JOLIET, IL– Both Robert Hight and Brittany Force held onto their positions as category leaders but they will not go into race day as the top qualifiers at the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Despite her best efforts to hang on to the number one qualifying position, Brittany Force will start race day from the fourth spot. Her Castrol EDGE Dragster did make four great runs this weekend which is important for Brittany and her crew as it is consistent performance that wins races on Sunday and not always the lowest time.

“I have been feeling bad the last couple of days but you have to suck it up out here. We ran consistent but we slipped back a little in qualifying. We are still No. 4 which is awesome and I am excited for tomorrow,” said Brittany Force.

This is Force’s ninth straight Top Eight start, pretty impressive for this sophomore Top Fuel driver. When compared to her freshman season behind the wheel of the Castrol EDGE Dragster, she only had five top half qualifying positions.

The 2013 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner is focused on going rounds tomorrow and moving up in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel Points chase and potentially getting the first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.

“I want to go some rounds with the Castrol EDGE Dragster. My guys have been working really hard all day and these two night sessions make for some short nights. We will be ready for Terry McMillen tomorrow for sure,” said Brittany Force.

Brittany was the provisional number one qualifying after last night’s session as her 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster blazed the track surface at Route 66 Raceway with a ground pounding 3.791 second pass at 324.51 mph.

Going into today’s sessions, Brittany managed to run a 3.918 second pass and then followed up with a much stronger 3.801 on the fourth and final session. These may not have been record setting runs but they reflect the team’s strategy to tune for race day conditions and not always try to rotate the earth by putting big numbers on the scoreboards in qualifying.

With Brittany facing Terry McMillen in the opening round tomorrow, she’ll be looking to even the score as she is currently 0-1 against him in a prior match up. Brittany will have lane choice over McMillen who qualified in the 13th spot.

In the first session Robert Hight and the Auto Club team smoked the tires at the top end but were not deterred from the goal in front of them. They were in the last pair with veteran Ron Capps who also hazed his Goodyears in the lane beside Hight.

“We were pushing a little hard in the first run today and the tires just broke loose at the top end. The goal was to see how hard we could run in the heat and then come back in the night session and try and put up a low ET,” said Hight.

In the night session Hight was again paired with Capps in the last pair. The points leader just saw Tommy Johnson Jr. grab the No. 1 qualifier position with a 3.999 second run and the Auto Club team was aiming to make a run to grab the top spot back. Hight’s Funny Car was charging but the number that lit up the scoreboard was a strong 4.038 second run that secured Hight’s spot as the No. 3 qualifier but did not move him around Johnson.

“The track has so tight you could throw just about anything at it. I think there were more threes out there but the goal is to get the car down the track without smoking the tires. The conditions tonight will not be out there tomorrow morning. I am glad we got a strong run in the first qualifying session and we learned a few things on the first run today. We will be ready for a long race day tomorrow,” said Hight.

With consistent runs and repeatable performance, John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage team qualified in the top-half of the field with a strong 4.036 second run at 316.90 mph. He will start race day from the fourth spot in the opening round and with lane choice over a driver he’s all too familiar with.

The driver he’ll face in the next lane will be Alexis DeJoria and the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Champ is looking to even the score from his semi-final loss to her at last weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals.

Both drivers will be racing for the number two spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car points standings this Sunday. Only two points separate them and for John, he knows he has to get past DeJoria in round one.

“She’s a great kid and a great competitor. I love racing her so we’ll give the fans a great show,” said John Force.

John Force is 8-6 in prior match ups with DeJoria and has lost to her three times this season. However, John has lost to DeJoria in the last two races so he knows he’ll have be focused behind the wheel and the Castrol GTX High Mileage team will have the 8000 horsepower Mustang tuned up and raring to go.

Luckily for John Force, the mechanical gremlins that plagued his race car have vanished so far this weekend. The massive Goodyear slicks did spin on Friday’s opening session but crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team made some minor adjustments before the second run.

“We smoked the tires on the first pass and that’s why we didn’t try to go for it tonight on that final session. We knew there was a three second run out there but like Jimmy (Jimmy Prock, crew chief Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) said, ‘we need to find consistency’ and if we run what we know and try repeat what we did earlier, then we know how to set the car up to run in the heat tomorrow. I’m excited knowing what Jimmy’s doing a great job in tuning my old hot rod,” said John Force.

It was a strong 4.049 second run at 316.38 mph on Friday night that had John solidly in the field. He would later come back and run a 4.036 second pass this evening that would move him up from sixth to fourth in qualifying.

“We ran 4.03 trying to get consistency in this car and it seemed to work. Both Robert’s and Courtney’s cars are running good so we’ll see what happens as there’s a lot of great cars out there,” said John Force.

After last weekend’s semi-final finish at New England Dragway, it appears the Castrol GTX High Mileage team has turned the corner and ready to go rounds and win races. One thing the winningest driver in NHRA history knows is not to get too cocky or over-confident going into Sunday and just take each race one round at a time.

John Force hasn’t won the Route 66 NHRA Nationals since beating fellow teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight in the final in 2006. Hopefully, this will be the weekend John Force will claim his 140th career victory.

The Traxxas Ford Mustang team came into Saturday in the top twelve from Friday after making two great runs and sat solidly in the No. 4 spot. Today, Force opened up with a pass down the race track at 4.136 seconds and 310.70 mph in the heat of the day. They closed out the second session with a 4.038 ET at a huge speed of 322.50 mph to make top speed of the weekend in the Funny Car category and go to the No. 5 spot. She will take on Bob Tasca III in the opening round tomorrow.

“We actually have a really consistent race car this weekend. It gets me pumped up for race day. We’re going to race a fellow Ford driver in the opening round, Bob Tasca II. I’m excited about this Traxxas team. My guys were excited to lay down this 4.03 tonight and staying in the top half of the field for both days of qualifying,” said Force.

The 26-year-old is 7-2 versus Tasca. They have met up in the first round five times, including the last three times they have met on race day. This will be their first meeting of the year.  She now has four consistent passes under her belt this weekend, which hasn’t happened at this specific race track in the last two years, and she has qualified in the top half of the field in the last six events.

“It definitely gets you pumped up when you feel like you have a consistent car. We got down the track all four passes. Consistency is key on race day so that’s what we need. Tomorrow is a new day. It’s definitely going to be different conditions for what we had all through qualifying. The sun is going to be out. We’re going to start running at 11 AM. We’re going to give it all we got and go for our first win here in Chicago,” said Force.