JFR FLEXES MUSCLES ON FRIDAY AT ENGLISHTOWN
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ – John Force Racing did not waste excellent track conditions at the 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals on Friday night. In qualifying the team was led by second year driver Brittany Force who posted the second quickest time in Top Fuel equal to Texan Steve Torrence whose speed was a hair faster and secured him the No. 2 spot while Force settled into the No. 3 spot. In Funny Car it was Robert Hight No. 3 (4.014), John Force No. 4 (4.015) and Courtney Force No. 6 (4.030) at the top of the field behind Cruz Pedregon’s 3.959 second pass which was the quickest pass in Funny Car history.
Brittany Force showed her fellow Top Fuel competitors that her number one qualifying performance from last weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals was no fluke. In the second session at today’s Toyota NHRA Summernationals, her Castrol EDGE Dragster rocketed to a 3.777 second pass at 324.44 mph that solidly placed her in the third qualifying spot. She was also awarded one NHRA Mello Yello bonus point for that run. This is Force’s best back-to-back qualifying performance in her Top Fuel driving career and it’s looking like it won’t be her last.
“It’s excited to come out and be qualified third. The Castrol EDGE team is super pumped about it and that fact we were number one qualifier last weekend in Topeka says a lot about the hard work my guys have put into this dragster,” said Brittany Force.
Day one for Brittany at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals didn’t start very well. On her first run out of the box, her race car ran a lack luster 4.506 second run at a lazy 158.89 mph.
“On my first pass, the car just went out there and smoked the tires around 400 feet. I felt it in the seat and it threw me forward. The car was also very sluggish and felt like it wasn’t making any power. I was going to pedal it to see if it would hook up but I didn’t see the point as it was the first run and we could have broken some parts,” said Brittany Force.
On the second qualifying run, it was a whole different story as the Castrol EDGE team found their mojo from Topeka. Brittany was lined up against Steve Torrence and on the first flicker of green from the Christmas Tree; both dragsters rocketed down the track with matching 3.777 second times and nearly identical speeds. Steve Torrance just barely nudged Brittany out of the number two spot by running 324.51 mph verses Brittany’s 324.44 mph.
“On that pass, the Castrol EDGE Dragster went right down the track. There’s a little bump down there were the NHRA officials made some changes trying to fix the track surface. It felt like the car was starting to spin and that was my concern at the 700 foot mark on the drag strip. However, it drove right through it and the car went a 3.77 and I’m pumped about that. We’ll do our same routine tomorrow and see if we can get the number one spot and pick up some more bonus points,” said Brittany.
The Castrol EDGE team is also getting their groove on as crew chief Todd Smith and the guys have really dialed in Brittany’s new dragster. They have become a formidable threat to some of the other teams and are primed to bring Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing their first NHRA Top Fuel win.
“It’s a contribution by everyone on this team and taking the time, effort and runs to get it there. It’s been showing promise for the last few races and we’re finally getting to that point that the Castrol EDGE Dragster has its full potential,” said crew chief Todd Smith.
The Auto Club team played it smart in the Friday night session posting an aggressive but not excessive 4.014 second elapsed time. The Ford Mustang Funny Car smoked the tires in the first session and opted to not risk smoking the tires going into Saturday.
“We wanted to be smart out there. There was no real reward but a lot of risk to being super aggressive. We needed to get a time and be at the top of the field. Mike Neff did that and we are in great shape going into Saturday. Tomorrow we will work on a race day tune-up and also try and get some of those qualifying bonus points. We picked up one tonight,” said Hight.
Hight’s Auto Club Funny Car has been the picture of consistency on race day and Hight is looking to bring some of that consistency to qualifying. On race day going back to the final three rounds of Atlanta where the Auto Club Ford Mustang got its 33rd win running 4.053, 4.074 and 4.049 it has averaged 4.053 seconds on it last seven runs down the track on Sunday.
John Force is looking to end his Toyota NHRA Summernationals drought. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion hasn’t parked his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang in the winner’s circle at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park since 1999. Despite a runner-up appearance in 2004, he’d like to claim his 140th career win this weekend.
To get there, the team is looking to get the car consistent and repeatable on each run but with 8,000 horsepower at John Force’s command and tricky track conditions, it can be difficult. However, crew chief Jimmy Prock and assistant crew chief Danny DeGennaro got the set up right today as John Force ran a 4.015 second pass at 310.48 mph to seize the fourth qualifying spot during the second session.
“Well, I wish we had gone down the track earlier as Robert and I could have pushed it harder but we had to get in tonight. My car spun and it probably would have run in the 3.90 second range but it spun at the bad spot down on the track. ” said John Force.
After dealing with mechanical issues and a first round loss last weekend at Topeka, the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello World Champion is still looking to improve his qualifying spot and get some extra NHRA Mello Yello bonus points. If the team can get a handle on the clutch gremlins that send the massive Goodyear slicks up in smoke, they’ll start to rounds on race day.
“We’re learning and every day is a learning process. But I’m excited to be here with Castrol and we’ve been having a ball for 28 years,” said John Force.
John’s lively spirits can be attributed to his team working out the kinks in his Castrol EDGE Machine and improving on its early run of 5.810 seconds at 123.71. It was on this pass that John’s Mustang got out of shape early in the run and he had to shut the car down early.
“We’ve been struggling with the clutch set up this year and haven’t been able to run like we did late last year. Our set up is quite conservative compared to last year but the car still puts up good numbers. For the two sessions tomorrow we’ll be going after consistency than trying to experiment with the set out with hope a picking up a little. The weather conditions will change so we just want to get the car so it will go rounds on Sunday,” said assistant crew chief Danny DeGennaro.
Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car, came out today No. 5 in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings. Force’s hot rod smoked the tires in the opening session today, but recovered in the last run of the day with a stout pass for the No. 6 spot. The 25-year-old driver posted a 4.030 ET at over 319 mph.
“In the night session we were able to go out and lay down a 4.03. It put us No. 6 in qualifying so we’re excited about that. We have a fast car out there and it makes us feel good to start on a good note. We’re excited to go into tomorrow and see if we can get some clean, consistent runs down this race track here in Englishtown,” said Force.
Force picked up the 100th pro win for women in the NHRA last weekend in Topeka, Kansas. The Traxxas Ford Mustang team has two sessions tomorrow to try to pick up some bonus points and move up the ladder to prepare for race day.
“Coming off a win, we’re excited to run in the low 4.0s, but there are a lot of teams out there that are doing the same thing. There are so many great women racers out here right now. It could have been any one of us to get tha
t No. 100. I’m very proud of my Traxxas Ford Mustang team and we’re showing some strong performance so far this weekend so I’m looking forward to the rest of it,” said Force.