ENNIS, TX --- Courtney Force qualified at the top of the Funny Car field and won the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals today to pick up her sixth career win, the most of any female in NHRA Funny Car history. She dismissed Tony Pedregon, Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Del Worsham enroute to her first win at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. Force has officially moved up to the No. 4 spot in the NHRA Mello Yello point standings.
“I looked at the ladder and thought, ‘Man, I could be bumping into my teammates from second round, through the semis,’ and I wasn’t about to have a weekend like last weekend in Charlotte when my dad took me out in the first round. It felt good to go some rounds out here today and end up in the Winner’s Circle,” said Force, a three-time winner this season. “Definitely proud of my team; these guys have been working hard in this heat. It’s tough for them and I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me today. Thank you to (crew chiefs) Ron Douglas and Dan Hood for giving me a great race car in the heat and getting me down the race track on every run, and on both sides of the track; in the right and the left lane. I’m very proud of my team and glad that we could get this win for Traxxas in their home state of Texas.”
In the first round, Force had lane choice against the No. 16 qualifier Tony Pedregon. This is the fifth time the pair have matched up on race day. Force turned on the win light with a 4.173 elapsed time at 305.56 mph to Pedregon’s 4.232 at 297.81.
“Mentally I was thinking going into today we were going to have a tough first round, let’s just focus on getting by that. It was just focusing on a round at a time,” said Force.
In the second round Force took on the No. 2 seed in the NHRA Mello Yello point standings, Robert Hight. Force was 3-6 to her brother-in-law in previous race day match-ups, but the 26-year-old driver took the win, posting a 4.161 elapsed time at 305.49 mph to Hight’s 4.214 at 300.80 mph.
“Second round going up against Robert, I thought, ‘Man, I keep running into my teammates.’ My main goal is to get qualified, get in the top (of the field) and hopefully we’re on opposite sides of the ladder. Unfortunately, I qualified No. 1 and still had to race a teammate in the second round. Luckily for us we were able to go around and get that win, because that was a huge win for us. Obviously they are our biggest competition even though they are my teammates,” said Force, who moved up into the top 5. “They’re definitely our biggest competition out here because they’ve got great race cars and they’ve got fast ones for sure. They’re keeping it consistent and that’s the hardest thing to break so I’m definitely proud of my team to come out here and make some great laps, especially in the heat of Texas. I think that’s a huge accomplishment that I think my guys need to take a lot of credit for.”
Force went on to dismiss Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semi-finals, her 4.218 second pass at 299.06 mph to his 4.254 seconds at 268.54 mph, followed by Del Worsham in the final round. Despite being handicapped without lane choice, Force and her Traxxas team prevailed in the right lane with a 4.227 second run at 301.07 mph to Worsham’s slower 4.309 at 285.65 mph.
“Anytime you’re going up against those Kalitta cars, you know you’ve got some tough competition. We had to be on our A game. He had lane choice over us in that final round, but my Traxxas team gave me a great car to get me down the track and we were able to turn on the win light. I’m just proud of my whole team this weekend. Being at the AAA Texas race, I think we’ve done a great job today and hopefully we can keep it going. We’re definitely going after the championship this year. We can’t make any mistakes from here on out,” said Force.
This is Force’s third victory of the season, all of which she has won from the No. 1 starting spot on race day. It is also the 11th win for a female this year in the NHRA pro categories. She is now tied with Alexis DeJoria for the most Funny Car wins in a season by a female.
“To come out here and get the win in Texas, the hometown of my sponsor Traxxas, The Fastest Name in Radio Control, it’s a huge accomplishment for us. For getting three wins this season and tying Alexis, it’s a cool feeling to see what the females have done in this sport and even cooler to see it continue to progress in just this season. I’m excited for our team and we’re pushing forward. We needed to get that win to create a little bit of a gap. We started to fall back a little after dad took me out in the first round in Charlotte. I’m just excited to have a good comeback this weekend in Texas. To get a win out here in Dallas is a pretty special place for us,” said Force.
Six career wins also ties the youngest Force with Eric Medlen, a John Force Racing teammate and friend who passed away in 2007 during a testing accident.
“It’s pretty special getting my sixth career win and I just found out at the top end that it did tie me with Eric Medlen. That’s huge. I was very close with him throughout his racing and looked up to him so it’s definitely cool to actually think that I have tied him on wins. It’s definitely very special for me and my team,” added Force.
“We have been a little under the radar because dad (John Force) is No. 1 in points, Robert is No. 2 and everyone is trying to catch up with them. They’re definitely creating a huge gap; dad being in seven finals in-a-row. It’s pretty unbelievable what they have accomplished, so it’s hard not to notice. That’s how we kind of slip back in the shadows, but I think we came out this weekend and brought everyone’s attention back over to our Traxxas team and showed that we have a really good car. To go No. 1 qualifier and win the race, that’s the third time we have done that this season. It’s an exciting thing and a big accomplishment for us,” said Force.
The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion, John Force, was ready to go to his eighth consecutive trip to the finals and possibly get his 142nd career victory today, but was denied. It was in the quarterfinals when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car was on a good run and began pulling away from his opponent, Tommy Johnson Jr. However, at the 500-foot mark on the tricky track surface of the Texas Motorplex, Force’s Mustang began to haze the massive Goodyear slicks as they battled for traction. Force was fighting to keep his race car in the groove, but could only watch his rival drive away from him and get the win light.
