove it to a 4.069 ET at over 315 mph. By the end of the session, the team had picked up three bonus points for being the quickest of the session.
“We got low of the session. We went out there in the heat and ran a 4.069 which was pretty exciting for our team. The closest run to us was a 4.08. We picked up three bonus points. Dad has been taking those points away from me lately,” she said laughing. “Obviously, I want him to do well, but it’s good for my team that we got the full three points and we’re trying to move our way up. We’re trying to get back up there in the points and we need to get around Ron Capps right now so we need all the points we can get. They all add up in the end. Just to go out there and make a pass like that in the heat of the day, a 4.069 at over 315 mph, is spectacular.”
In the fourth and final qualifying shot today, Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang hazed the tires and the team was not able to improve their time.
Throughout two days of qualifying, Force picked up seven total bonus points inching her up the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship points ladder.
On Friday, Force made two passes at 4.071 ET at over 318 mph, followed by an evening pass of 4.025 seconds at 329.42 mph. Force’s record-breaking speed was later disallowed.
“It’s definitely a bummer when they take away a run like that,” Courtney said. “We didn’t get any points for it, it was just kind of a feel good thing for our team and it’s unfortunate that they’re not counting it due to a malfunction with the timing system.
“It seems like a fluke thing that’s out of their control,” said the three-time tour winner, “so it’s unfortunate. We’re estimating on that pass that our Traxxas Ford Mustang did run somewhere between 323 and 325, so we’re still excited. We know it was on a good pass. It was still possibly a record-setting speed, even if it wasn’t 329.”
The Auto Club Ford Mustang driven by Robert Hight will enter race day as the No. 6 qualified Funny Car on the strength of their 4.072 second run on Friday night. Today Hight picked up one qualifying bonus point in the first session on Saturday running, 4.089 seconds.
In the final session the Auto Club Mustang was blazing down the track before it lost power at ¾ track. The Auto Club team was looking through their data and the motor to make sure everything was squared away for their first round match-up with rookie Chad Head.
The last two races Hight has been taken out by team leader John Force in the semi-finals. He is currently No. 4 in the Mello Yello point standings only nine points behind Jack Beckman.
“We aren’t looking at the ladder or counting points. There are three races left and I think if you win those three races you will be the Mello Yello Funny Car champion. It is as simple as that. I know (crew chiefs) Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer have a good handle on this Auto Club Mustang and we’ll be ready for the first round,” said Hight. “The conditions should be similar or maybe a little cooler so I’ll do my job on the starting line and see how any rounds we can go tomorrow. These last three races will be tough but I am excited.”
Lead candidate for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award for NHRA’s “Rookie of the Year” made four consistent passes straight down the race track this weekend to qualify in the No. 11 in the 17-car Top Fuel field going into final eliminations on Sunday against Doug Kalitta.
On Friday, the Castrol EDGE driver picked up a bonus point when she went third-quickest of the session and posted a 3.829 ET at 318.84 mph to kick-off the weekend, followed by a 3.837 second run at 306.81 mph.
Today, team led by Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Eric Lane made two additional passes in the 3.80’s, but did not improve on their qualifying placement.
“We came out here this morning and ran a 3.85; still pretty consistent. That run was a little bit slower than both of our runs on Friday, but overall a good run. Our second run we stepped it up and ran a little better with a 3.83. That was a good run for us in this heat. I’m happy that our car has been that consistent an
d we’ve made four good runs. That makes us pretty confident going into first round tomorrow,” said Force.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster driven by the 27-year-old Force has been playing the spoiler role in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, as the team was just outside the top ten at the end of the regular season. Three Countdown drivers have missed the cut at the first four races including Antron Brown (Charlotte), Khalid alBalooshi (Dallas) and Steve Torrence (Reading).
“This year, since it is my rookie year, I’m trying to just get down the basics and concentrate on my routine when I go up to the line. It’s important to me to have that routine and try to do everything the same every time. I really haven’t noticed any differences on how anyone else races, because each time I’m just doing the same thing,” said Force.
Force will have Doug Kalitta in the opening round tomorrow. This is the fifth time she has faced Kalitta this year, the most she has faced any one driver. The pair is 2-2 in previous events.
“This is my fifth time facing Doug Kalitta in eliminations and I’m okay with that. He’s a great competitor and he always comes over to say hello and talk to me before we run. He’s a good sport and very professional and that shows. He’s gotten the win over me twice this year, but the first two times we faced each other, this Castrol EDGE team got the win so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out tomorrow,” said Force