VALIANT EFFORT BY JFR AT TOUGH CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE US NATIONALS
INDIANAPOLIS — For just the third time in eleven years John Force Racing did not advance a Funny Car to the final round of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Robert Hight and Courtney Force were defeated in the quarterfinals today stopping their efforts to win their fourth or first U.S. Nationals title, respectively. All three JFR Camaro SS Funny Cars qualified in the top half of a very tough Funny Car field. Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster were also unsuccessful in their second round race today.
In the quarterfinal match-up with eventual winner Matt Hagan Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car were pulling ahead for the win when his race car over-powered the track. The extra power caused his tires to lose traction and erased Hight’s advantage as Hagan shot past the three-time U.S. Nationals. After the run the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion was hopeful about the future performance of his Auto Club Camaro SS Funny Car after switching to a new race car after a massive explosion on Saturday.
“Yeah, the first round was a nice run and we got the bugs out of it. It was the first run to the finish line. Then on that second run, we were almost .17 ahead at the 330 (ft. mark). It is just kind of like one move from making it down the track,” confessed Hight. “It was running harder than any car out there in that round, but it was just a little too much. If Mike Neff could make a clutch adjustment, it would be there. In some ways, I think this car is better than our other one. We are going to go to Charlotte and have the bugs worked out of it and we will definitely see if its better.”
Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car were victorious in the first round over veteran driver Tim Wilkerson. Hight got the jump off the starting line and Wilkerson went up in smoke. Hight’s run of 3.93 was his best since before his Funny Car exploded in the final session of qualifying on Saturday.
“We made three runs with this new car yesterday and didn’t really get to the finish line under power. So good job to Mike Neff and all the Auto Club boys because that was a really good start because Tim Wilkerson is a tough competitor and if he had gone down the track, he would have been right there with us at the finish line,” said Hight from the top end.
The team had worked furiously the past two days getting the Auto Club Funny Car together and crew chief Mike Neff recognized the effort after seeing the first win light of the day.
“Yeah, we struggled a bit after that explosion. Fortunately we got to make a few runs yesterday and finally got right this morning. So a better day,” said Neff.
Right after Hight’s day ended Courtney Force pulled up to race Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Traxxas Camaro launched hard. It was giving Johnson Jr. a great race when it lost power just before the finish line. An emergency shut-off switch shook loose and inadvertently engaged killing the power to Force’s race car. As the race car slowed it began dropping cylinders.
“In round two unfortunately we had a mechanical problem with the kill switch getting shut off actually by a piece in the body. We switched the lever yesterday to hopefully avoid a problem where it doesn’t get shut off if there is tire shake on a run. We put a different switch on and it killed it right at the end,” explained Force. “So from the eighth mile on we had them all the way and we were going for the win but unfortunately it was just a kill switch for the car. It totally died but I tried to coast hoping that something would happen and we would get lucky. All-in-all it was a great weekend for our Traxxas team and for all our sponsors out here. We are obviously going to figure out how to fix this problem and get ready going into the Countdown to the Championship.”
Brittany Force and Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster were ousted in second round by Doug Kalitta. Force’s dragster hazed the tires in the right lane just before half-track. When the dragsters got to the finish line it was Kalitta edging out Force 3.833 seconds to 4.791 seconds.
“You know, everybody wants to win Indy and there is so much pressure. And that includes every single person on the team from the driver to the crew chief and everyone. Everyone wants to win it and at the end of the day you want to take home that win for your team,” said Force. “We didn’t get the job done for Monster Energy but we are still on a high note from our win at Brainerd because that was huge for us.”
Brittany Force took out Pat Dakin in the first round with a strong 3.758 second run. The fourth year pro gave up lane choice in the second round. Last year at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Force raced to the semifinals.
Sixteen time Funny Car champion John Force was upset in the first round by Chad Head. The No. 6 qualifier lost by a mere .011 hundredths of a second in the opening round of the U.S. Nationals. Coming in this first round Force held a 5-1 record against the second generation racer. Unfortunately the four-time Indy winner was not able to get his sixth round win as his Chevrolet logoed PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Camaro ran 3.983 seconds against Head’s 3.953 second run.
“Yeah, it’s been a roller coaster ride. It was a roller coaster losing that Auto Club Chevy and then coming out here and winning the Shootout with Courtney and her Chevrolet. Boy it’s been a roller coaster day,” said Force. “If you can’t get to the light, you can’t get the win and that is part of the game. We are excited the way our cars are running, but we are just a notch off. We know what it takes to get there. We are a little behind the eight ball but we are getting caught up with Chevrolet and I am excited.”