POMONA (February 13, 2016) --- At the conclusion of qualifying for the historic 56th annual edition of the Circle K NHRA Winternationals Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car will lead the charge for John Force Racing as the No. 3 qualifier. Hight’s final run of qualifying a stellar 3.913 second pass secured the third spot and earned Hight a valuable qualifying bonus point. Hight is followed in the Funny Car qualifying order by teammate Courtney Force, No. 6 and John Force, No. 9. Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster team were the picture of consistency throughout all four qualifying session settling into the No. 6 qualifying spot, her best career start at the Winternationals.
Hight and the Auto Club team powered into the No. 3 spot and he will face Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round. This will be the first time Hight has faced Johnson Jr. at the Winternationals and Hight holds a 13-6 career win record versus him. Last year as the No. 7 qualifier Hight raced to the semi-finals before dropping a close race to Ron Capps.
“It will be very similar conditions tomorrow morning to what we just saw in Q4. It is not going to heat up a lot by 11 o’clock. You are going to have to run a low 3.90 if you want to jump up there and beat Tommy Johnson Jr. That is what you are going to have to run anymore if you want to get wins,” said Hight, a three-time Winternationals winner.
“We are learning a different way of racing and a new approach. My car went down the track pretty good on three runs. We are not complaining about a 3.91 but were we hoping for more? Yes. We are not complaining. That was a nice aggressive run and we are progressing. It dropped a couple cylinders down track and could have run a little quicker. I am ready for first round. The start of the season is finally here,” added Hight.
Seven-time Winternationals winner John Force will start from the No. 9 spot on Sunday and for only the third time since 1987 will not have lane choice in the first round. Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car made the second quickest pass of the third qualifying session and that run, 3.964 seconds, was not enough to keep the winningest driver in NHRA history in the top half of the field.
“That was a good run for us (in the third session). We put the 96 (3.964 seconds) out there and there were a lot of folks out there watching us today. PEAK Antifreeze and Monster Energy are on board now, along with Chevrolet and Lucas Oil. We have to make our race cars get in the game. My daughters (Courtney and Brittany) and Robert, they looked pretty good. The old man choked some, but I've got the fire in there and we ran okay. I got some new guys out there and I had a meeting with Chevrolet. I am just really excited coming out here,” said Force from the top end after his best run on Saturday.
Force will face veteran driver Tim Wilkerson in the first round tomorrow. In 2012 Force defeated Wilkerson in the second round on the way to his sixth win at the Circle K Winternationals. Force came back and won the season opening race again in 2014 and will be looking for his eighth career win to start the season when racing begins tomorrow morning.
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team came out swinging on Friday with two of the best runs in the Funny Car category. The team was second-quickest of Q1 with a 3.949 ET at 326.87 mph and quickest of Q2 with a 3.945 ET at 322.88 mph. Those quick passes earned the Traxxas team five qualifying bonus points to open the season.
Today, the newly-wed Force posted a 4.005 ET at 317.12 mph to start Saturday’s sessions, but hazed the tires on the second pass today to round out qualifying. The 27-year-old Funny Car driver qualified in the No. 6 position with her 3.945 ET from Friday night. The sixth-qualified spot would put Force beside Gary Densham in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. If Densham who drove his Funny Car off the end of the track and into the catch net during the third qualifying session cannot make the call for first round, Force will have a bye run.
“Overall, I can’t complain with how this weekend has gone so far. My team has been awesome. They have been behind me 100% and our Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS has been flying, running a 3.94 for both sessions on Friday and running a 4.0 second pass today. Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson are doing an awesome job to start the year and we’re all happy to be back at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona kicking off a new season with Traxxas.”
“We missed it on that last run, but still managed a No. 6 starting spot for race day. That puts us in the top half and gives us lane choice against Gary Densham. Densham is a great competitor and is a veteran in our sport. I have a lot of respect for him as a driver and hope he can make the call tomorrow to race us. Anything can happen on race day so we’re going to get this Traxxas machine turned around tonight and we’ll be here bright and early tomorrow for race day,” said Force.
Force has matched up with Densham only twice in the past and they are currently 1-1. They race in the first round at Seattle in 2014 with Densham taking the win. Their second meeting was last year at the Winternationals in the first round and Force turned on the win light.
The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster made four consistent runs during qualifying. Brittany Force’s best run of the weekend, 3.744 seconds at 320.66 mph, came in the final session as the sun set on Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The run moved Force back up into the top half of the field and she will face J.R. Todd in the first round.
“That was exactly what we wanted. We made four solid runs to start the season. This whole Monster Energy team is excited and we are at my home track and ready to go,” said Brittany Force.
The fourth year driver will be looking for her first round win at the Winternationals and she will have to get around veteran driver J.R. Todd who she has beaten twice in four previous encounters.
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JOHN FORCE, 66, PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 9th at 3.964 seconds, 322.34 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Tim Wilkerson (33-16)
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 3rd at 3.913 seconds, 322.04 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q4)
First round opponent (W-L): Tommy Johnson Jr. (13-6)
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 6th at 3.945 seconds, 323.04 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (2nd quickest of Q1 and quickest of Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Gary Densham (1-1)
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.744 seconds, 320.66 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q1)
First round opponent (W-L): J.R. Todd (2-2)
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Sunday, February 14
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM