B. FORCE RACES TO FIRST TF FINAL; HIGHT ALSO RUNNER-UP
PHOENIX, AZ ---- It was a historic day for John Force Racing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park during the running of the 30th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. For the first time JFR landed race cars in both the final round of the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories. In only 26 starts Brittany Force raced to her first career final round losing a close race to 2012 Top Fuel champion Antron Brown. Robert Hight raced to his first final of 2014 and just missed his 30th career win racing against Alexis DeJoria.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE dragster enjoyed their best weekend making eight consecutive quality passes (four in qualifying and four on race day) en route to a final round appearance. On race day Brittany Force avenged her 2013 loss to David Grubnic out running him in the first round and in the second round the sophomore driver defeated 7-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher posting a winning elapsed time of 3.805 to his 5.017 seconds. It was Force’s first win over Schumacher and it was a bucket list moment for the young driver.
“That round win will definitely be a highlight of my season until we get that first win. Tony Schumacher is awesome he is the champ. He has beaten my butt many times so I was happy to go out there and get the win. That is a round win I always wanted to get. To win against him was awesome,” said Force.
Last woman to win in Top Fuel was Hillary Will on June 1, 2008 at Topeka where she beat Larry Dixon in the final. Brittany Force is the 10th different drive to take a JFR fuel car to the final round after John Force, Tony Pedregon, Densham, Eric Medlen, Robert Hight, Ashley Force Hood, Courtney Force, Mike Neff and Phil Burkart Jr.
In the semi-finals Force continued to make quality passes besting Steve Torrence 3.814 to 4.187 seconds. In the final round Force had to take on one of the most popular and successful drivers on tour, Antron Brown. Their dragsters launched together and at the finish line it was Brown getting the win light 3.755 seconds to Force’s 3.793 which was her best run of the weekend. While there was no winner’s circle celebration there was still plenty of excitement in the Castrol EDGE pits.
“I am still so excited. I wanted to get that win in the first final but I know that first win is coming. We are getting closer. We did great today and we made our best run in the final with that 3.79. I am stoked and I am so proud of my guys. This Castrol EDGE team is really coming along,” said Force. “We are getting better. It is the second race of the season and to go to our first final. I couldn’t be happier.”
Brittany Force ironically enjoyed one of her best Super Comp outings at Phoenix in 2007 (Feb. 25). She won three rounds before losing to Shawn Langdon in round four.
Today’s performance for Brittany made her the first Top Fuel driver to reach the finals in a Ford powered dragster since "Sneaky Pete" Robinson won the Summernationals at York, Pa., on July 19, 1970. This is just the seventh time a Ford-powered dragster has been in an NHRA final round.
While Force is still learning the ropes her competitors are taking notice of her continued development and success. Perhaps the best compliment any young driver can get is the respect of their fellow racers.
“She’s in a young stage in her career and she’s just getting better and better and you can tell it. That’s how she got to the final. Her car was on point and it was consistent all day and that’s what got her those round wins. I didn’t look at who I raced, I know I’m racing John Force (Racing) and you know they can step up and they did step up. We’re not taking any of them lightly. None of these teams are out here to play games. It’s not recess anymore. School is in and you better have your thinking caps on and be ready to go out there and do work,” said Antron Brown, 2012 Top Fuel champion and 26-time Top Fuel winner.
“I don’t look at her as being a female, not because she’s a sophomore, I look at her as a tough, top competitor, and I’m going to give her my A+ game like everyone else. She was a strong competitor all day and we were not taking them lightly at all. It’s got Castrol on the side, that’s John Force Racing. We’re going after them just like we do everyone else.”
Moments before Brittany Force posted her runner-up finish Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team smoked the tires in their final round race versus Alexis DeJoria. The Auto Club Mustang had been moderately inconsistent this weekend qualifying No. 3 with a 4.030 second pass on Friday but smoking the tires in the next three runs including the first round today. Hight won a classic pedal-fest versus Cruz Pedregon to advance to the second round.
In the second round and semi-finals Hight’s Auto Club Mustang was one of the best Funny Cars of the class posting winning times of 4.059 seconds over Jack Beckman and 4.047 seconds over Tommy Johnson Jr.
In the finals Hight launched hard and then lost traction a few hundred feet down track. He was forced to watch DeJoria drive away for her first career Funny Car win.
“First congratulations to Alexis DeJoria. I knew it was going to be a tough race and we were going for it. This Auto Club Mustang has been a little up and down this weekend. We made two killer runs in the middle of the day running 4.05 to beat Beckman and then 4.04 to beat Tommy Johnson Jr.,” said Hight.
