TOPEKA, KS – Before today the most three second Funny Car runs NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans had seen at a single event was seven at the Winternationals in 2014. That included two days of qualifying and a day of eliminations. In just three rounds of qualifying at the 27th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals eight three second Funny Car runs were executed by seven different drivers including John Force’s 3.99 second run that locked him into the No. 5 qualifying position.
“This is the toughest Funny Car field I have ever been up against. When you look at the potential it is amazing. (No. 1 qualifier) Chad Head running 3.967 seconds and you look at (No. 2 qualifier) Tim Wilkerson running 3.971 seconds these are not big funded teams,” said Force, a nine-time winner at the NHRA Kansas Nationals. “When the good Lord brings air in here like this to go along with their good tune-ups everybody will flex their muscles. (Chad Head’s crew chief and father) Jim Head is no dummy. He is a sharp cookie and so is Tim Wilkerson. We expect to see quick numbers from Schumacher Racing and of course our team is right there too. I ran a 3.99 with a young crew led by crew chief Jon Schaffer. This is a fast race track and that is why they have to keep it.”
Force picked up a valuable qualifying bonus point for his qualifying effort today before rain moved over Heartland Park Topeka and ended the day of qualifying. Eliminations are scheduled to begin tomorrow at 11 a.m. with Top Fuel and then Funny Car.
In the first round Force will race Tommy Johnson Jr. whom he has a 38-8 record against. The rest of John Force Racing’s Funny Cars will also face Don Schumacher Racing teams in a classic Yankees versus Red Sox, Celtics vs. Lakers or Bruins vs. Canadians battle. Traxxas backed Courtney Force will race Jack Beckman and Auto Clun backed Robert Hight will face Matt Hagan.
The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car came around today and stepped up with a solid 4.012 second pass at 323.12 mph which shockingly was only quick enough to give Hight the No. 9 qualifying position right behind Hagan’s best of 4.000 seconds. Hight’s last two runs of 4.021 and 4.012 are comparable to just about every driver in the top half of the field.
“The conditions were so good today it made for a great show for the fans. I wish the weather would have cooperated and given us one more shot at the track. I am glad we made another strong run. Running 4.021 and then 4.012 gives us a lot of confidence. We have run in the threes before and we will race the track hard tomorrow. I will have to bring my best to the starting line. It will be a good race for sure and I want to go some rounds,” said Hight, a two-time winner at Kansas Nationals (2010 and 2011).
In just three qualifying sessions, Courtney Force raced her way to a 4.015 elapsed time, good for the No. 11 qualifying position and she set the NHRA national speed record for Funny Car in her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS.
“We’re going into race day in Topeka in the No. 11 spot. We’re not exactly where we had hoped to be, but we did have a fast race car. We broke the national speed record and took it from my dad and got it backed up with a 325 mph run in Q3,” said Force.
Coming into the weekend, Force held the track speed record at 315.56 mph from last May when she was No. 1 qualifier beside her sister, Brittany Force, in the Top Fuel category. On Friday, Force topped her own record with a new 324.20 mph pass, but came back today and put a 4.020 ET at 325.06 mph run on the board in the third qualifying session.
“We’re looking forward to going into race day. We qualified with a 4.015 and have a pretty solid race car, which makes us feel good about race day,” said Force.
In the process, Force took the national speed record away from her father, John Force, who set at the Winternationals last year with a speed of 324.12 mph. This is the first time a Chevrolet has ever held the official Funny Car record in 38 years. This is the 14th time a JFR driver has set a national speed record in the Funny Car division and Courtney is the fifth different JFR driver to do so.
Force will go into eliminations tomorrow against Jack Beckman for the second time this year. Their last race was in Houston, two races ago, in the semi-finals. This is their first time racing each other at Topeka and only the third time they have met in the opening round. Force is currently 5-3 to Beckman in previous events.
“The cars out here that we’re running against are pretty quick, and our run only put us in the No. 11 spot so we won’t have lane choice against Beckman tomorrow, but we’re definitely going to give it all we got and try to defend our title here in Topeka,” said Force.
The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster and Brittany Force will go into race day as the No. 6 qualifier on the strength of two great runs yesterday. In the lone qualifying run today the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster rattled the tires coming off the starting line. The conditions were so good that many of the Top Fuel teams struggled to transfer the power generated by their 10,000 hp engines to the track surface.
“We have some momentum now. We ran quick on Sunday in the first round (in Atlanta) and then we made two quick runs (on Friday). We left Atlanta on a good note and we had a good race car. To come here to Topeka and jump right back into the mix with two good runs is awesome. We have had good luck here at Topeka and I hope this isn’t our last race here. Hopefully we can go all the way this weekend,” concluded Force, after qualifying on Friday.
Brittany will face Steve Torrence in the first round of eliminations tomorrow.
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JOHN FORCE, 66, Peak Anti-Freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 5th at 3.990 seconds, 320.74 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tommy Johnson Jr. (28-8)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 9th at 4.012 seconds, 323.12 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Matt Hagan (8-10)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 11th at 4.015 seconds, 324.20 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jack Beckman (5-3)
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 6th at 3.762 seconds, 325.14 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Steve Torrence (2-1)
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Sunday, May 24
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM