CHARLOTTE, NC --- NHRA officials announced today that the continuation of eliminations for the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, round one of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, will be completed during qualifying rounds at next weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Persistent rain showers moved into the Charlotte area on Sunday afternoon and halted racing after only the first round in Top Fuel and Funny Car had been completed. Three rounds of racing remain for both Top Fuel and Funny Car with both John Force and Robert Hight have advanced to the quarterfinals.
The quarterfinal pairings in Funny Car are Dave Richards vs. John Force; Bob Tasca III vs. Ron Capps; Robert Hight vs. Jeff Arend; and Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson. Top Fuel quarterfinal pairings are J.R. Todd vs. Spencer Massey; Billy Torrence vs. Tony Schumacher; Steve Torrence vs. Leah Pritchett; and Morgan Lucas vs. Khalid alBalooshi.
In the opening round of racing Robert Hight faced a tough opponent racing against Chad Head. The Auto Club Mustang left the starting line clean and continued to accelerate down the track posting a solid run of 4.078 seconds beside Head’s 4.080 second pass. It was one of the closest races of the first round and kept Hight on pace to stay at the top of the Mello Yello point standings.
“That was a big round. You can’t afford any first round losses in the Countdown. They are tough to recover from. We are disappointed we didn’t get to finish the race here in Charlotte where we have had a lot of success but we’ll be ready in Dallas,” said Hight.
John Force had to run the 2012 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year and daughter, Courtney Force. This is the fifth time this father-daughter team has raced each other this year and the first time they’ve met in round one this season.
As both Mustangs blasted off the line, John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage machine left first with Courtney giving chase. When the scoreboards lit up on the top end, it was John getting to the stripe ahead of Courtney. John ran a stout 4.058 second pass at 315.49 mph to Courtney’s strong 4.070 second run at 314.97 mph. John’s run also set low ET for the event and gave him lane choice going into the quarterfinals versus Dave Richards when the event is resumed in Dallas next weekend.
“Our Traxxas team came out here and qualified in the top half of the field. We had to go up, unfortunately, against our own teammate, but we had a pretty consistent car. We gave the Castrol team a run for their money, but we didn’t get the job done at zMax Dragway,” said a disappointed Courtney Force. “We are feeling confident heading to Dallas because our team has put together a really great race car. We’ve made some consistent runs in it, just didn’t get away with it today. We’re keeping our heads up moving forward and we’re excited the rest of the Countdown to the Championship.”
Brittany Force was looking to make a move in the NHRA Mello Yello points standings and go rounds at today’s Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year had qualified 7th in her 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster and her crew found the performance consistency needed to get her to another final round.
Unfortunately, by less than 12 inches, Brittany Force came up on the losing end during her first round match-up with fellow female Top Fuel competitor Leah Pritchett. This was the first time they faced each other in eliminations and with their qualifying runs from Saturday being pretty evenly matched; there was no favorite for this battle between these two highly competitive drivers.
“It was a tough weekend for us in Charlotte. The first two qualifying passes on Friday didn’t go as planned but my Castrol EDGE team came together and we made two solid and consistent runs on Saturday and ended up qualified seventh. However, Sunday’s conditions completely changed and threw us and the rest of the field a curve ball,” said Brittany Force.
As the dragsters left the starting line together, both racers had almost identical reaction times (0.075 to 0.078) with Pritchett having the slight advantage over Brittany. The Castrol EDGE Dragster was thundering right down the track, wheel-to-wheel and closing in on Pritchett. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough despite Brittany running her quickest and fastest pass of the weekend which was 3.824 seconds at 316.45 mph to Pritchett’s 3.825 at 312.57 mph. It was still a tough first round loss for the sophomore Top Fuel driver who’s a first time contender in the Countdown.
“The Castrol EDGE team worked really hard and we had an awesome car today. We had a great run against Leah (Pritchett) and it was really close. I thought we actually won as it was that close at the finish line. It even felt close me but Leah took us out but that’s okay, we’re number 10 starting the Countdown and the only place we can go is up and that’s what our plan is. I’d rather be struggling at the beginning of the Countdown rather than struggle at the end. That’s exactly what the Castrol EDGE team plans to do - keep working our way up and go some rounds next weekend at Dallas,” said Brittany Force.
Brittany Force leaves the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals in the 10th spot with 2043 points. The Castrol EDGE team will once again hit the road and head west to the Texas Motorplex for next weekend’s 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.
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