HIGHT EAGER TO ARRIVE AT RECORD SETTING MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY
READING, PA (September 27, 2016) — Over the past two weeks Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team have been making performance improvements in leaps and bounds. Following the Carolina NHRA Nationals the Countdown contending team stayed over and tested on Monday. The team saw exciting progress and as a group they were encouraged by the trajectory of improvement.
Last weekend on a hot and muggy race track in St. Louis at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Hight and the Auto Club team reaped some of the benefits of their hard work. The Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car was the quickest Funny Car in three of the four qualifying session and Hight picked up his first No. 1 qualifier of the season. It was a breakthrough moment for the team and one that they felt could lead to race day success.
“This team really got to work after the Charlotte race. They have been busting their butts all season but we really pulled together in testing and you saw the results in qualifying this weekend. I feel really confident about race day in St. Louis but also about the rest of the races in the Countdown,” said Hight on Saturday in St. Louis.
In the first round Hight turned heads racing as half of the first pair of Funny Cars down the track and posting a quickest ET of the day 3.90 second pass in a win over John Hale. The team was feeling confident going into the second round with lane choice over their next opponent. In one of the closest races of the day Hight was upended by .007 of second running 3.938 seconds in a losing effort.
The team evaluated their race car and saw it was still in excellent condition and they loaded up their 10,000 horsepower Nitro coupe and headed back to the Brownsburg, Indiana shop to get geared up for the 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals in a few days. The level of confidence is still high and following a disappointing outcome on Sunday no one in the Auto Club pits was hanging their heads.
“I really thought we were going to win (in St. Louis). 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. 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,” said Hight after the race.
Robert Hight has tasted victory at Maple Grove Raceway winning the historic event in 2011 and racing in the finals in 2006. Last year Hight was the No. 1 qualifier when there was only one round of qualifying contested an ultra-quick Friday night session. Hight set the track record with a 3.92 second run but the unknown of race day conditions was the undoing for a number of teams on Sunday in Maple Grove. Hight was ousted in the first round but isn’t looking at that this season.
“Last year was just a crazy event. Everyone only got one run so you were almost guessing on Sunday morning. We had a tough first round but that was last year. Maple Grove is a great track where you could see some more record setting numbers. I expect big results from myself and this Auto Club Chevy Camaro team,” said Hight.
Since June Hight and the Auto Club team have raced well into race day avoiding first round loses or upsets. The No. 1 qualifier in St. Louis extended a streak of starting a race from the No. 1 position at least once every race of his career that started over a decade ago in 2005. No other professional driver can boast that kind of qualifying excellence or consistency. Hight has also won at least two races every year of his career. The 2009 Funny Car champion picked up his first win this season at the historic Gatornationals and has four more opportunities for a second win this season.
“Anyone still has a chance to win this Funny Car championship,” explained Hight. “We need to have a good race in Reading but I think we can do that. I am excited to get to the track. We have a couple sponsor appearances before the race for PEAK and PPG but when I get to the track everything will focus on Friday’s qualifying runs.”
The first two races of the Countdown have seen two different drivers make dramatic jumps in the Mello Yello point standings. In the opening race John Force moved from 8th to 3rd place with a Countdown opening win. Last weekend Jack Beckman moved up from 8th to 3rd place with his win at Gateway Motorsports Park. Currently Hight is 7th in the Funny Car point standings and a manageable 114 points behind point leader Ron Capps. A win at the Dodge NHRA Nationals could easily move Hight into striking distance of the point leader with three races remaining.
TRAXXAS BACKED COURTNEY FORCE SEEKING POINTS JUMP AT MAPLE GROVE
READING, PA (September 27, 2016) — The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and driver Courtney Force have been one of the most consistent combos this season on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. They have raced to at least the semifinals eight times and picked up a win in Houston and runner-up finishes in Denver, Colorado and Norwalk, Ohio. The eight–time Funny Car winner could have achieved even more success if she could have avoided one driver in particular; her legendary father 16-time Funny Car champion and teammate John Force.
“Racing with my dad has been tough this season. He got me in Denver and then again in Sonoma. I learn a lot from him but I definitely want to start seeing those win lights. It is fun to race against him when it is the final round. We don’t like it when it is early on race day. This Traxxas team has given me one of the best race cars I have even driven. Danny Hood and Ronnie Thompson are doing a great job with this team and I am ready to get to Maple Grove,” said Force.
Last year at the Dodge NHRA Nationals in the lone qualifying session Force found herself in the No. 10 spot at the end of qualifying. On race day giving up lane choice to two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon Force came up short.
“Last year was tough but I learned a lot that I think is paying off this season. We have won a lot of rounds and I have a lot of confidence going into Reading,” said Force.
On race day in St. Louis at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Force was matched up in a tough second round race against the point leader Ron Capps. Force took a starting line advantage and was pulling away from Capps when she experienced and motor malfunction that robbed her of critical power. The malfunction cost Force the win but showed that she has a race car that can run with the top cars.
“Going into that round I mean he was the point leader and if anybody wants a shot at this championship everyone knows the point 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,” explained Force after the tough loss.
Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car will be facing some of the toughest competition in the history of the Funny Car class. Six rounds of racing are the difference between Force and the top spot but there are seven drivers between the 2012 Rookie of the Year and the points lead.
