TEAM JFR RACE REPORT
21st of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series
3rd race of the 2014 Countdown to the Championship
3rd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals
Gateway Motorsports Park
St. Louis, MO
September 28, 2014
Photos courtesy of Gary Nastase Photography and Ron Lewis Photography for media use only
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Final round results from Sunday’s 3rd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park, 21st race in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series; 3rd race of the Countdown to the Championship:
TOP FUEL – Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster,3.844, 315.42 mph def. Shawn Langdon, Brownsburg, Ind., Al-Anabi dragster, 4.035, 279.38 mph
FUNNY CAR – Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Ford Mustang, 4.094, 313.44 mph def. Matt Hagan, Christiansburg, Va., Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger, 4.121, 309.77 mph.
PRO STOCK – Dave Connolly, Mooresville, NC, Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro, 6.562, 211.53 mph def. Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, 6.565, 211.66 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Jerry Savoie, Cut Off, La., White Alligator Racing Suzuki, 6.871, 196.53 mph def. Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 6.881, 193.57 mph
C. FORCES JUMPS TO No.2 in PTS WITH ST LOUIS WIN
ST. LOUIS --- NHRA star Courtney Force qualified in the No. 4 spot for the third consecutive year at St. Louis and picked up her fourth Funny Car win of the season, a record for a female Funny Car driver. She moved from the No. 4 spot in the Mello Yello points to the No. 2 position, right behind her father with her win today at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. It was her seventh career victory and she became the first female to win back-to-back Funny Car races (Dallas and St. Louis). She has now been to five final rounds in 2014, thirteen overall.
“I think the good news is at least our team is making the right moves at the right time, right here in the Countdown to the Championship. It was tough going up against dad; I didn’t want to race him, but all I thought about was how he took me out in Charlotte and he didn’t feel bad, so I thought, ‘Alright, we’re going for it!’ Our Traxxas team got the win,” said Force.
In the opening round, the 2012 Auto Club “Rookie of the Year” took on Bob Tasca III for the 13th time in her three year Funny Car career. She has now faced him in the opening round eight times, but this is the first time she has raced him in St. Louis. She posted an impressive 4.101 ET at 314.31 mph to Tasca’s tire-smoking 8.380 ET and was second-quickest of the round. Force is now 11-2 to the fellow Ford driver.
“Everyone is trying to get up to that No. 1 spot, that’s’ where everyone has their heads right now and that’s where my dad is. We’ve made some big moves this weekend in St. Louis and it’s definitely a team effort. All of my Traxxas guys, Ron Douglas, Dan Hood, (Castrol GTX High Mileage crew chief) Jimmy Prock, (Auto Club crew chief) Mike Neff, and (Castrol GTX co-crew chief) John Medlen everyone that’s over there at John Force Racing. Thank you for the help when we were going in to that final round. I really appreciate everyone and all the fans that came out this weekend. It’s really great to share this win with all of you,” said Force, from the winner’s circle stage.
After dismissing Tasca from eliminations, the 26-year-old driver went up against Del Worsham in the quarterfinals. The pair have now met thirteen times on race day, with over half of those being in the second round. Force has won the last four match-ups, the last one being in the final round in Dallas last week when she picked up her sixth career victory. Force drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a winning 4.154 seconds at 311.13 mph next to Worsham’s 10.873 ET at 70.40 mph.
“I just think about these races as a new race; a new day. We’re just looking to pick up points. I’ve also been looking at round by round. You don’t look at the end of the day. I try not to look at the ladder up until the end of the day even though I did notice that I could possibly meet dad in the semis, but you can’t think like that. You have to take it for the round and see where you are and how you’re running against that person and figure out your strategy of how you’re going to go up there and play the game. It’s all about getting the win out here and picking up points and we have to go rounds to do that,” said Force.
Force did line up with her dad in the semi-finals, one of her biggest competitors in this season’s Countdown to the Championship and reigning world Funny Car champion. Also the for the 13th time she has raced this fellow competitor, she picked up the win giving her one up on the 16-time champion. She is now 7-6 to her father in eliminations. This is the fifth time they have met up this season, but the first time in St. Louis. The 26-year-old left with a .051 reaction time to the veteran driver’s .099 and got a hole-shot win.
