NORWALK, OH --- For the second year in a row, Courtney Force and the Traxxas team are leaving the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals with a runner-up finish. Force dismissed John Hale, Alexis DeJoria and Tommy Johnson Jr. and advanced to the final round, ultimately moving her from third to second in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings, before falling to Ron Capps in the final round.
“It was an awesome weekend for our Traxxas team, The Fastest Name in Radio Control. I’m really excited. We went all the way to the final round today. This is the second year in a row we have gone to the final here. I was really hoping we could get it done this weekend, but I know we have a really good race car and we even gathered enough points this weekend to move our Traxxas team up to the No. 2 position in the points,” said Force.
The winningest female Funny Car driver in history snagged the No. 4 qualifying spot on Friday with a 3.889 ET at 326.63 mph in the second qualifying session. She went into the opening round on race day with lane choice beside competitor John Hale for only the second time in her career. She left the starting line first and got the round win with a 3.943 ET at 322.42 mph next to Hale’s 4.638 ET at 186.18 mph and advanced to the second round.
The 28-year-old had lane choice over fellow female competitor and No. 12 qualifier Alexis DeJoria in the second round. This was the 16th time the pair have met in eliminations since Force’s 2012 Funny Car debut, but the first time they have raced at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk. Force got the starting line advantage and never trailed in the race, posting a 3.988 ET at 317.05 mph to DeJoria’s 4.002 ET at 317.19 mph. Force is now 9-7 to DeJoria in eliminations.
Next, the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car pilot lined up beside Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinals. It was their 10th meeting in eliminations and the sixth time they have met in the semi-final round. It was the first time the pair have met in eliminations at Norwalk, but the third time they have raced each other this season. Force has won the last three of their race day meetings. She is now 6-4 to Johnson Jr. in eliminations.
In the final round Force did not have lane choice, but did her job by beating veteran Capps off the starting line, her .044 to his .094 reaction time. Her Traxxas Chevrolet sailed to a 4.010 next to his 3.956 and the 28-year-old came up three thousandths of a second shy of earning her second the win light in 2016.
“We had a really close race, it just started shredding the blower belt at the top end and started spinning the tires down track and then it dropped a couple holes right at the finish line. It slowed us, but we almost had them in the end,” said Force.
This was the 20th time Force has paired up with Capps in eliminations, the fourth time at Norwalk and the third time this season. They are now 1-1 in final rounds. Their last final was 2013 at the Winternationals when Force claimed her second career Funny Car victory.
“We’re really happy about how we’re leaving four-in-a-row. I’m proud of (crew chiefs) Dan Hood, Ronnie Thompson and all of my guys. It was a hot weekend out here at the track, but they gave me an awesome race car and they all did a great job,” said Force.
Force raced to her eighth career Funny Car victory earlier this season in Houston and locked into one of the eight earned spots for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, her sponsor’s $100,000 to win race within a race which takes place at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Labor Day weekend.
“I’m happy with the progress we’ve made. I’m thrilled to be getting to Chicago. I can’t wait to get our new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car body and seeing what we can do. I think we have a great package here already and I’m excited to see how the new car will do with this tune-up,” said Force.
Brittany Force and the Monster Enery Top Fuel team raced to their fifth semi-final round before losing to eventual Top Fuel winner Shawn Langdon. This was the second week in a row Force has been ousted by the 2013 Top Fuel champion. On the run Force left with Langdon and was side by side with the most recent race winner before she hazed the tires allowing Langdon to pull away for the win 3.808 to 4.579.
“We’re learning things. Where we struggle is in the heat, but we’re starting to get that figured out. Going into these summer races, we’re definitely going to need that. We got past the first round and second round but got held up against (Shawn) Langdon again. We’ll just have to go after him again. We have a weekend off before we go to Chicago, and we’ll have to step up our game and hopefully figure it out there. It definitely feels good to end your weekend on a decent note. We went rounds and that always feels good,” said Brittany Force.
In the opening round Force defeated Chris “The Greek” Karamesines for the second week in a row. Force got the win light with a strong 3.776 elapsed time to Karamesines’ 4.035 second time. The quarter-final pitted Force against Tony Schumacher in a tough match-up with the winningest Top Fuel driver ever. Once again Force was on her game on the starting line and the two-time 2016 race winner never trailed in the drag race outrunning the US Army dragster 3.805 to 3.840.
