TEAM JFR RACE REPORT
5th of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series
16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev.
April 12, 2015
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Final round results from Sunday’s 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, fifth race in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro SS, 4.148, 312.35 mph def. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 4.154, 306.05 mph.
TOP FUEL –Richie Crampton, Brownsburg, Ind., Lucas Oil dragster, 3.902, 301.33 mph def. Larry Dixon, Avon, Ind., C&J Energy/Tiger dragster, 4.466, 201.73 mph.
PRO STOCK – Erica Enders-Stevens, New Orleans, La., Elite Motorsports, 6.674, 207.24 mph def. Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills, NY, Mountainview Tires Chevrolet Camaro, 6.674, 207.91 mph.
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FORCE WINS HIS 142nd, No. 1 FOR JFR CHEVROLET CAMARO
LAS VEGAS ---- John Force and his Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team battled all day but in a true team effort he picked up his 142nd career Funny Car win and the first behind the wheel of Chevrolet Camaro SS at the 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals. Force had to outrun teammate Robert Hight in one of the closest races of the weekend, a side by side race that was decided by two thousandths of a second at the finish line. The win for Force was the culmination of months of planning and rebuilding both on financial and personnel fronts.
“It shows that when you get a plan you stick with it, you don’t change. We struggled for five races and we couldn’t win a round. It wasn’t just me it was me and Robert Hight. We made it work with a group that stood by us,” said an elated Force from the SummitRacing.com winner’s circle.
“I said in an article with NBCSports.com I am not just scared; I am terrified of not getting to drive a race car or going back to that trailer house in Bell Gardens, California. This win showed the new partners and the old ones that I have the guts to keep doing this. Auto Club and Traxxas and Mac Tools stood by me and then we brought on Peak Antifreeze, Lucas Oil and Chevrolet. I have a young group of guys and we pulled together. We have been working every race on getting better and it showed today.”
Force’s 248th final round was in jeopardy midday and without the help of the Auto Club Chevy Funny Car team prior to the semi-finals fans would not have been treated to the 45th all JFR Funny Car final round.
“We saw that we had a problem and we had to switch out motors. This was about 40 minutes before the semi-finals. All my guys and all of Robert’s Auto Club guys were working and we got it done just in time. We had a tow strap break and my guys had to push this Chevy all the way up to the starting line almost,” recounted Force in a packed pressroom. “(Crew chief) Jon Schaffer and these young guys, I call them The Replacements like from the movie, really came together today and I am really proud of everyone at John Force Racing. We are rebuilding this team and today showed we are going in the right direction.”
Force had a tough first round match-up against Chad Head. It was a critical round for Force when you consider he was sitting in the No. 13 position in the Mello Yello points and Head was two slots in front of him. A loss would have been a major setback but crew chief Jon Schaffer had a winning combination for Force and took the win 4.138 seconds to Head’s 4.337 seconds run. This momentum helped propel Force up to No. 6 in the Mello Yello points by the end of the day, a massive seven spot jump up the points ladder.
In the second round Force was giving up lane choice to reigning world champion Matt Hagan but once again Schaffer and the Chevrolet Camaro SS team gave Force a chance to get the win as he blasted down the right lane in 4.158 seconds as Hagan smoked the tires in the left lane and had to watch as Force advanced to his first semi-final of the season.
The semi-final race versus Alexis DeJoria was almost anti-climactic after the pre-run drama in the pits. A problem was discovered with less than 45 minutes before the call time and the Chevrolet team and Auto Club team immediately jumped into action swapping motors and re-firing it in just over 30 minutes and making the call. Force’s Chevy Camaro SS once again flew down the track this time with a solid 4.165 second pass on a much hotter track setting up the possibility of an all JFR Funny Car final.
After his first win as a crew chief Schaffer was quick to spread the praise to his crew guys and the entire JFR organization. The young leader of Force’s team was focused on early round success and seeing where a couple of round wins would take his crew.
“The first round was when a little bit of stress crept in. We haven’t gotten out of the first round a lot so once we got past that it got easier. This Chevy ran good and we made eight good runs when you include qualifying and today. I couldn’t be any happier. We got two cars in the final. It was a full team effort from the off-season to now,” said Schaffer, who became the youngest crew chief to lead Force to victory.
In order for Force to capture career win No. 142 he had to outrun arguably the most consistent car on race day the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro driven by Robert Hight and tuned by Mike Neff. Hight outran Ron Capps in the first round with the second quickest run of the session, a blistering 4.087 second run at 312.50 mph. It was a big upset for the No. 10 qualified Funny Car and helped move Hight up into the No. 3 spot in the Mello Yello point standings.
After that run his team ran into some issues of their own and it was Schaffer giving his old team an assist that Hight acknowledged from the top end after the Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS outran Cruz Pedregon, 4.102 to 8.806.