“It made me sick to my stomach, to be honest. Normally it’s kind of fun, but for some reason this time I could tell on his face, obviously, he’s in the points lead, he’s worried about Hagan passing him and me and Robert. So I saw the look on his face and I felt bad. Nobody likes to get beat on a hole-shot and I didn’t want to do that to my dad. I did roll in on him and I went after it. I wanted to get the win and I’d rather get the points than get lane choice in the next round. That was where my mindset was at.
“Dad beat me in Charlotte and I dwelled on it for a little while and I was waiting on us to have a rematch so I could get him back. I did it and then it didn’t feel so good at the end. I’ve decided he can’t be too mad at me since I’m taking home a Wally today,” she said.
Force went up against Matt Hagan in her second final in a row. The Traxxas Ford driver has raced Hagan five times this season and picked up the last four wins against him. This was the first time these two have met in St. Louis and the second time they have met in the final round in Force’s three year career. Force posted a 4.094 ET to Hagan’s 4.121 to score the big win against him. She is now undefeated against Hagan in final round match-ups.
This is the first time a father and daughter have been No. 1 and No. 2 in Mello Yello Series point standings. John Force has 2344 with Courtney trailing him at 2322.
“We’ve gotten things turned around at the right time. This is when we needed to have a consistent race car and I think that’s what we have. To have back to back win in the middle of the Countdown and make a big move up into the points like that is just huge for us. We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind up and we need to pass dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now and dad is tough to beat, but a lot of these drivers are. Everyone is still so close in the points that every weekend it could change up so I’m definitely going to savor this moment when dad and I are No. 1 and No. 2 in points,” said Force
John Force, the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion, raced to a semifinal finish at today’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals. With this being the third stop on the Countdown to the Championship, John Force was on a mission to further stretch his points lead and get one step closer to claiming his 17th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship. Unfortunately, it was teammate and daughter Courtney Force who put the winningest driver in NHRA history on the trailer and denied him another trip to the finals.
It was Courtney’s great driving job and reaction time that enabled her to get around her father’s quicker time of 4.119 seconds at 311.27 to her 4.143 run at 311.56. John and Courtney have each won six times against each other in prior events, but this time it could have been anyone’s race. Both Mustangs were side-by-side all the way down the track, with neither driver giving an inch. Despite going out in the semifinal round, John Force still stays No. 1 in the points with three races left.
“Anytime a teammate wins is okay. The Castrol car went out, the Auto Club car went out, but Courtney in the Traxxas car was still in. Hagan could’ve hurt us in points, but Courtney took him out in the final so she’s doing her job, her car’s running good, and she’s not letting pressure bother her and I’m excited for her. There’re three races left, but we have three cars and it’s starting to become a four car race but it’s still way early to say that but right now, Hagan’s right in the middle of it,” said John Force.
Getting to the semi-finals, John had to race archrival and friend Ron Capps in the quarterfinals. These two highly competitive drivers have raced each 76 times in the past with Force laying claim to 49 victories in those matchups. Also, both have won at Gateway three times in the past. A lot was on the line for both drivers as Capps, currently sitting in the fifth spot in the Countdown, was looking to make a move up in the points. John also wanted to protect his team drivers, as daughter Courtney is in fourth place in the NHRA Mello Yello points.
As the ground pounding Funny Cars pulled up to the line, you could feel the tension intermixed with the smell of nitro in the air. Force knew this would be an important round and didn’t want to make a mistake. At the hint of green from the Christmas tree, both cars rocketed out of the gate, with Capps getting a slight advantage. He was out in front of Force until the 330 foot mark, then the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang began to hit its stride and began to pull away from Capps. The scoreboards said it all; Force ran a 4.111 second pass at 312.50 mph to Capps’ 4.166 run at 308.92 mph. Ironically, it was at this race in 2008 that John Force claimed his 1000th round win in defeating Ron Capps.
In the opening round, John Force lined up with Pro Stock veteran but relative Funny Car newcomer Brian Stewart. This was Stewart’s first time qualifying in Funny Car and John Force wasn’t going to throttle back one bit. Stewart was also the 136th unique driver John Force has raced in eliminations. As the Christmas Tree flashed green, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was off first and went right down the groove of Gateway Motorsports Park. Force got the win with a 4.103 second run at 312.35 mph to Stewarts respectable 4.193 pass at 303.98 mph.
“The good air at Reading will tune everybody up, we can run in the heat, that’s how we gobbled up points, but that’s what this game is all about and we just keep trying. It’s a whole new ballgame right now for John Force, every point counts so don’t call me the champ, call me Pac-Man, I got to eat every point out there,” said John Force.