“We knew we would need another run like that in the final to get the win. I am glad we moved up in the points. It is early in the season but you want to get round wins and put pressure on the other teams. I wish Gainesville was next weekend. My guys did a great job this weekend qualifying No. 3 and getting to a final. Our next win is right around the corner.”
It was almost a JFR versus JFR final round but John Force was upended by DeJoria in the semi-finals. The Mello Yello points leader was trying to reach his seventh consecutive final round but fell a few hundredths of a second short.
Force’s race day began in bizarre fashion as his first round opponent Jeff Diehl was shut off on the starting line due to a fuel leak. Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car smoked the tires on a single most likely avoiding a No. 16 versus No. 1 qualifier upset.
In the second round Force narrowly defeated Bob Tasca III 4,106 to 4.120 which would wind up being Force’s best run of the day.
“I knew he would give us a good race. We have been off a little bit since Pomona. We ran that 3.99 on Friday night here at Wild Horse Pass. Jimmy prock said we have had some ignition problems and so did Mike Neff. We dug deep and we found it. It went right down the race track. We are still in the game and we are excited to be going rounds,” said Force.
Force will leave Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park with the Mello Yello points lead and a rededication to winning. At the end of the day the 16-time Funny Car champion was proud of his entire team.
“That’s one of my kids out there and I love her and I am proud of her. That is a lot of pressure up there and it took me a lot of years to learn to handle it. She is handling it really well. She is right on her game. She was right on the tree and right there with Antron, a champion. That is all I can ask for,” said Force.
“We make a lot of power and have great chassis. I see Jimmy prock and those guys working hard. No one had any data for this race track and we were learning every run just like everybody else. We are going after another championship. It is great to get Robert up in the points in second place right behind me and they are real close to their first win of the season.”
Courtney Force lined up beside Del Worsham in the opening round of race day at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the 30th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Force in the right lane and Worsham with lane choice in the left lane gave the fans a great show, but Force couldn’t get the win.
“We went up there and had Worsham first round. He made a solid pass down the track. We had the right lane and couldn’t get down it as well, but I did the best job I could to pedal the car. It hooked up quick and got down there, but he was long gone for the win. I was hoping we could get around him, but we ran out of race track,” said Force.
This is the eighth time the pair has matched up on race day. Force had to pedal it to get her Traxxas Ford Mustang to the finish line, posting a 4.499 at 291.95 mph, but Worsham laid down a 4.121 ET at 303 mph.
“We’re working with a new car this season. It’s a lot of change for our Traxxas Ford Mustang team, but you know what, we’re staying positive. This car is very capable of running well and we’ve already seen that. We’re just trying to get it to run more consistently,” said Force.
The John Force Racing team, made up of three Funny Car teams and one Top Fuel team will be staying for post-event testing on Monday after the race weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
“We’re coming out here tomorrow in Phoenix, back at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and testing our hotrod to see what we can bring to the table at Gainesville,” said Force.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 225; 2. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 159; 3. Alexis Dejoria, 156; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 136; 5. Del Worsham, 132; 6. Matt Hagan, 129; 7. Bob Tasca III, 124; 8. Jack Beckman, 92; 9. Ron Capps, 88; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 84; 11. Cruz Pedregon, 69; 12. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 67
TOP FUEL – 1. Doug Kalitta, 191; 2. Khalid alBalooshi, 165; 3. Antron Brown, 156; 4. Steve Torrence, 155; 5. Spencer Massey, 127; 5. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 127; 7. Shawn Langdon, 124; 8. Tony Schumacher, 92; 9. Richie Crampton, 84; 9. David Grubnic, 84
PRO STOCK – 1. V. Gaines, 191; 2. Jason Line, 180; 3. Vincent Nobile, 161; 3. Allen Johnson, 161; 5. Dave Connolly, 128; 6. Shane Gray, 127; 7. Erica Enders Stevens, 120; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 88; 9. Larry Morgan, 82; 9. Shane Tucker, 82
JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.990 seconds at 317.79 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
Race Results: Beat Jeff Diehl, Bob Tasca III, Lost to Alexis DeJoria
ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.030 seconds at 314.24 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q2)
Race Results: Beat Cruz Pedregon, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Lost to Alexis DeJoria
COURTNEY FORCE, 25, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 12th at 4.096 seconds at 304.94 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
Race Results: Lost to Del Worsham.
BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 10th at 3.813 seconds at 321.04 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
Race Results: Beat David Grubnic, Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, Lost to Antron Brown