“You look at who we are chasing and it is a tough group of races. The good news is I have a great team with the Traxxas guys and we will be ready to get to Maple Grove Raceway and start getting some of those qualifying bonus points. If you can start getting some of those points and get a good start on Sunday you can make up some ground. No one is going to win the championship this weekend but I think we can make up some ground and get right into the middle of this Countdown,” summed up Force.
BRITTANY FORCE LOOKING FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS AT MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY
READING, PA (September 27, 2016) — The past two years at the Dodge NHRA Nationals have been especially satisfying for Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster team. The fourth year pro has raced to the final round and the semifinals with a dominant race car on race day. Every team talks about races that they could have won if one or two breaks would have gone their way. Without making excuses the last two races for Force at Maple Grove Raceway could definitely fall into the category of the ones that got away.
“We have had great success in Reading. Last year we were No. 1 and raced to the semifinals. The year before that, we had lane choice in the final round and smoked the tires. I look at those races as learning experiences and I want to get those four round wins on Sunday this year. Brian Husen and Alan Johnson have given me a great race car and I can’t wait to get to the track,” said Force.
This season has been a breakthrough season for Force picking up her first three career wins and entering the Countdown as a legitimate championship threat. Force’s victories at the Gatornationals, the Four-Wide Nationals and the Lucas Oil Nationals all highlight the progress the former school teacher turned Top Fuel racer has made in just four seasons at the highest level of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The Gatornationals was the breakthrough win for Force who had previously been in seven final rounds with a win. Just weeks before the Florida race Force was upset in the Phoenix final round but the confident Force put that disappointment in the rear view mirror and won one of the most significant and oldest races on the series. It took the 2013 Rookie of the Year 75 races to win her first race but Force drove the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster back to the winner’s circle just two races later at the unique NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. On race day Force had the quickest race car every round and picked up her second career win while also becoming the first female to win the Four-Wide Nationals.
“This Monster Energy team has been great all season. We have three wins and we set the national elapsed time record in Topeka. I am so proud to race with these guys. We got the win at the Gatornationals and won the same race as my teammate Robert Hight. That was the first JFR double up win and I would love to get some more of those in the Countdown. Everyone on this team is ready for Reading,” said Force.
As the regular season was wrapping up Force once again was in position to win at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota. As the No. 3 qualifier Force worked her way through the elimination rounds and picked up a tough win over reigning Top Fuel champion Antron Brown in the final. Before Force could dispatch Brown she had to take out Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon. It was a signature win to give the team momentum going into the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
At the first two races of the Countdown Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster have stayed within striking distance of the point leaders. Force will head into Maple Grove Raceway just 91 points from the No. 1 spot.
7-TIME MAPLE GROVE WINNER JOHN FORCE CHASING CHAMPIONSHIP AGAIN
READING, PA (September 27, 2016) — John Force is once again chasing the dream of an NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship. The 16-time Funny Car champion has three wins this season and opened up his quest for his unprecedented 17th world championship by winning the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship and jumping from 8th to 3rd in the point standings. Going into the Dodge NHRA Nationals Force is in 4th place and a mere 74 points behind the point leader.
“I have a great hot rod and these young guys on this Advance Auto Parts/PEAK Chevy team have me in the fight. St. Louis was tough but we just lost a close race. We are in 4th place and doing what all our sponsors like PEAK, Auto Club, Monster Energy, Traxxas, Lucas Oil and Mac Tools expect us to do which is getting wins and championships,” said Force.
Since the mid-80s John Force has been a fixture at Maple Grove Raceway. In just his third appearance at the track in eastern Pennsylvania Force recorded his first win there. Over the next three decades Force has dominated Maple Grove racing to thirteen more final rounds and getting six more wins. Force’s most recent win came in 2013 and catapulted Force to his 16th championship.
“I love racing at Maple Grove Raceway. We have won this race a lot and I remember 2013 when we got the win and then went on to win the championship in Las Vegas. I have a lot of fans up here and the biggest thing I have is these young guys led by Jon Schaffer, Jason McCulloch and Nick Casertano on this PEAK Funny Car,” said Force.
This season Force jumped into the championship mix with back to back wins to start the Western Swing. Force picked up his first win in Denver taking out his daughter Courtney Force in an all-JFR Chevrolet Funny Car final. The next week Force won Sonoma outrunning Ron Capps for the win. Those wins moved Force solidly into the Top Ten and the 146-time winner went into the Countdown as the No. 8 driver.
The win in Charlotte at the Carolina NHRA Nationals was a statement win that moved Force from 8th to 3rd and served notice to the rest of the Funny Car class. The competition has never been tougher but the winningest driver in NHRA history has four more races this season to further build in his legendary career. Over the next four races Force has picked up 24 wins over the course of his career. That kind of success has given Force the kind of confidence any driver needs to make a run for the championship.
“My whole team is running with the rest of the pack. We were right there with them in St. Louis. The conditions will be good in Reading and I am ready to get in my PEAK hot rod on the track,” said Force.
Leading up to the race in Maple Grove Raceway Force will be making sponsor appearances for PEAK in Milwaukee on Tuesday and on Wednesday Force will be in Pittsburgh talking with a group from PPG. The biggest name in drag racing knows that the work off the track is as critical as the on-track performance.