TOPEKA, KS (May 18, 2013) – It was a banner day for John Force Racing as qualifying for the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals concluded with all three JFR Ford Mustangs atop the Funny Car qualifying order. On Friday it was Robert Hight and Courtney Force sitting at the top the provisional order but today 9-time NHRA Kansas Nationals winner John Force ran 4.043 setting the track ET record en route to his 11th No.1 qualifying effort at Heartland Park Topeka. It was the 141st No. 1 of Force’s illustrious career and the first of the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing season.
“It was so smooth on that run I told (crew chief Mike) Neff we could go harder. He said OK but we have to race tomorrow. He slowed it down on that run and it still spun at the other end. When I went past the lights I almost got into the wall down there. When I hit the chutes it sucked me over. Neff is a real sharp cookie but I knew that. With his driving ability and what he has done as a crew chief,” said Force after his final run of the day a 4.077 second pass.
The last time Force was No. 1 was the Chicago NHRA event in 2012. Force has won the NHRA Kansas Nationals six times from the top spot. In the first round he will face former teammate and two-time Funny Car world champion Tony Pedregon. Force holds a commanding 57-26 win record against Pedregon.
“It was 125-126 degrees yesterday and I said that was awful hot. It ran that 4.11 which was pretty good (for the second session). Then my daughter and Robert both run in the 4.0s and I thought geez. We have been working on different chassis and they are starting to run for us. I told Neff this morning if I knew what was going on then I wouldn’t need to pay all these crew chiefs. We are a good team because we work together and we communicate. Even with all my experience I sometimes still struggle with the driving and Neff can talk to me and ask me why I am doing something in the car.”
Force raced around his daughter, Courtney Force, and son-in-law, Hight, on the way to the top of the Funny Car field. This was the 11th time John Force Racing was 1-2-3 in Funny Car qualifying. The last time JFR achieved this feat was Houston 2010 when Force was No. 1 followed by Ashley Force Hood, then Robert Hight.
“We are 1-2-3 and for Ford, Castrol, Traxxas, Auto Club, this means a lot. It shows that John Force still knows what to do. I surround myself with good people. I would like to take credit but credit goes to the people that give you the power. It starts at Mike Neff and then right down the line. All our crew chiefs work together from Jimmy Prock to Dean Antonelli to Ron Douglas,” said Force. “That is what it is all about. We have been struggling and I have done media stories about that. My dad always taught me when you are struggling don’t change in the middle of the stream and don’t forget which way you are going. Don’t swim backwards. The guys believe in me and I believe in them. They turned my cars around.”
Force’s on-track success meant that Arlie Ryan from Solomon, Kansas won a washer and dryer set thanks to BrandSource and the Win with Force promotion. If a JFR driver wins the race tomorrow a different lucky fan will win a 55” flat screen TV.
When qualifying was said and done, Courtney Force drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang straight down the track and claimed the No. 2 spot right. She will take on the No. 15 qualified car, that of Dale Creasy Jr., on race day. Force had an identical ET to teammate Hight but by virtue of her faster 315.56 mph she was awarded the second spot
The 24-year-old blonde from Yorba Linda, Calif. picked up four qualifying bonus points on Friday alone, and added 2 bonus points from her fourth and final round of qualifying today at Heartland Park Topeka.
“It feels great to come out here and make consistent runs each pass. We were trying something different on the third qualifying shot, trying to get it to go quicker down there. The track ended up being a little bit better than we expected on that run, but we came back up and improved our time. We tried to go for that top spot and we were just a little off. I wanted to steal it away from my dad and take that track record away from him, but I’m very proud of my Traxxas Ford Mustang team. I’m proud of my teammates; my dad going to the top and Robert in the No. 3 spot. It’s pretty amazing that we’ve all been running so strong out here during qualifying at Heartland Park Topeka,” said Force.
Force has never raced Dale Creasy Jr. in previous events. Last year in 2012, Force’s rookie year, she qualified No. 8 here at Heartland Park Topeka and lost to Robert Hight in the first round.
“I’m excited to go into tomorrow. It’s going to be interesting. It’s the first time I’ll be running Dale Creasy Jr. and my brother-in-law, Danny, his dad works on that team. It’s going to be a lot of fun to be out there with my family. I’m just excited that our three John Force Racing Funny Car teams are back on top,” said Force.
As excited as the Forces were about their respective qualifying efforts, the biggest smiles in the JFR pit area belonged to the Auto Club Mustang crewmen, crew chiefs and driver Robert Hight. Since the end of last season the team has been searching for a consistent tune-up and in the past two days the team feels like they have a good handle on one.
“I am thrilled. This is the best four runs we’ve put together. We had the fastest car out here early on. We’ve been trying to search for that for three years. Right now, there is nobody out here that has a car as fast as us at the beginning part of the track. I’m excited and to be one, two and three with our Ford Mustangs as bad as we’ve been struggling this is a great start to the season for us,” said Hight.
Hight is 9-1 versus veteran Jeff Arend in first round match-ups. Tomorrow will be the sixteenth meeting between Hight and Arend with Hight only having losses to the Jim Dunn backed driver.
“When you qualify well, you know you get an easier pick. We’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game for sure but I’m excited. We do everything right, we ought to be deep in this deal and maybe meet one of my teammates in the final,” added Hight.
Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang earned eight qualifying bonus points this weekend. The last time they earned that many bonus points in one event was over a year ago at the spring NHRA event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His qualifying struggles have been well chronicled but to put this weekend’s turn around in perspective from the Sonoma event in July until the end of the season Hight’s team only earned seven qualifying bonus points.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster had a pressure filled day with overcast skies threatening all day and a few brief showers halting racing action they were trying to post a time quick enough to qualify for the race. At the end of Friday’s qualifying session they were the 13th quicket Top Fuel dragster and did not carry a time over to Saturday.
In the first session the Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane tuned dragster went right down the track and solidified rookie Brittany Force’s position in the field. Conditions afforded the team the chance to put a little more into the tune up and with each run of the first three runs the Castrol EDGE dragster improved. In the final session the team was pressing and slowed a bit to 3.856 seconds but the pass was straight and heading into the first round Force is confident in her chances.
“We’ve been running a pretty consistent car. We ran a 3.856 in the last run and a 3.846 in the previous run. We’re in the show and we ended up 13th. The Castrol EDGE team gets to run tomorrow so we’re pretty excited about that. We get Khalid alBalooshi in the first round and I’ve never run him before so I’m excited and looking forward to tomorrow,” said Force, who is writing a daily diary for the Topeka Capital Journal newspaper.
“I really like Khalid. I’ve talked to him quite a few times. He’s always offered help and advice if I ever needed any. He’s a great guy and I’m excited to be in the lane next to him tomorrow.”
Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow.
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JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.043 seconds, 313.22 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (quickest of Q3 and 3rd quickest of Q4)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tony Pedregon (57-26)
ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.050 seconds at 315.12 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2; 2nd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jeff Arend (13-2)
COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.050 seconds, 315.56 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +7 (2nd quickest of Q1 and Q2; quickest of Q4)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Dale Creasy Jr. (0-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 26, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 13th at 3.846, 320.89 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Khalid alBalooshi (0-0)