The biggest upset in the first round of Funny Car eliminations came at the expense of Robert Hight and the AAA Insurance Ford Mustang. Hight, the No. 3 qualifier, was facing Chad Head in the first round. Hight, a five-time winner this season, has been so dominant all season that he consistently gets the best shot from his fellow competitors.
The 2010 AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals champion had a solid reaction on the starting line but Head was nearly psychic giving the Head Inc. backed Funny Car a slight starting line advantage that resulted in Hight’s superior elapsed time, 4.0907 second, not being enough to get Hight to the second round.
“The only thing I can say is I am going to head to Reading 100% focused on giving this team my best effort. I was in very shallow but that is no excuse. You have to perform at this level. Any driver can win one of these races. The points and performance are so close if you give your opponent any kind of advantage no matter how slight it can hurt you. We did a lot to promote this race for our sponsor, AAA Insurance, leading up to race day I just wish we could have gone further in eliminations,” said a dejected but resilient Hight in his pit area.
Brittany Force was looking to make a move in the points and go some rounds at the third stop of 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year was pumped up today, and her 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster made some strong and consistent runs during qualifying.
Unfortunately, Brittany Force came up just a little short in her first round matchup with rival and former NHRA Mello Yello champion Antron Brown. This was the third time these two competitors have faced each other and ironically, the two previous meetings were final rounds earlier this year at Phoenix and Chicago. In this match-up, both dragsters blasted off the starting at the same time, with Brown getting a slight advantage. Brittany was there all the way and both race cars thundered side-by-side all the way down Gateway Motorsports Park. It was Brown who got the win light with a 3.799 second run at 319.22 mph to Brittany’s 3.837 at 319.52 mph effort.
“Antron (Brown) is a tough competitor and he has a quick dragster. This field was really tight and all the ETs were bunched up. We made a smooth run in the first round but Antron was just quicker. No one is hanging their heads in the Castrol EDGE pits. There are three more races left in the Countdown and we are going to head to Reading with the goal of winning. The conditions in Reading should be great and everyone will be making even quicker runs. This Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster will be right there with all the other Top Fuel dragsters,” said Brittany Force
Brittany Force leaves the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals still in the in the 10th spot of the Countdown to the Championship with 2085 points. The Castrol EDGE team will head east to Reading, Pennsylvania for next weekend’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Brittany Force will put Sunday’s first loss behind her and focus on getting her first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
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MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR - 1. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 2344; 2. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 2314; 3. Matt Hagan, 2302; 4. Robert Hight, AAA Insurance Ford Mustang, 2253; 5. Ron Capps, 2218; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2216; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2196; 8. Del Worsham, 2193; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2155; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2135
TOP FUEL - 1. Tony Schumacher, 2337; 2. Shawn Langdon, 2280; 3. Steve Torrence, 2266; 4. Antron Brown, 2257; 5. Doug Kalitta, 2250; 6. JR Todd, 2228; 7. Spencer Massey, 2199; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2188; 9. Richie Crampton, 2125; 10. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 2085
PRO STOCK - 1. Jason Line, 2364; 2. Dave Connolly, 2338; 3. Erica Enders Stevens, 2297; 4. Shane Gray, 2256; 5. Jonathan Gray, 2245; 6. Vincent Nobile, 2241; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 2231; 8. Allen Johnson, 2220; 9. V Gaines, 2155; 10. Chris McGaha, 2104
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Andrew Hines, 2400; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2343; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2256; 4. Steve Johnson, 2253; 5. Matt Smith, 2202; 6. John Hall, 2191; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 2176; 8. Hector Arana, 2176; 9. Angie Smith, 2125; 10. Michael Ray, 2071
JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.022 seconds at 319.52 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (Quickest of Q2 and Q3; 2nd quickest of Q4)
Race Results: Beat Brian Stewart, Ron Capps; Lost to Courtney Force
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, AAA Insurance Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.040 seconds at 316.15 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q4)
Race Results: Lost to Chad Head.
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 4th at 4.047 seconds at 317.87 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (3rd quickest of Q1 and Q2)
Race Results: Beat Bob Tasca III, Del Worsham, John Force, Matt Hagan
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 11th at 3.809 seconds at 323.12 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Lost to Antron Brown.