CHEVROLET RACING IN NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION
NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
WILD HORSE PASS AT CHANDLER, ARIZONA
FIRST-DAY QUALIFYING RESULTS AND NOTES
FRIDAY, FEB. 24, 2017
Chevrolet Drivers Hold Provisional No. 1 Qualifier Spots in Funny Car, Pro Stock
· Courtney Force sets Funny Car track records at Wild Horse Pass
· Reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line posts 6.509-second run
· Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders happy to be back with Bowtie
· Jeg Coughlin Jr. closing in on top 10 of round wins
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 24) – Courtney Force set the Funny Car elapsed time and speed records at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on the first day of National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) qualifications for the NHRA Arizona Nationals.
Now the John Force Racing driver has set her sights on the national record and, of course, the event victory in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Force’s first pass of 3.838 seconds at 332.67 mph topped the 16-car Funny Car field through two of four rounds of qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations. In Nitro Spring Training at the track earlier this month, Force’s pass of 3.804 seconds was the unofficial national record.
“I obviously would love to make that number real,” said Force, who is coming off a final-round loss in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener two weeks ago. “It’s been in the back of my mind, and I would be pretty bummed if we left this weekend without securing it. It’s pretty dang close and we’re going to keep pushing it.
“After running a number like that in testing, I’m sure a lot of people are expecting our Advance Auto Parts Chevy to run that number again. That’s what we expect, too. That’s the whole reason we are out here pushing the car, trying to replicate what we did in testing and see if we can keep this Chevy Camaro running consistently.”
Force’s run bested the records set in 2016 by John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight (3.905 seconds; 327.11 mph). Matt Hagan holds the Funny Car national elapsed time record of 3.822 seconds. Two additional qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday.
“I’m glad it happened on the first run. It definitely allows you to push the car harder when you can make a solid pass and get secure in the field,” said Force, who was the No. 2 qualifier and advanced to the semifinals at Wild Horse Pass last year. “It’s that first run of the weekend that you’re always the most nervous about, so for our Advance Auto Parts team coming back to a track where we ran killer numbers during testing that’s going to be our goal to try to do it again this weekend.”
Hight (Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS) sits seventh and John Force (PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS) is 11th.
Jason Line, who won the Pro Stock event at Wild Horse Pass last year – the first of his eight victories during the season – to jump-start the run to his third Pro Stock world championship, is the provisional No. 1 qualifier with a pass of 6.509 seconds at 212.19 mph in the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“This off-season was much different from last off-season when we had to come up with the whole package. This year it was about refining the recipe and chiseling away on it. We did and it’s paying dividends for us,” said Line, who was the No. 1 qualifier and won the opener at Auto Club Raceway. “It was a really nice run.”
KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) is second at 6.522 seconds, while Tanner Gray (Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro SS) is third at 6.538 seconds.
Gray, 17, competing in his second Pro Stock event, is competing in the Camaro that his father, Shane, drove in the season opener two weeks ago at Pomona, California. Shane Gray (Gray Manufacturing Tech Chevrolet Camaro SS) is the provisional No. 6 qualifier.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact we are all totally behind Tanner’s racing and if this car is quicker than the other one, even if it’s only by a little bit, it’s worth making the change,” Shane Gray said. “He’ll be in the car I finished last year with and we ended up winning the Vegas race in the fall so we know that car can find the winner’s circle right away. Tanner did pretty good in Pomona. He handled his nerves, drove the car well and was sharp on the tree. He should only get better from here.”
Brittany Force, driving the Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster, is 13th on the Top Fuel qualifying list. She was the event runner-up last year.
Enders happy to be back with Bowtie Brand
Erica Enders is smiling on each pass in the Elite Chevrolet Camaro SS. The two-time Pro Stock champion was the No. 6 qualifier and advanced to the semifinals at Auto Club Raceway, which sets the table for this weekend’s event.
Enders, who has 21 victories in 222 events, won the NHRA Arizona Nationals in 2013 and was the No. 1 qualifier and runner-up in 2015. She is No. 7 on the qualifying chart through two rounds with a best pass of 6.558 seconds.
“It’s no secret we had a down year in 2016, and it was a big deal because we’d just won back-to-back championships. We just struggled with the car we had and never got the engine right,” she said.
“(Elite Motorsports owner) Richard (Freeman) made a big decision, a very expensive decision in the off-season, to switch back to GM horsepower and Chevrolet Camaros. That’s the brand we had when we did all our winning and it’s already made such a difference. We are back in competitive form and come into this race knowing we have a darn good chance to win. It’s been more than a year since we’ve been able to say that.”
Moving in on the top 10
Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Elite Chevrolet Camaro SS) is 10 round wins from tying Bob Glidden (597) for ninth on the all-time list. John Force (1,265) is the leader. He is the provisional No. 8 qualifier with a pass of 6.561 seconds.
In addition to competing in Pro Stock at Wild Horse Pass, Coughlin also is driving the JEGS.com Chevrolet Corvette Super Gas entry.
From the ballpark to the racetrack
Southern California native and Los Angeles Dodgers fan Robert Hight (Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car) has hosted Dodger players on race weekends at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park during their spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
The Dodgers, who fell in the National League Championship Series last year and held their first full-squad workout Feb. 21 under the direction of manager Dave Roberts, begin their preseason schedule Feb. 25 against the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s cool that you get some of the baseball players to come out from spring training to check out NHRA drag racing; that’s what it’s all about,” Hight said.
Bo knows the value of seat time
Bo Butner (Butner Auto Sales Chevrolet Camaro SS) was the No. 1 qualifier and fell in the semifinals last year at Wild Horse Pass. In the 2017 season opener, he also reached the semifinals as the No. 5 qualifier.
Butner said two days of testing at Wild Horse Pass earlier this month will prove beneficial throughout the early section of the schedule. He is the provisional No. 5 qualifier through two rounds at Wild Horse Pass.
“It really helped me gain that confidence back,” said Butner, who was a five-time runner-up in 2016 in the KB Racing-prepared Camaro but is looking for his maiden Pro Stock event win. “I struggled last year hitting the tree, but I’m in a different car this year. Whatever it might be, I feel like this Chevy Camaro is capable of winning, and that we really have a chance whenever we show up.
“I’ll be getting in a brand-new Jerry Haas Camaro soon, but I don’t think there will be a big difference in the actual car. I think it’s the setup, and if we get this setup in the new car, we’ll be able to win. I just want a shot.”