JOHN FORCE ENTERS COUNTDOWN FOCUSED ON CHARLOTTE WIN
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2016) — For over three consecutive decades John Force has finished the NHRA season in the Top Ten. Sixteen times over that period when all the round wins were added up Force was the world champion. The last time Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, hoisted the world champion Funny Car trophy was at the conclusion of the 2013 season and for Force that seems like a lifetime ago. Heading into the 9th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals this weekend Force is looking to return to championship form with his Advanced Auto/PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Force will start his race for his unprecedented 17th Mello Yello NHRA Funny Car championship this weekend at zMax Dragway.
“I haven’t won the championship since 2013 and my team hasn’t gone three seasons in a row without a Funny Car championship since before 1990. I am looking to get another championship and if I can’t then I am pulling for Robert or Courtney. I have a great hot rod and my young team is getting better. I am excited to be heading back to Charlotte. The last couple of years we have started the Countdown with some success but I want to start with a win,” said Force, who has two regular season wins in 2016.
While Force might be entering the Countdown in the bottom half of the Top Ten, starting from the No. 8 position, he has a strong record against his fellow Countdown competitors. He has the fourth highest winning percentage this season against Countdown Funny Car drivers, winning 55% of his head to head match-ups in 2016 versus the best of the best. In fact throughout the whole regular season Force only raced four rounds against non-Countdown qualified Funny Cars picking up a 3-1 record in those races.
“I am rebuilding this franchise with a young crew led by Jon Schaffer. We have been making progress but now we are in the Countdown and we have six races left to get us this championship. I am going to do everything I can to give my PEAK team the best shot at winning this championship. I owe it to all the sponsors that have supported me like PEAK, Chevrolet, Auto Club, Traxxas, Monster Energy, Mac Tools and Lucas Oil. I love being in the hunt,” said Force.
The 16-time Funny Car champion has a runner-up finish at the Carolina Nationals to his credit finishing second in 2014. Last year as the No. 6 qualifier, Force raced to the semifinals. While he hasn’t hoisted the Wally in the Fall the 145-time winner did win the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in 2010 and raced to two more final rounds at the unique four-wide format race.
“I know how to win at zMax Dragway. I won the first Four-Wide race and we have been to the finals here. The competition is tough and you look at the record times in Funny Car,” said Force. “This will be a tough championship to win but I am an old truck driver so I can handle the pressure. All I ever wanted was a chance and I have a chance to get another championship this season. We have a couple wins already this season but now we have a brand new season starting in Charlotte.”
Force will be back in his red and blue Advanced Auto Parts PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car for the first Countdown race. On Thursday before the race Force and his youngest daughter Courtney will be part of an exciting announcement with sponsor Lionel in a Facebook Live event.
COUNTDOWN STARTS FOR ROBERT HIGHT AND AUTO CLUB CHEVROLET IN CHARLOTTE
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2016) — This weekend Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team will be looking to start the 2016 NHRA Countdown with a win. The NHRA Funny Car champion did just that in 2009 when he jumped from the No. 10 position to the middle of the pack with a Countdown opening victory. Starting from the No. 6 position a win at the Carolina Nationals could easily move Hight and his Mike Neff tuned Funny Car into one of the top positions by the end of the race weekend.
“The Countdown really gives anyone in the Top Ten a chance. I have to be honest though, I am not sure anyone will be able to come back from the No. 10 spot like I did in 2009. The competition is just so tough but there are only 110 points separating all the Countdown teams. It will be a dog fight for sure,” said Hight.
Hight also pulled off a Countdown opening win in 2013 and it was teammate John Force who went on to pick up his 16th NHRA Funny Car championship that season. Since the early 90s John Force Racing has never gone three seasons in a row without a Funny Car championship. Hight was a part of many of those championships as a crewman and driver.
“You never take winning for granted. We have worked very hard over the past two and a half decades to be the best Funny Car team out here. That drive comes from John Force but everyone on my team is focused on the goal of getting this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro another championship. The play-offs start this weekend and our first real test will be qualifying on Friday,” added Hight.
Throughout the season as performance number across the category have been shattered and track records lowered at just about every track across the country Hight’s team has been in the thick of the battle. In seven of the last eight races Hight’s best elapsed time have been in the previously mindboggling 3.80 second range. Twice in that span that elapsed time was only quick enough to start Hight in the No. 9 position.
“The competition is so quick now that just running in the 3.8s isn’t enough. We are right there with everyone but everything has to go right. The first day of qualifying is key and you want to get a low number on Friday for qualifying,” said Hight. “We have to be nearly perfect but so does everyone else out here. Races are being decided by a thousandth of a second. That means the driver has to do his or her job on the starting line and the crew has to do their job in the pits. I have a great team that I have a lot of confidence in.”
This season Hight picked up his first win at the Gatornationals and he raced to the final round of the lucrative $100,000 to win Traxxas Nitro Shootout for the third year in a row. Those successes along with five semifinal finishes have Hight feeling good about his chances for another Mello Yello Funny Car championship.
