JOHN FORCE No. 2 HEADING INTO RACE DAY IN NORWALK
NORWALK, OH– Under the evening skies over the Ohio landscape, the final qualifying session for 8th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals had John Force pushing his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang to its limits – and it paid off. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello World Champion blazed the Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park surface with a 4.016 second run at 322.04 mph and ended up qualified in the No. 2 spot. Even though the reigning NHRA Funny Car just missed the number one spot by a mere .016 of a second, he did set a track speed record of 322.04 mph. Force leads a strong contingent of Funny Cars into eliminations with Robert Hight in the No. 6 spot and Courtney Force No. 12.
“We had some new sponsors on the starting line so they got a good show tonight with our 4.01 run. We know our hot rod will also run in the heat so this won’t matter. Jimmy (Prock, crew chief, Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) thought this thing would run a four flat or maybe in the threes,” said John Force.
John Force also picked up two additional Mello Yello Bonus Points for his number two qualifying performance on the final session. These will come in handy as he prepares to do battle on race day and every point helps in staying in the top ten. John Force will face fellow Ford Mustang driver Tim Wilkerson in the opening round on Sunday. These two Funny Car veterans have squared off against each other 44 times with John winning 30 of those match ups.
During the third session, John Force was trying to see how far they could push the track conditions. Jimmy Prock and the crew wanted to move their driver up in the qualifying order and get some more bonus points. At the hit of the throttle, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was off like a rocket until it hit the 300-foot mark on the track. Here, the massive Goodyear slicks lost traction and went up in smoke causing John’s Funny Car to dance around. John Force wisely shut it down and coasted across the finish line with a 5.171 second pass at 145.28 mph.
“We were trying to lean on it. We had run a 4.03 and going for number one. Unfortunately it smoked the tires but we knew we had another show during the night session,” said John Force.
Going into the final session, cooler temperatures had descended on Norwalk and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Team was looking to take advantage of the weather and track conditions. Jimmy Prock was looking to extract even more power from the mighty BOSS 500 engine and wanted to put his driver in the number one qualifying position.
“We were trying to run better than we did on the previous session and even last night’s session. The car left the line a little slower than we wanted and might have been closer to a 3.99 of 3.98 pass. We left a hundredth of a second or more on the starting line but other than that, we were happy with how the car ran in the final session,” said Jimmy Prock.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team stepped up in the final qualifying session running 4.05 seconds at 310.91 mph. It was an improvement on their first run on Friday and moved the team up to the No. 6 qualifying position. They will face Cruz Pedregon in the first round. This will be the fourth time Hight has faced Pedregon at Summit Motorsports Park with Hight holding a 2-1 record in previous meetings.
“Cruz is a tough draw in the first round but really any one of these sixteen Funny Car could win this race tomorrow. It will be hotter than we have seen the past two days so we will have to look at previous year’s data. I like our chances since Neff has won here twice. He knows this track pretty well,” said Hight, the current Mello Yello points leader.
Hight shook the tires loose in the first run of the day. His Auto Club Mustang was on a strong run and just about half track his slicks lost traction.
“We learned a few things on that run. I think that run might help us more than the night sessions since we know where the edge is,” said a confident Hight.
It was a challenging day of qualifying for Courtney Force and the Traxxas Ford Mustang team. After two solid passes on Friday, the team struggled on Saturday with getting the car to make a full pass. She posted a 4.915 ET at 170.19 mph in the first session today and then a 4.429 ET at 211.20 mph in the fourth and final session to qualify in the No. 12 spot. She will face Ron Capps in the opening round of eliminations.
“No matter what, it’s a tough race track out here. Obviously we’ve struggled a little bit. It’s definitely been a challenging track today, one of the few for us. It’s going to be tough no matter what lane we’re in. We were able to get down in both lanes yesterday, so we definitely aren’t going into race day blind, but just not where we want to be,” said Courtney Force, winner of the Kansas Nationals earlier this season.
The 26-year-old is 4-9 against Capps in previous events. They also faced each other in the semifinals of last year’s Norwalk race.
“We’re ready to give it all we got. We don’t really have a choice right now. I have faith in my Traxxas guys. I think we’ve got a good car, we just have to get it ready for Capps. We’ll do the best we can and strive for that win light; that’s all that matters,” said Force.
Once again, Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE Dragster showed consistent performance during today’s qualifying sessions. Her 10,000 horsepower race car ran a 3.814 second pass during Saturday’s first session followed up with a 3.820 second run in the second session putting the sophomore Top Fuel driver starting from the ninth spot on race day.
Even though this is the first time in nine races Brittany is not in the top half of qualified field, she still has the momentum from last weekend’s runner-up finish at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals going into final eliminations this Sunday.
“The Castrol EDGE team ended up number nine but we’re still pumped going into race day. Last weekend at Chicago was awesome for us and we still have that same energy going for us heading into Sunday,” said Brittany Force.
The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year will face Spencer Massey in the opening round on Sunday. These two rivals have faced each other eight times in competition with Brittany winning three of the last four match-ups.
“We raced Spencer Massey before but we’re not too worried about it. I know my guys will have the Castrol EDGE Dragster set up to go some round and hopefully make another trip to the finals,” said Brittany Force.
During Saturday’s night qualifying session, crew chief Todd Smith was looking to get Brittany Force qualified number one. He knew the track and weather conditions were conducive for laying down a good number at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. Unfortunately, it’s hard to judge exactly what the car wants and how much power the race track can handle.
“We were swinging for the fences tonight but unfortunately it put a cylinder out just past the Christmas tree and it didn’t quite run what we wanted it to. But, it’s a good and consistent car and we can correct the mechanical issue we had on that run. We have a car that can win on Sunday,” said Todd Smith.