“You never know what to expect. We were late getting up here because we had a clutch problem. That was a true team effort. Jon Schaffer from the Chevrolet team came over and helped this Auto Club team. He fixed a major problem we had and we would not have gone down the track if he would not have helped us. As a driver you have to be ready for anything. You see Del (Worsham) and Alexis (DeJoria) up there smoking the tires (in the pair ahead of Hight) so good job to Mike Neff and the whole Auto Club team for getting it done,” said Hight.
Hight did not have lane choice again in the semi-final race versus Tommy Johnson Jr. but his team made the most of their tune-up. Hight’s 4.145 at 310.34 mph was enough to trailer Johnson Jr.’s 4.164 second, 305.56 mph.
“We have definitely turned the corner. This was a get well weekend. Still we shot a spark plug out down there and if it hadn’t have done that we would have won. I made it a close race. I was so ready to get that win. It was a great team effort,” said Hight who was proud of his teammate but personally disappointed to not get the win. “Jon Schaffer came over and helped us out in the second round otherwise we wouldn’t have made it out of the second round. My Auto Club guys went over before the semi-finals and helped them. If I have to lose at least I had to lose to a teammate.”
Courtney Force and her Traxxas team qualified in the No. 13 spot this weekend and went into a first round match-up beside fellow female competitor Alexis DeJoria. This was the first time this year that the 26-year-old Funny Car driver did not have lane choice in the opening round.
“Our Traxxas team made a strong attempt this weekend in Vegas. We tried our hardest out here and just kind of stumbled a little this weekend, but we’re going to get back on our feet,” said Force. “We went out and got this car qualified in the No. 13 spot. It wasn’t where we wanted to be throughout qualifying but we still got the job done for our sponsors and made the show.”
Force posted a 4.165 ET next to DeJoria’s 4.115 ET. This was the ninth time the two female Funny Car drivers have matched up in eliminations, but the first time in 2015. Courtney is now 5-4 to DeJoria. This was the seventh time the pair has met in the first round; the other two meetings were in the semi-finals. This is also their first time racing each other at The Strip at Las Vegas.
“We went out first round and were on a great pass until we dropped a cylinder down track and it slowed us down. We lost that win over Alexis. We’re in a little bit of a struggling spot right now, but we’re coming out here first thing tomorrow to continue testing and we’re just excited to be going into the next race. We’re ready and excited to get these things figured out. It’s little minor things and I’m ready to get this Traxxas Chevy back to its consistent way like it used to be. We’re staying positive because we got two JFR cars to the final today and my dad took home the win for Chevrolet,” said Force.
Brittany Force and the JFR Next Generation Top Fuel dragster had an unexpectedly short day. Force grabbed the No. 7 spot in qualifying and had lane choice over veteran Clay Millican in the first round. As is becoming the norm Force’s opponents in this case Millican’s team loaded up to try and overpower the higher qualified Force dragster and unfortunately for Force they had some success.
Millican’s dragster ran 3.815 seconds, quicker than their 3.847 second qualifying time, barely besting Force’s losing effort of 3.846. Force’s time was the third quickest losing time of the session. The outcome left Force disappointed but also motivated to get to the next NHRA national event in Houston.
“It is tough to go out in the first round. On that run the nerves are up there for the driver and the whole team, they are through the round. You just want to get past the first round but it is difficult. Unfortunately we went out to Clay Millican,” said Force. “We had a good run and got it down the track but he was just a little quicker. They really stepped up. He was right there with me at the finish line and I could see him out the canopy next to me and unfortunately I didn’t see a win light. The team is ready to go into the next race in Houston.”
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Matt Hagan, 369; 2. Del Worsham, 360; 3. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 323; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr, 316; 5. Ron Capps, 313; 6. John Force, Chevrolet Camaro SS, 287; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 271; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 257; 9. John Hale, 256; 10. Jack Beckman, 249; 11. Tim Wilkerson, 231; 12. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet SS, 229.
TOP FUEL – 1. Antron Brown, 385; 2. Tony Schumacher, 375; 3. Shawn Langdon, 370; 4. Spencer Massey, 358; 5. Richie Crampton, 349; 6. Steve Torrence, 273; 7. Doug Kalitta, 272; 8. Larry Dixon, 263; 9. JR Todd, 261; 10. Clay Millican, 241; 11. Brittany Force, JFR Next Generation dragster, 225
PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 426; 2. Erica Enders Stevens, 391; 3. Greg Anderson, 379; 4. Roger Brogdon, 352; 5. Chris McGaha, 338; 6. Drew Skillman, 300; 7. Vincent Nobile, 285; 8. Larry Morgan, 268; 9. Allen Johnson, 249; 10. Shane Gray, 233
JOHN FORCE, 65, Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.086 seconds, 317.19 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (2nd quickest of Q1, quickest of Q3)
Race Results: Beat Chad Head, Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria, Robert Hight
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 10th at 4.091 seconds, 314.97 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q3)
Race Results: Beat Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Tommy Johnson Jr., Lost to John Force
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 13th quickest at 4.236 seconds, 297.16 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Lost to Alexis DeJoria
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, JFR Next Generation Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 7th at 3.801 seconds, 310.77 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Lost to Clay Millican