TOPEKA, KS – Brittany Force’s Castrol EDGE Dragster proved to be the dominant Top Fuel dragster at the NHRA Kansas Nationals as she ran a career best ET and top speed 3.746 seconds at 329.75 mph and claimed her first ever number one Top Fuel qualifying spot. She will share the top qualifying limelight with her sister Courtney Force who raced around her 16-time champion father John Force to grab the Funny Car No. 1 spot. This is the first time sisters have qualified No. 1 at the same Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. All three JFR Funny Cars hold down the top spots for the 11th time and first time since Houston 2010. This is also naturally the first time John Force Racing has had No. 1s in Top Fuel and Funny Car.
“I’m just so excited. This really shows the Castrol EDGE team’s hard work is finally paying off. We struggled all of last year and then to come out here and go to number one is awesome. I really didn’t expect that as it’s a brand new car so to get it down the track and run like that makes us so excited. I’m so proud of my team,” said Brittany Force, the 2013 Rookie of the Year.
Force’s team had to swap out engines after the first qualifying session and due to a quick turn-around time they did not have time to warm the motor. For Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE team, the quick turnaround didn’t rattle them one bit when she fired up her car on the starting line.
“It was pretty crazy before the run as we didn’t get to warm up the car and the turnaround was so quick. I was suiting up in the tow vehicle on the way up to the lanes. I thought my crew guys were just trying to rush me figuring there’d be a few cars ahead of us but when I got up there. I was shocked as when we pulled up we were literally the next pair of dragsters on the starting line. So I threw my stuff on and jumped in the car, got suited up and went right up there. I wasn’t expecting it to run a 3.74,” said Brittany Force.
With this being Brittany’s second season behind the wheel of the Castrol EDGE Dragster, she now has her first number one qualifying spot to her career. The 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year has attainable goals for herself. She also knows she’s part of talented family of NHRA record holders yet, she doesn’t feel intimated by their accomplishments because she shares the same last name.
“I definitely have a list goals that I want to achieve just this year. But I don’t ever try to compare my goals to my sisters. That’s just my personality and how I am. I’m proud of them for everything they’ve accomplished but I have my own list of goals and that’s what I’m going after,” said Force, a two time No. 1 qualifier in the Lucas Oil Series in Top Alcohol Dragster.
Brittany did achieve one of her goals today with a number one qualifier but she’s also going for her first Top Fuel win and to be the 100th NHRA female pro driver to win a national event. To make this happen, Brittany has demonstrated to the racing community she has the skills and determination in reaching these goals.
After rain showers halted Friday’s second session, Brittany’s first qualifying run today was another strong and consistent pass despite having some issues down track. Her dragster lit up the scoreboard with a 3.811 second pass at 284.62 mph.
“On the first run today, the car left hard but I drove it a little bit out of the groove and once that happens, it sucks you right out. It happened right at the 800 foot mark. I also could feel the engine was having problems as the force threw me forward in the seat. Right then I knew the motor was hurt and I shut it down,” said Brittany Force.
Despite this, she still did a great job keeping the 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster on the track and not getting it crossed up by either driving over the centerline or worse, contacting the retaining wall. It just shows Brittany’s skill as a driver keeps improving run after run.
“Each run you always learn something, especially when the car wants to do strange things. Sometimes I’ll make a run and I’ve never felt it pull a certain way or do something weird. Hopefully next time I get out the run sooner when the car starts pulling this way,” said Force.
Force has competed at Heartland Park Topeka in both classes and has a comfort level when she fires up her Castrol EDGE Dragster.
“I love Heartland Park Topeka. The fact I was able to set a new track record today is awesome. It’s a very comfortable track me,” said Brittany Force.
Brittany Force will face Luigi Novelli in the opening round on Sunday and despite everyone asking her about potentially being NHRA’s 100th pro female driver to win a race, it’s not playing on her mind. Brittany and the Castrol EDGE team know they just need to be focused on going rounds and a trip to the winner’s circle will eventually come.
On the heels of Brittany Force racing to the top of the qualifying field in Top Fuel her sister Courtney Force ran around John Force to grab the No. 1 spot in Funny Car for the second time this season. The youngest Force was in the third to last pair of Funny Cars and she blasted down the Heartland Park Topeka track in 4.009 seconds, the second quickest elapsed time of her career, to jump to No. 1. She had to wait for Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, John Force and Robert Hight to run to see if she would hold onto the No. 1 spot.
