ST LOUIS — Coming into race day at the 5th annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals the four John Force Racing race cars were confident they could make a move up the Mello Yello point standings. Robert Hight driving the AAA Insurance Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car was the No. 1 qualifier and raced to the quarterfinals where he lost a close race by .007 seconds to eventual runner-up Tommy Johnson Jr.

Robert Hight started the day with a confident win over John Hale in the first round. The AAA Insurance Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car blasted down the right lane with a winning elapsed time of 3.909 seconds at 327.66 mph. which was the quickest run of the Funny Car session. The run gave the 2010 AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals winner lane choice over Tommy Johnson Jr.

In second round it was a coin flip off the starting line with Hight getting a miniscule reaction time advantage .061 to .062 seconds as both Funny Cars raced down the track side by side. At the finish line Hight’s Chevrolet was literally nosed out by his opponent by only .007 of a second with an impressive elapsed time for 3.938 seconds for Hight coming up just short to the winning 3.930 seconds.

“I really thought we were going to win this race today. We definitely had a race car that could have won. These Auto Club guys have done an awesome job since Charlotte. We tested and switched a lot of things on this AAA Insurance Camaro and we came in here and were the No. 1 qualifier,” said Hight. “That first run was stout and we just lost a close race in the second round. Breaks are going to start going our way. No one is hanging their heads in this Auto Club pit.”

Hight and the Auto Club team will head to Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania just 114 points out of first place with four races remaining in the Countdown.

Courtney Force was pulling away from Ron Capps in second round when her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car suffered a motor malfunction that robbed the O’Reilly SpringNationals winner of power just before the finish line. Force’s Camaro slowed and Capps drove around her just before the stripe. Force was on the top of her game in the quarterfinal race jumping out to a strong starting line advantage against the point leader.

“Going into that round I mean he is the Funny Car point leader If anybody wants a shot at this championship everyone knows the points leader has to go out early. That was my goal. I gave it everything I had on the starting line. I didn’t really care about lane choice in the semifinals. I really just wanted those points for that win. I think we could have had it but there are a lot of what ifs out here and we will just have to prove ourselves at the next race,” said Force.

“We were on a good run and I was out ahead of him. I didn’t see him the whole way down the track and I really thought we were going to get that win. I was feeling good but right there at the end I had a mechanical issue and the car slowed. I just watched him go by but I kept my foot in the throttle not giving up. Unfortunately, he went around me for the win and we are going to have to pack up and go home early,” summed up Force.

This was the first time in four Countdown races that Force has not prevailed over Capps.

“This Traxxas team has really been fighting hard. This is the time that we need to catch a break. I know our luck is going to turn around. We didn’t need a mechanical issue on that run for sure. We hurt some parts on this Chevy and we’ll get some things changed and get it ready for Reading,” added Force.

Team leader and JFR Funny Car point leader John Force was focused on making up ground again on Capps after Force’s Charlotte victory last weekend. He was also looking to put some distance between his PEAK team and the rest of the Funny Car class. He had one of the toughest first round match-ups to start the day. As the No. 10 qualifier Force had to face reigning Funny Car world champion Del Worsham. The winningest driver in NHRA history was up to the task outrunning Worsham 3.958 seconds to 3.989 seconds for the win.

In the second round Force lost the closest race of the day in any professional category finishing .001 second behind eventual winner Jack Beckman. It was a classic photo finish that unfortunately did not go in favor of the three-time Midwest Nationals winner. In 2013 Force defeated Beckman in the final round but today Force needed just a little bit more.

“This PEAK Chevy hot rod was really good today. We got a big win over (Del) Worsham in the first round. We needed those points. Beckman just got us at the finish line and I thought I won that race it was so close,” said Force. “We have some sponsor appearances for PEAK and PPG between now and Reading but I’ll be ready for these last four races. The fans have been great in St. Louis and we put on a good show for all the AAA Missouri people. We are right up there at the top of the points and it will be fight until the end of the season.”

Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster made quick work of Clay Millican in the first round. It was a close race that Force led from the starting line to the finish line. The winning elapsed time of 3.756 seconds at 324.44 mph was enough for lane choice in the second round over No. 1 qualifier Richie Crampton.

“That was a great way to start the day and we want to start every race with a first round win. That was an awesome run and we’ll be ready for round two. This is the second race of the Countdown so our plan is to go all the way today. We want to catch back up to that No. 1 spot,” said Force from the top end.

In the second round the track was still hot but sporadic clouds floated over the track causing the track temperature to fluctuate slightly. Pulling up beside Lucas Oil teammate Richie Crampton Force, driving the Monster Energy dragster, was looking for another strong run. Force lost traction right off the starting line and pedaled it, but couldn’t catch Crampton and was forced to click off her dragster.

“It is a little tough because we could have made big strides today. We picked up some points in qualifying and we made it to the second round. We will have to focus on the positives and head to Reading,” said Force. “The key is to stay positive. We run pretty well in the cooler weather and we just have to find our groove. We just need to go out there and make four good runs in qualifying and then have some success on race day. There are four races left and if you want a shot at the championship you are going to have to get down the track every single run.”