ROBERT HIGHT’S WIN CAPS DOMINANT WEEKEND FOR JFR
DENVER, CO — John Force Racing had three chances to win the Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals today. For the first time since debuting the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster in 2013 JFR had two Funny Cars in the final round and Brittany Force in the Top Fuel final. Funny Car No. 2 qualifier Robert Hight outran a tire smoking No. 1 qualifier John Force in the Funny Car final, 4.166 seconds to 5.953 seconds, setting the stage for a JFR double-up win. Unfortunately the third time was not the charm and Brittany Force was bested by JR Todd in the Top Fuel final.
Hight picked up his fifth win of the season, tying a career high, and his third win at the Mopar Mile High Nationals. He also evened his career record with Force, 16-16 and he now has a 3-2 lead in final round meetings. Force and Hight have lined up against each other four times at Denver before the final and Force was undefeated until today.
Hight started the season with four wins including three in a row earlier in the year. Today’s win was the eighth for JFR in fourteen races this season, Since his win at the Southern Nationals Hight had only one semi-final round appearance.
“We were doing well and we just had some bad luck here and there. You need to have some luck and even when we were winning earlier we were getting some luck. It is good to be back. In 2012 we won four races in a row and then it took another year to get a win. Stuff like that was crossing my mind. If you look around it is not that easy to win out here. There are a lot of good Funny Cars in this class,” said Hight, a 34-time winner.
“I was racing the 16-time champ in the final. He won last week so he is on a roll. We just had to go up there and do what we knew we could do. We came out with a brand new race car this weekend. We want to make sure it is all ready for the Countdown. If my guys wouldn’t have told me it was a new car I would not have known. Usually new cars drive me crazy because there is different stuff in them. These guys are so good they put this car together perfectly and I would not have known it was different.”
This was the 43rd all-JFR final round and the second time Robert Hight and John Force have opposed one another at Denver where Robert also beat John to win in 2010. This was the 11th Denver wins for JFR. Hight has won in 2005, 2010 and 2014. Just qualifying locked up Hight’s Countdown play-off berth but he was not focused on the championship yet.
“We just go one round at a time. That is how Mike Neff races. Usually that pay off with a lot of round wins. Nothing would mean more to me than to go to Sonoma and win because that is like my home track. This is a big win and we are going to celebrate this one tonight,” said Hight.
“That is exciting. We have some unfinished business. We want to win this Western Swing. We are working really well together. Mike and Jimmy are talking and we are working well as a team. That 4.17 was a step in the right direction since we learned some things yesterday when it was hot. We’ll be ready for the next round,” said Hight after a first round in that clinched his Countdown spot.
Hight defeated veteran Todd Simpson in the first round and then faced teammate Courtney Force in the second round. In the semi-finals he squared off against fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson.
Brittany Force went to her third final of season behind the wheel of her Castrol EDGE Dragster. Despite having only one good qualifying run all weekend, her crew, led by Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli, got it together on race day and gave the 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year a car that almost went all the way to the winner’s circle.
In the final round, Brittany went up against J.R. Todd. These two young drivers have faced each three times in the past.
Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster left the starting line first with J.R. Todd in hot pursuit.At the halfway mark, Brittany was still out on Todd but then her engine began to lose power due to a mechanical failure. Brittany stayed in throttle as long as she could, determined to get to the finish line first but it was to no avail as Todd got around her before the finish line with a faster 3.878 second run to Brittany’s slowing 3.968 second pass.
“I told my guys earlier, I’m so proud on how we did all weekend. With four qualifying runs, we only made one good pass so to be able to only work off one good run and go all the way to the finals here in Denver on race day is pretty exciting. I know I’ve already said it but again, I can’t tell you how proud I am of every single one of these guys, they’ve worked so hard, especially my crew chiefs, Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli, they’ve been so patient with me, they are awesome in how they got this dragster turned around,” said Brittany Force.
As a driver, Brittany earned her pay today as she had a better reaction time in three out of the four rounds of eliminations. The fact she has been practicing her routine is paying off as the 27-year-old driver knows races can we won or lost on the starting line.
“We went out there today and had some great runs. I was proud that on the final run I was able to leave on Todd as that was one of the main things, I wanted to make my team proud and make sure I was doing my job as driver. It was a close race, I saw him right next to me and I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty run as I could feel the engine starting to come apart but I kept my foot in anyway trying to get that win,” said Brittany Force.
In the opening round, Brittany Force was paired up with Khalid alBalooshi, a formidable competitor to say the least. In what could be described as a tire smoking run, Brittany used her skills and back pedaled her dragster to get it to hook back up. It worked as she took the win and would advance to the quarter-finals.
In next round, she faced female rookie driver Jenna Haddock. Before the first round, Brittany spoke to her on how cool it would be if they both made it past the first round and race each other in the quarter-finals. As luck would have it for both drivers, they would face each other and Brittany would get the win with a consistent 3.990 second run at 303.84 mph.
“I went up to her (Jenna Haddock) before the run and wished her good luck and told to get past Tony (Schumacher) and we’ll have each other in the next round and we did,” said Brittany Force.
