DENVER, CO – Courtney Force claimed the No. 1 position today for the 10th time in her Funny Car career. She posted a track elapsed time record on Friday in the second qualifying session at Bandimere Speedway to go to the top of the field with a 3.917 second run at 318.39 mph. She followed that stellar performance up with two back-to-back runs in the three-second range today.
“It’s a great way to start the Western Swing. My guys, (crew chiefs) Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson, the entire Traxxas team it definitely took a lot of hard work this weekend. It was a lot of late nights and through the rain delays they did an awesome job all weekend long and gave me a fast race car. It was a lot of fun.”
“I’m in the new Chevrolet Camaro SS body and running a whole new color scheme for the Western Swing for Traxxas and it’s really exciting to put them in the No. 1 spot going into race day. Obviously being the Fastest Name in Radio Control cars it’s great to have that top spot with them so going into race day, we’re thrilled,” said Force.
This is Force’s first No. 1 qualifier this season as well as her first at Bandimere Speedway. The 28-year-old driver will have lane choice over Jim Campbell in the opening round. They have never met in eliminations before. Campbell is her 34th different opponent in Funny Car.
“The fans stuck it out again with us today and it’s always amazing pulling up there. Its pitch black, but Bandimere Speedway always lights the track up great and it’s great to see all the fans just packing the stands, even for a late session. You gotta get your energy back up when you’re sitting around and getting delayed because of the weather, but I’m just excited that we were able to make all four runs throughout the entire weekend and I think we made some great passes,” said Force who is looking to add Denver to the list of Western Swing races she has recorded a victory.
“This is a great way to start the Western Swing. We picked up eight bonus points throughout qualifying which is huge. We definitely need that because everyone is really tight in points right now and we slid down to third. Our goal right now is to go rounds and get those points and hopefully move on up that points ladder,” said Force.
Denver is the site of Force’s second ever career runner-up finish. She qualified in the No. 7 position in 2012 and beat Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Ron Capps before losing to Jack Beckman in the final round on race day.
“It’s exciting because when you’re coming up here with high altitude and thin air at the Mile High Nationals it’s exciting to put numbers like that on the board. I knew before this weekend it would be really cool to see a three-second run put on the board and I was really hoping it could happen. Once dad (John Force) laid it down first in his Realtree Funny Car I knew there was a possibility that we could do it too,” said Force in the Bandimere Speedway pressroom. “To be able to go around him and get those points and get that top spot is pretty cool. I think it’s awesome for the fans to be able to see so many fast race cars and so many cars running in the 3.0s tonight. Definitely the conditions were there and that helped us a lot. Tomorrow is going to be a whole new ball game. It’s going to be probably a lot hotter than what we’re used to running throughout qualifying, but we’ll be ready to go.”
John Force made history on Friday at the Mopar Mile High Nationals as the first Funny Car to break the four second barrier and today the six-time Denver winner was gunning for an even quicker elapsed time. His two three second runs on Friday gave him a firm grasp on the No. 2 spot in a tough Funny Car field so Force’s Realtree PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant team took advantage and raced aggressively in both sessions today. While Force did not pick up and additional qualifying bonus points his team learned how much power they could throw at the Bandimere Speedway racing surface for race day.
“I have got me a race car. You have to look at it this way. We ran 3.95 the first run up here and we came back and ran 3.93. We had nothing to lose but to go for it tonight. Tomorrow we won’t have these conditions. We’ll be running in the morning and it will be a little bit cool but nothing like this at 11 a.m. tomorrow is a whole different ball game,” said Force, who has raced to the last two finals at this event.
“We wanted to see if this Realtree PEAK Camaro would run 3.89 or 3.90 out here. I am really excited about it. The problem we have is keeping the balance and keep it from carrying the front end. We know how to fix that. This race car has great early numbers.”
Force will face Jeff Diehl in the first round of eliminations. This will be the seventh match-up with the journeyman racer from Salinas, California. They raced in the first round of the Mile High Nationals in 2014 with Force getting the win before losing to teammate Robert Hight in the final.
Coming into Saturday’s second day of qualifying Robert Hight and the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team was the only JFR Funny Car to not have a three second run on the mountain top. After the third qualifying session not only had Hight jumped into the three second club but he moved up the performance ladder with the quickest run of the session earning critical three qualifying bonus points. His Auto Club Chevrolet crossed the finish line in 3.975 seconds at 315.86 mph.
“That was the run we were looking for yesterday with this Auto Club Chevy. It was hot out here and almost 100 degrees when we left the pit. To have a race track you can run the threes on is a testament to the Bandimere family. This is a great race track and you will only get more out of it later tonight. I can’t wait,” said Robert Hight after Q3.
In the final session Robert Hight bumped back to No. 5 by Alexis DeJoria on speed before his final run of the day. DeJoria also recorded an elapsed time of 3.975 but at a faster 318.69 mph.
“We would have liked to have run quicker on that last run but we were still the third quickest of the session. We were the quickest Funny Car to start the day and that was huge for this Auto Club Camaro,” said Hight, a three-time Mile High Nationals winner. “We stepped up to No. 4 with that run and ended up No. 5. We could get three JFR Funny Cars to the semi-finals and that is always the goal. This Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro is consistent up here and we’ll have a tough first round with Cruz Pedregon tomorrow.”
With his four qualifying bonus points and his superior qualifying position Hight moved from 6th in the Mello Yello point standings to 5th and is only 24 points out of 4th place.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster were sitting in the No. 6 position when she made her final qualifying run tonight. The fourth year pro jumped back up to No. 4 on the strength of her 3.813 second final run of the day. The 2014 Mile High Nationals runner-up ran the same elapsed time as Lucas Oil teammate Richie Crampton but Crampton had a faster speed and was awarded the No. 3 qualifying spot. The elapsed time was the third quickest of the final qualifying session.
“It feels good on that last run to step it up and make the quickest run of the weekend. We stepped up from a 3.83 to a 3.81 is where we need to be going into race day. We wound up No. 4 and that is a great position to be in. We have Terry McMillen in the first round and our goal is to get four win lights tomorrow,” said Force.
Once again rain moved over the mountain top in the late afternoon and after a nearly two hour delay professional qualifying resumed in front of another packed house. The delay did not bother Force but did put the thrill of racing into perspective.
“The delay today was the same for everybody out here. Once you get in that Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster in the morning it doesn’t matter if you are tired or if you don’t feel good it all goes away once that motor starts,” added Force.
Force will race Terry McMillen in the first round. They raced each other in the first round here in 2015. She has 8-1 career record versus him. This is the fourth time they have raced each other in 2016 with Force holding a 3-0 record.
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NHRA ON TV
Sunday, July 24, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
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JOHN FORCE, 67, Realtree/PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.935, 320.43 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (quickest of Q1 and 2nd quickest of Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Jeff Diehl (6-0)
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, Auto Club 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 5th at 3.975, 315.86 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (3rd quickest of Q1, quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Cruz Pedregon (23-13)
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.917, 318.39 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (quickest of Q2, 2nd quickest of Q3 and quickest of Q4)
First round opponent (W-L): Jim Campbell (0-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.813, 316.30 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
First round opponent (W-L): Terry McMillen (8-1)
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Sunday, July 24
Final Eliminations 11 AM