“This is huge. The one thing you are looking for as a team is consistency. We seemed to have lost that at the beginning of the season. It felt good to go out there last week and go all the way to the final. I was hoping we really found something. To come out here and have consistent runs throughout qualifying is big,” said Force.
“We (lost a) run yesterday because of the rain. It feels good to get the Traxxas Mustang down the track run after run. We were running 4.0s and then that last run to run four flat was exciting to hear my crew chief come on the radio that we went four flat and were No. 1. I was in the staging lanes listening on the radio to my sister go No. 1,” said Force.
“That was cool. I tried to not get my hopes up. I hopped out of the car and I was thinking dad and Robert are coming up so you never know what is going to happen. They seem to ruin my day a lot lately. This Traxxas Mustang has been consistent this weekend and we will see what we can do tomorrow.”
This was the fifth No. 1 of Courtney Force’s career. She will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round. This will be the second time Force has faced Creasy in her career and she defeated the journeyman Funny Car driver in their lone meeting last year at the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
While much of the attention at the end of qualifying was focused on Brittany and Courtney Force the hottest driver in the Mello Yello Series continued to stay under the radar as Robert Hight will go into Sunday as the No. 3 qualified Funny Car. The four time winner this season posted quick runs all weekend and will face two-time Funny Car champion in the first round. Hight is 19-11 versus Pedregon and is 2-0 against him at the Kansas Nationals.
“We were happy with that run in the last session. We weren’t trying to set a track record. We were racing like we always do; try and get the best run out there. Mike Neff has this Auto Club Ford Mustang going down the track and I need to just keep doing my job as a driver,” said Hight. “It is cool that Courtney and Brittany are No. 1 but I think it is just as important that all three John Force Racing Funny Cars are 1-2-3 in qualifying. Hopefully we will all go some rounds tomorrow. We have all been working together to get all the Funny Cars running consistently. I am ready for race day and I will be going after my fourth win in a row.”
Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car has a commanding points lead but also has a streak of six straight final round appearances this season to go along with his active streak of three wins in a row. They were the picture of
consistency this weekend posting runs of 4.091, 4.040 and 4.055 seconds and Hight had the only Funny Car other than Courtney Force to run in the 4.0s all three qualifying sessions. His average ET was 4.062 to Force’s 4.054 seconds.
John Force may have been knocked out of the number one qualifying spot by his daughter Courtney on the final session, but the fact that the 16-time NHRA World Champ and his Castrol High Mileage Mustang ran a stout 4.043 second pass at 317.72 mph during his last run of the day is very impressive. For the Castrol GTX High Mileage team, it appears they may have eradicated the mechanical gremlins that had been plaguing them the last few races. More important, the proud father got to see a milestone unfold in front of him at the NHRA Kansas Nationals.
“Even though I got knocked out, we were going for it. To see both my girls get No. 1 in Top Fuel and Funny Car; that will make the boys mad. It is good for our sport. There are other women out there fighting for it. They are all trying to get to the 100th. We ought to sign up for the lottery,” said John Force.
For the NHRA, this is an historical accomplishment that shows the diversity of the drivers that compete in the professional categories. For both Force sisters to qualify number one in the Nitro classes, this is history and John Force couldn’t be more proud.
“This is just one race and it is just something for the two of them to be No. 1 side by side. They stand for all the women that do this. I can see Shirley right now jumping up and down. To see them in these Mello Yello No. 1 qualifier hats is awesome,” said John Force.
The matriarch of the family, Laurie Force, is also delighted to see how hard her daughters have worked over the years in getting to this momentous occasion. It has also shown the racing community and the NHRA fans the Force girls are the real deal.
“I think they are doing an awesome job. I get nervous when they go up and run but every run that they make I know they are getting a better handle on these cars. To see them both go out there and do such a good job is great,” said Laurie Force.
During John’s first run out of the box today, he had a disappointing 8.054 second run at only 77.20 mph after striking the massive Goodyear slicks in a billowing cloud of smoke at the 300 foot mark. Fortunately, Jimmy Prock and the crew went to work and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was back on track for the final session with a 4.04 second pass.
John Force will race from the number two position on Sunday and he’ll face fellow Ford Mustang driver Bob Tasca III in round one.