FORCES DOMINATE FINAL DAY OF VEGAS QUALIFYING
LAS VEGAS, NV – In the fourth and final qualifying session today at the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals, Courtney Force jumped from the No. 8 spot and went to the top of the Funny Car pack with a 4.006 at 325.37 mph. This is the 25-year-old driver’s fourth No. 1 since the 2013 Winternationals.
“We are excited. We struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season. In Gainesville we went all the way to the semis and we got beat by my dad. It felt good to have a consistent race car back. It felt good to come to a track where we have had some success in the past. We have been No. 2 here and we went to the final at both Las Vegas events last year,” said Force.
Force not only set the track record for both ET and speed with that run, but also beat her personal-best ET of 4.016, which she set at the NHRA Finals in 2013, and her career-best speed of 320.98 mph.
“My dad seems to keep getting me at the end. They told me I was No. 1 qualifier, but I didn’t know about the speed, 325 mph is pretty amazing. To get the track record at four flat is great. I was waiting honestly for dad or Hagan to take it from me with a run in the threes,” said Force.
Her 325.37 mph was the quickest Nitro run of the weekend thus far, topping even Antron Brown’s 325. 14 mph run in Top Fuel.
“The car feels fast no matter what. You can just tell when it is on that smooth clear run. Everything just goes perfect. I think I glanced over at Capps on the starting line. I was trying to see if he was staged and he was trying to get in there shallow like everyone on the last session. I glanced over and made a mistake being late. It bummed me out a little but it was better to do that today rather than tomorrow on race day,” said Force.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year picked up three bonus points for being quickest of the fourth Funny Car qualifying session.
Force, who has been racing professionally in the NHRA Funny Car class for three years now, has always done well at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but today’s performance took the team above and beyond their personal expectations.
“My team gave me a good car. It is tunnel vision all the way down there. My team was telling me in the staging lanes that it was going to go on a good run. That just gets you so pumped up. Ron came on the radio and was excited. It is always a good feeling when you hop out of your race car and your guys are cheering for you,” said Force.
This is the second time Courtney and John have been No. 1 and No. 2, but the first time with Courtney occupying the No. 1 spot. John was No. 1 and Courtney No. 2 in 2013 at Topeka.
“I am proud of this Traxxas Ford Mustang team. They have been working hard on this car all weekend and to have it running this consistently makes you feel good. It gets you motivated for race day tomorrow,” said Force.
Courtney will run Jon Capps in the opening round on race day. She is 1-0 to Capps, who she bestrd in the first round at Indy in 2012.
“I was sitting in my car when I heard that Erica (Enders) won the K&N Horsepower Challenge. I thought that was awesome. Before that Brittany made her career best run with a 3.79. I am really proud of her and that just means her team is coming together. It was great to get the top qualifying spot and not have it stolen by my dad. For all the females out here this was a great day. We are all looking forward to tomorrow. It was cool to see that my run was not just the fastest in Funny Car but also Top Fuel. It was a great day for JFR and the Traxxas team,” said Force.
John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang bounced back from two dismal qualifying sessions just 24 hours earlier with a stout 4.017 during the final qualifying run at The Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Force solidly put his Funny Car in the No. 2 position and will face the No. 15 qualifier Paul Lee, in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
“We ran good on both our sessions today. On the first run, we were low with a 4.05 and for a while, Robert, Courtney and me were one, two and three until Matt Hagan bumped us. On the fourth qualify session, we stepped up with a 4.017 but Courtney also ran a 4.006. To see Courtney set both ends of the track record was awesome,” said John Force.
The crew of Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang has been hot in providing John a fast yet consistent 8000-horsepower ride. The team has been extremely hot this season and shows no signs of slowing down or losing focus.
“We always stay positive and I have a great bunch of guys here. (Crew chiefs) Jimmy Prock, Danny DeGennaro and the rest of the crew threw this old hot rod right down the alley. They all have really worked hard and I’m very proud of them,” said John Force.
Like any sport, drag racing has a way of making seasoned drivers and teams go from hero to zero in the span of just a few races. John knows this all too well and never forgets this fact that comes with the territory racing competitively in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
“This job can be so humbling as you can go from the top to the bottom, you can be a 16-time champ and struggle to even get in the show. Courtney said to me ‘Dad, you’re not qualified, get it in the show!’ I told her, ‘Yeah baby, I’ll pedal it faster!’ Jimmy Prock and those kids make that happen,” said Force.
Some might say racing can throw drivers a curve ball once again the Castrol GTX High Mileage team was swinging for the fences.
“You just want to be in the show come race day as all your sponsors are out here looking at the champ and his choke is stuck but we’re okay. Come tomorrow, I’m not going to take anyone lightly in the lane next to us,” said Force.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang stepped up as well today with a strong 4.059 second run in the first session. It was quick enough to grab one qualifying bonus point behind Matt Hagan and John Force.
In the second session with conditions rapidly improving Hight and his Mike Neff tuned Ford Mustang Funny Car were looking to go to the No. 1 spot when they ran right after teammate Courtney Force. Unfortunately Hight’s Mustang Funny Car lost traction just past half-track as it was charging past Ron Capps.
“We were trying to run to No. 1 and we just pushed it a little too hard. We are pretty confident with this Auto Club Mustang. Neff has a good handle on it and he had a great race day tune-up. You just feel so good in the car when it rolls up there because Neff puts you are ease,” said Hight, a three time Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals winner.
“These guys give him a good race car and if I do my job on the starting line I like our chances no matter where we are qualified. Everyone you race is tough whether you are the No. 1 qualifier or the No. 11 qualifier. We won from the bottom half of the field in the Gatornationals. We will be ready for Jeff Arend. You know Jim Dunn will have that Funny Car ready so we will have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Saturday’s qualifying at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals proved that Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster are consistently improving as she ran a stalwart 3.79 second time and qualified in the top half of the field. Under the guidance of crew chief Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli, they have given the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year race car she can go rounds with and win.
“I’m so excited to have run that 3.79 on that final qualifying session. We struggled yesterday during the first run with a mechanical issue but the Castrol EDGE team really pulled together today. My guys really stepped it up and have provided me a fantastic race car. I’m so stoked about Sunday’s eliminations,” said Brittany Force.
“During the third qualifying session today, we had a cylinder out at the hit of the throttle so I got out of it early. One thing we want to get back to is being consistent li
ke we were back at the Phoenix race. As I driver, I’m still doing my exact routine every time I go up to the line. However, this weekend has been a bit of a challenge, I have new crew member guiding me into the staging beams and I’m trying to get into a routine with him. Having a new person on the starting line with a different routine can be challenging but I’m ready to win some rounds tomorrow,” said Brittany Force.
For crew chief Todd Smith, it has also been challenging during the last two races but is confident the team is pointed in the right direction and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster is starting to come around.
“The confidence level is getting better. We did struggle a little bit on Friday but we bounced back okay. We put a new supercharger on the engine this weekend and so we’re trying to learn the air curve. On the first run today, we didn’t have the right tune and the engine started dropping cylinders. We made some adjustments before the final session today and the car responded quite well and ran that 3.79 time,” said Todd Smith.
Brittany, who qualified No. 7, will face Bob Vandergriff in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday. Brittany has face Bob Vandergriff twice and lost on both occasions. With her focus, drive along with the improved performance of her Castrol EDGE Dragster, she’s not just looking to get past the first round on race day, but to win her first NHRA Top Fuel Wally.