“There are nine other teams out there that have a shot at this championship. Half of them including myself have already won at least one Funny Car championship so they have some experience. The other teams are hunger for their first championship. It will be a great battle for sure and I am glad I am with these Auto Club guys as well as all our other sponsors like Chevrolet, Mac Tools, Lucas Oil, PEAK, Traxxas and Monster Energy. We have a lot of support and we will definitely be hearing a lot of cheers from our fans in Charlotte,” summed up Hight.
FIRST STEP TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STARTS IN CHARLOTTE FOR COURTNEY FORCE
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2016) — This season has been a blur for fifth year Funny Car driver Courtney Force and her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team. The 2012 Rookie of the Year won the NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston locking up a spot in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout and moving her into the Funny Car points lead. The Traxxas team held onto the points lead for three more races and at one point NHRA history was made when both Courtney and her sister Brittany Force were in the Funny Car and Top Fuel points leads respectively.
“This season has been a huge improvement over last season. We definitely bounced back this year and I think we are a much stronger team because of some of the hardships we overcame last season. We are back in the Countdown and I think we have a real shot at the championship. This is the best team I have every had coming into the Countdown and Danny Hood and Ronnie Thompson have given me the most consistent Funny Car,” said Force.
Two weeks ago Force won the $100,000 top prize in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. It was her first specialty race win and the third win for JFR in the Traxxas Shootout. The youngest Force daughter had to outrun her brother-in-law and teammate Robert Hight for the big check and that kind of competitiveness has made Force a stronger driver.
“I definitely am more like my father (16-time champion John Force) when it comes to being competitive. We bump heads a lot because we both want to win so badly. Robert is a tough competitor and I think we have three of the best Funny Cars and Funny Car teams out here. I am glad I have these guys on my side for sure. I can go to them for advice and I also talk with my sisters Ashley and Brittany,” said Force.
In addition to the win in Houston Force also has a runner-up finish in Norwalk and Denver to her credit this season. She will enter the Countdown and Carolina NHRA Nationals as the No. 4 Funny Car and just fifty points out of first place. In order to cut into the lead of the three drivers in front of her Force will need to have success on par with her efforts in 2013 when she raced to the semifinals before being defeated by Hight.
The good news for Force is she has qualified well at zMax Dragway starting from the top half of the field in three of her four appearances at the Carolina Nationals and so far this season Force has started from the top half of the field every race.
“The key is consistency and confidence. I have had a great race car all season and that has given me a lot of confidence. I love driving this Traxxas Chevy Camaro. My focus this weekend will be on taking each round one of qualifying, one round at a time,” said Force.
AS COUNTDOWN BEGINS BRITTANY FORCE EXCITED TO CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP
CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2016) — Last week Monster Energy Top Fuel driver Brittany Force got a taste of the excitement of racing for the championship alongside NASCAR driver Kurt Busch at an all-day media event at zMax Dragway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bruton Smith’s combo NHRA and NASCAR set-up affords Charlotte area fans something no one else in the country can enjoy which is play-off racing action from the NHRA and NASCAR Countdown and Chase formats. This weekend the 10,000 horsepower NHRA Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars along with the rest of the competitors in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be starting their respective runs for the NHRA championship at the 9th annual Carolina NHRA Nationals. Brittany Force will be one of the favorites as she looks for her first Top Fuel world championship.
“We had a great regular season but now we have to forget about that and focus on the Countdown. Every season I have goals for myself and for the Monster Energy team. We have achieved a lot of goals this season but there are more out there. Winning a championship is definitely one of my goals and I am excited to start racing in Charlotte this weekend,” said Force.
During the media event last week Force raced Busch in COPO Camaros on the zMax Dragway and then the pair headed over to Charlotte Motor Speedway where they made some laps with Busch behind the wheel. In the drag race Force was upset 2-1 but admitted to some learning curve issues with the powerful Camaro.
“When I launched that Camaro got pretty sideways and I had to lift. I am not making any excuses but I would gladly have Kurt win this race if I can get that win in my Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster to start the Countdown,” said Force after the best of three race.
When the two-time winner and national elapsed time record setter exited the Richard Petty Driving Experience Chevrolet after a few laps around the speedway Force was excited, impressed and blown away.
“That was awesome. Those guys are crazy. I know what going 330 mph feels like in a straight line and it is intense for sure. Turning left at almost 200 mph is amazing. I have a lot of respect for Kurt and the rest of those drivers. It really gives you some perspective on how challenging both of these different series are,” added Force.
This weekend Force, who starts her first serious run for the Top Fuel championship as the No. 4 driver in the Countdown, is only 50 points out of the top spot. That is less than three rounds of racing and something Force knows is both a positive and a negative.
“They reset the points for the Countdown so we are right behind the top drivers but that also means there are six other drivers right behind us. We have to be at the top of our game starting in Charlotte. I have a lot of confidence in Brian Husen and Alan Johnson. They have won championships before so I am going to listen to them and give it my best. This whole Monster Energy team has really come together this season and I am proud to be racing for this championship with them,” said Force.
The last time Brittany Force was at zMax Dragway she was victorious at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. She had the quickest race car of every round on race day out running many of her Countdown contending foes on Sunday. The first race of the Countdown has not been kind to the fourth year pro as she will be looking for her first round win in September at zMax Dragway. Qualifying starts on Friday afternoon and continues into Saturday with final eliminations starting at noon on Sunday.