Force has raced Johnson Jr. 36 times in the past, and the reigning NHRA Funny Car champ has claimed 28 victories in those matchups. Unfortunately, Force was on the losing end of this pairing despite having a slightly better reaction time (.083 vs. .084), as he could only manage a 4.532 second run at 205.38 mph to Johnson Jr.’s 4.192 at 302.08. This was also the first race since Chicago earlier this year that John Force wouldn’t be heading to the final round. However, John was happy for daughter Courtney who claimed her third win of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season at Dallas today.
“We just went out there and smoked the tires. We weren’t pushing it too hard. The track was hot. Just one of those things and I couldn’t get the job done today or yesterday, I gave it away but I’m really proud of and excited for Courtney (Force) for winning today. She was really emotional when I beat her last weekend at Charlotte, and that’s the way she races and she shows it. She was also emotional today when she won. She needed that win and you know; Kalitta was going after it. Somebody needed to win today and it was her. She bailed out John Force Racing and it was good for her and showed the boys how to drive,” said John Force.
In the opening round, John Force lined up with Jeff Arend and he knows he is a tough competitor, as he’s raced him 21 times in previous rounds of competition and has won 16 of those matchups. Both Funny cars blasted off the starting line, with Arend getting a slight reaction time advantage. By the 330-foot mark, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang began pulling away and took the win with a strong 4.111 second run at 309.42 mph to Arend’s 4.259 second pass at 293.66.
"Today’s a new day here, this isn’t Charlotte, and for Bruton Smith and for Billy Meyer, we’re going to give the fans a great show. These kids gave me a great race car, and I’m back on my game from yesterday. Arend is a great racer and I didn’t want to red light like I did yesterday,” said John Force.
John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage team still maintain a commanding lead in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship points chase with 2258. John won’t be slowing down as he heads to next weekend’s 3rd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.
“I have to give credit to my guys like Jimmy Prock, John Medlen and the team. It’s the whole brain trust that works around Mike Neff, Ron Douglas, Dean Antonelli, Todd Smith – everyone pools together and helps,” said John Force.
The second round match-up between teammate Robert Hight and Courtney Force was the undoing for the AAA Texas Ford Mustang Funny Car. Both Funny Cars launched together by Hight’s 4.214 second run wasn’t enough to get past Force’s 4.161, which was quickest of the session.
“You hate to run teammates early in the day but they made a good pass. They went on to win the race to it all worked out for JFR. We had a busy weekend for AAA Texas and we are heading to St. Louis as the No. 2 Funny Car in the Mello Yello points. I am excited to be heading to St. Louis which is another Auto Club sponsored race,” said Hight, a two-time AAA Texas FallNationals winner.
In the first round Hight outran veteran driver Jack Beckman in a tire smoking effort. The AAA Texas Ford Mustang was charging when it hazed the tires but Hight caught the throttle and regained control to motor to a first round victory. The momentary loss of power hurt his winning elapsed time, 4.501 seconds and cost him lane choice in the second round.
“That first round win was big. We joked last night about auctioning off lane choice at the DRAW (Drag Racing Association of Women) Auction but Beckman didn’t want to do it. You don’t want to lose in the first round any time in the Countdown. We held him off and held out position in the Mello Yello points,” said Hight.
Hight is just 45 points behind John Force for the top spot in the Funny Car class with four races left in the Countdown.
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MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN POINT STANDINGS (Through Ennis, TX)
FUNNY CAR - 1. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 2258; 2. Robert Hight, AAA Texas Ford Mustang, 2213; 3. Matt Hagan, 2209; 4. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 2197; 5. Ron Capps, 2164; 5. Alexis DeJoria, 2164; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2162; 8. Del Worsham, 2135; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2123; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2093.
TOP FUEL - 1. Tony Schumacher, 2296; 2. Steve Torrence, 2190; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2189; 4. Shawn Langdon, 2181; 5. JR Todd, 2168; 6. Spencer Massey, 2167; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 2156; 8. Antron Brown, 2143; 9. Richie Crampton, 2085; 10. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 2053
PRO STOCK - 1. Jason Line, 2266; 2. Shane Gray, 2218; 3. Dave Connolly, 2223; 4. Erica Enders Stevens, 2207; 5. Jonathan Gray, 2192; 6. Vincent Nobile, 2186; 7. Allen Johnson, 2166; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 2150; 9. V Gaines, 2103; 10. Chris McGaha, 2073
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Andrew Hines, 2302; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2257; 3. Steve Johnson, 2198; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2177; 5. Matt Smith, 2169; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2144; 7. John Hall, 2139; 8. Hector Arana, 2122; 9. Angie Smith, 2094; 10. Michael Ray, 2071
JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 5th at 4.081 seconds at 314.24 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
First round opponent (W-L): Beat Jeff Arend; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, AAA Texas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 9th at 4.088 seconds at 312.13 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First round opponent (W-L): Beat Jack Beckman; Lost to Courtney Force
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.039 seconds at 314.90 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Tony Pedregon, Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr, Del Worsham
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 17th quickest at 4.110 seconds at 242.63 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
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Countdown to the Championship
Sept. 26-28 AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, St Louis, MO
Oct. 2-5 NHRA Nationals, Reading, PA
Oct. 30-Nov. 2 NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas, NV
Nov. 13-16 Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, CA