In the semi-finals, Brittany would face Bob Vandergriff Jr. and once again, the consistency of her Castrol EDGE Dragster paid off as it went right down the track with a 3.923 second run while her opponent’s race car began to haze the tires.
Brittany Force will leave the first stop of the Western Swing in 7th place with 783 Mello Yello points. She’s looking forward to climbing back in the cockpit of her dragster next weekend in Sonoma and heading up to Seattle in two weeks to hopefully go to the final round again.
John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang stampeded past the competition today heading into the final. Hoping to claim his third win of the season and career victory number 141, John was the odds-on favorite to hoist the Wally over his head in the winner’s circle but it was no to be. Force’s Funny Car got out of shape at the 300-foot mark as it began to lose traction.
The seasoned veteran tried to pedal it but he couldn’t get the car to hook up and all John could do was watch Robert Hight cruise on down the track.
However, for the reigning NHRA Funny Champ, it was a great weekend as not only was it an all JFR Funny Car final, he also got see his daughter, Brittany Force, go to her third final round appearance of the season.
“Well, in the Funny Cars, we had Robert’s Auto Club Ford and my Castrol Mustang was going to the finals so one of us was going to win. With Brittany, I’m really looking forward to her to get her first win. I don’t want her to be a bridesmaid like me. I went to nine or ten final before I finally won but it’s very important that she get a win but was beat by a great team. So, we’ll just move on from there, it’s like you don’t win the ESPYS but it doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying,” said John Force.
Going into race day, John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car had qualified in the No. 1 spot with a thundering 4.049 second run at 318.39 that set both ends of the record at Bandimere Speedway. Crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team had the 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine dialed-in to run in the thin air of the track’s 5800-foot elevation. The team also knew just how far they could push the racing surface and the heat without blowing away the massive Goodyear slicks on John’s Mustang.
In the opening round, John Force faced Jeff Diehl and even though Diehl qualified in the 16th spot, Force wasn’t taking him lightly. He knows anything can happen and was just as focus as ever to get his Mustang to the finish line first. Has the amber lights flashed on the Christmas tree, Diehl got a little anxious and left too early which resulted in a red light and instant disqualification. For John Force, it didn’t matter as he had a great reaction time and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car marched right down the track and lit up the scoreboards with a 4.157 second ran at 306.40 mph.
John Force then headed into the quarter-finals where he would face former NHRA Funny Car World Champ and arch rival Matt Hagan. Even though John had lane choice, he knew Hagan would be extremely tough. With nearly identical reaction times, Force and Hagan’s nitro fuel machines leapt off the starting together were side-by-side until the 330-foot mark until Hagan’s car begun to smoke the tires while John’s Mustang went right down the groove.
At the first hint of green from the Christmas tree, John’s Mustang blasted off the line and led all the way to the finish line. The scoreboards lit up with a 4.217 second run at 279.21 mph. Not the best run during eliminations, but enough to get Force to the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, John would go up against Ron Capps in what could’ve been a repeat of the finals two weeks ago in Norwalk. In Force fashion, he staged deep but this time went too far and knocked the top bulb out on the Christmas tree. Like Norwalk two weeks ago, his Mustang went right down the track to take the win.
“I really screwed up in the semi-finals and something screwed up on the Christmas tree, I lost lane choice going into the finals,” said John Force.
This would set the stage for a great team rivalry between the Castrol and Auto Club crews in the finals
“We wanted to give the fans a great race and I’ve got a good car right now but so does Robert. Because of the brief rain shower, Jimmy Prock went to reevaluate the track conditions. I was also watching Brittany to see if she can get that first win for Castrol EDGE. It just awesome and we love racing up here on the mountain at Bandimere Speedway,” said John Force.
John Force is still solidly in second place with 998 points and even though he came up just short today, the Castrol GTX High Mileage team is ready to continue the annual NHRA Western Swing hitting on all eight, going rounds and going to the finals.
From the No. 7 spot, Courtney Force took her Traxxas Ford Mustang to the second round on race day and subsequently moved up one spot to the No. 5 position in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings. She posted a 4.335 ET to take down Del Worsham’s 4.810 ET in the opening round, but lost to her brother-in-law Robert Hight in the quarterfinals. Force posted a 4.287 ET to Hight’s 4.226 ET.
“We had a good weekend out here at Bandimere Speedway. We were able to move on to round two only to be taken out by my teammate Robert Hight, who has been on a roll lately. He went on to win the race, but we’re not disappointed out here. We’re figuring some things out and we’re excited,” said Force.
The third-year driver is solidly in the Top Ten going into Sonoma next weekend, the second stop on the Western Swing. There are just four races left until the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
“I think it was a great weekend for John Force Racing. We had an all-JFR final in Funny Car and my sister Brittany went onto her third career final in Top Fuel. Our Traxxas team was even able to move up in points and I think that’s the most important thing. We’re going to keep our heads up and look at the positives and move forward into Sonoma. Hopefully we can get some rounds there because the most important thing right now is to clinch into the Countdown to the Championship just like my brother-in-law Robert Hight has done this weekend,” said Force.