BRISTOL, TN — The 15th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals wrapped up a three races in three weeks odyssey that saw John Force Racing racing and winning from Englishtown, New Jersey to Epping, New Hampshire to Bristol, Tennessee. Today at Bristol Dragway John Force, the event No. 1 qualifier fell to eventual finalist Ron Capps in the second round. The 16-time champion posted the quickest run of the first round, 4.10 seconds, with his win over Terry Haddock but he smoked the tires in a close side by side race against Capps. The track temperature soared throughout the day with the wild swings from the nighttime qualifying runs to the daytime elimination runs wreaking havoc on the crew chiefs.

“We got beat in the heat like a lot of the other teams. Bottom line we are learning something with our cars every run. We are training new crew guys and we have financial backing. Some of the stuff that we are trying we are getting rid of and some of it we are keeping. Running that 3.978 was good and got us the No. 1 qualifier. I was also the lowest ET of the first round today in the heat which is positive. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We will be OK,” said Force, who held onto the No. 3 spot in the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings.
Force entered the race as the most recent winner coming on the heels of his 143rd win last weekend at New England Dragway. Over the last four races Force has two final round appearances and has moved from No. 7 to No. 3 in the Funny Car points.
A broken crank shaft ended the day early for Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Hight had qualified No. 9 with a 4.049 second run and gave up lane choice to veteran driver Ron Capps in the first round. Both Funny Cars launched at the same time and at half-track the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS the crank shaft gave way and Hight immediately lost power as Capps drove around him for the round win.
“This was a tough loss today but no one is hanging their head on this Auto Club team. Mike Neff and I have been going over the car and some of the things we are testing. I think we found some things this week when you look at the run we made in the first qualifying session yesterday which was the quickest of the class in the heat. That is the kind of tune up we need for the races upcoming up. I am already looking forward to getting to Norwalk,” said Hight.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster qualified in the top half of the field on the strength of their 3.787 second run yesterday during the final qualifying session. The third year driver was paired up with veteran J.R. Todd in the first round.
The tandem of 10,000 hp dragsters were the first two race cars down the track to start the Thunder Valley Nationals and they gave the fans in attendance a great side by side race. Unfortunately for Force the Monster Energy dragster dropped off in performance slightly in the heat and posted a losing time of 3.870 at 290.26 mph beside Todd’s 3.822 second, 321.58 mph run.
“We have been on a roll with semi-final finishes and a runner-up. It was tough to be the first pair up and have our day end early. We have a week off and we know what we need to work on. We will regroup and be ready for Norwalk.”
Force will hold onto her No. 8 position in the Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings with an off week before the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Summit Racing Motorsports Park July 4th weekend.
Courtney Force qualified in the No. 7 position and lined up beside competitor Cruz Pedregon in the first round of eliminations. They were 4-4 in past events. This is the first time they have raced in 2015, but only the fourth time they have drawn each other in the first round. The last time they raced was Topeka 2014 in the final round when Force got the 100th professional win for women in the NHRA.
“We had a tough weekend here in Bristol. I celebrated Father’s Day with my dad and cheered him on through the second round. Our Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team is just really starting to have some bad luck on race day. We had a good car throughout qualifying and we were feeling confident going into first round. Our incremental times were amazing all the way through our run until it decided to drop a cylinder right at the end.
“You can’t really explain some of the things that happen with these 10,000 horsepower race cars, but we’re going to keep our heads up and move on to Norwalk. My crew chiefs and I talked with my team and everyone is motivated going into the next race. We may be struggling now, but I know that we have a great race car, a great team and I have confidence in the entire team to come around and come back from this because we’re not that far off of 10th in points,” said Force.