John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team won a huge first round match-up to start their race day. Force, the No. 11 qualifier, took out the higher seeded Matt Hagan in a tire smoking race that Force handled masterfully. The veteran driver kept his Funny Car under control enough to get the win light and advance to a second round match-up with teammate Robert Hight. Force’s winning time 4.254 at 237.71 mph was enough to dismiss Hagan’s 5.042 pass at 272.78 mph.
Hagan’s Funny Car went lost traction at about 100 feet and Force was pulling away when his Camaro hazed the Goodyears. Force the 2014 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals winner lifted off the throttle briefly and then powered down the right lane to victory.
In the second round Force dropped a close race to Hight posting a solid 3.998 second run but it wasn’t enough for Hight’s 3.982 second run. Even though the run did not advance Force to his fifth semi-final of the season it was encouraging from a performance standpoint for the PEAK Antifreeze Advance Auto Parts team.
“We found some problems and we corrected them. We got two good runs today. We won a couple rounds and we didn’t get hurt in the points. Robert is flying. We got two Funny Cars in the semi-finals plus Brittany in the Top Fuel semis. Courtney got to the final. We are working on a lot of things and it is coming around. You have to be ready by the Countdown if you are going to win the championship. That is our goal right now,” proclaimed the 16-time champion.
Robert Hight led the JFR contingent of Chevrolet Camaro Funny Cars as the No. 3 qualifier with a career quickest 3.886 second run on Friday night. In the opening round Hight defeated upstart driver Brandon Welch. Hight’s Auto Claub Camaro hit the finish line with a winning ET of 3.976 seconds.
In the second round Hight had to face team leader John Force in an all JFR quarter-final race. The end result was one of the closest races of the first two rounds with Hight edging out Force 3.982 seconds to 3.998 seconds. The back to back quick runs gave Hight some well-deserved momentum going into the semi-finals against Ron Capps.
Unfortunately Hight could not join teammate Courtney Force in the final round. During the staging process Capps and Hight staged their Funny Cars but when the tree activated as Capps launched off the starting line Hight did not react.
“I don’t know what happened. I just got distracted. This Auto Club Camaro was great all weekend. It made a good run against Capps and I shut it off early. I am going to put this behind me and get ready for Chicago,” said Hight at the end of the day.
* * * *
MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Ron Capps, 966; 2. Courtney Force, 836; 3. Jack Beckman, 823; 4. Del Worsham, 762; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr, 750; 6. Matt Hagan, 747; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 723; 8. Robert Hight, 722; 9. John Force, 668; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 640
TOP FUEL – 1. Doug Kalitta, 1009; 2. Antron Brown, 940; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, 832; 5. Tony Schumacher, 729; 6. Shawn Langdon, 711; 7. JR Todd, 645; 8. Clay Millican, 572; 9. Richie Crampton, 570; 10. Leah Pritchett, 463
PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 1389; 2. Greg Anderson, 1274; 3. Bo Butner, 796; 4. Allen Johnson, 719; 5. Drew Skillman, 683; 6. Vincent Nobile, 613; 7. Chris McGaha, 557; 8. Shane Gray, 532; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 528; 10. Alex Laughlin, 498
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Eddie Krawiec, 557; 2. Jerry Savoie, 391; 2. Andrew Hines, 391; 4. Angelle Sampey, 372; 5. Chip Ellis, 300; 6. Hector Arana, 291; 7. LE Tonglet, 253; 8. Matt Smith, 192; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 183; 10. Steve Johnson, 179
JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK/Advance Auto Parts 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 11th at 3.979, 324.12 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q4)
Race results: Beat Matt Hagan; Lost to Robert Hight
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, Auto Club 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 3.886, 324.90 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (3rd quickest of Q2 and 2nd quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Brandon Welch, John Force; Lost to Ron Capps
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.889, 326.63 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Beat John Hale, Alexis DeJoria, Tommy Johnson Jr; Lost to Ron Capps
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 3.735, 324.28 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
Race results: Beat Chris Karamesines, Tony Schumacher; Lost to Shawn Langdon.