LAS VEGAS – The 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals will be a big race for John Force Racing as some first round match-ups could lead to big jumps in the Mello Yello point standings especially in the Funny Car category. John Force, the No. 8 qualifier will face off in the first round with Chad Head who sits two spots in front of him in the point standings. A first round win would move Force around the second generation Funny Car driver. Courtney Force also has a key first round race against Alexis DeJoria who sits just two points in front of the winningest female Funny Car driver.
In the third session John Force and the Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car set the pace for the category with a strong 4.136 second run at 312.42 mph. The track temperature was hotter than the second session and a number of teams struggled to get their Nitro Funny Cars from the starting line to finishing line under power. For crew chief Jon Schaffer and the Chevrolet backed team it was a solid effort to give Force an additional three qualifying bonus points.
In the final session of the race weekend Force was once again one of the quickest Funny Cars lighting the scoreboard with an emphatic 4.108 second run that was spinning the tires as it crossed the finish line. Force feels confident going into race day as his team continues to establish itself as a contending team.
“I feel good about tomorrow because we have been struggling getting past the Christmas Tree. There has been no consistency for the last four races. We run fast on some days and then drop off. We made four good runs this weekend,” said Force. “We were low first round today and we were second quickest once plus we have been right there with the quick cars. We picked up a few bonus points. We have been running pretty decent running in the 4.0s and 4.10s. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Robert Hight and the Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car had the second quickest pass of the first session today until the last pair of Funny Cars. Hight’s 4.165 second run was the quickest run of the session by a large margin until Force made his quicker run and Jack Beckman slipped between the two JFR teammates with a 4.140 second pass.
The Auto Club Chevy team closed out qualifying with their second quickest run of the weekend, a nice smooth 4.123 second run on a hot track. With every successive pair of Funny Cars the track cooled off affording the teams later in the session to have improved conditions. This turn of events did not discourage Hight who eventually wound up No. 10 in qualifying and will race veteran Ron Capps in the first round.
"We stepped it up when we needed to so we could make nice smooth runs. We would have liked to have gotten into the top half of the qualified fields but we have won from the bottom half of the field before. What encourages me is looking at how we improved when the conditions were cooler and when they were hotter. We picked up some bonus points and we are racing one of the teams that is pretty close to us in the Mello Yello points. If we go rounds tomorrow we can definitely make some positive moves up the points standings,” said Hight, last year’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals runner-up.
For the first time ever at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Courtney Force will race from the No. 13 spot on Sunday. She will line up against Alexis DeJoria without the security of lane choice in the first round of eliminations.
“We got our Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car in the show for tomorrow which is the most important thing. We’ll be running Alexis in round one so it will be a fun, all-girl round in Funny Car, but we’re going to do the best we can to get that win light. She’s got a solid car out here this weekend so we’re definitely going to have to bring our A-game,” said Force.
This will be the ninth time the two female Funny Car drivers have matched up in eliminations, but the first time in 2015. Courtney is 5-3 to DeJoria in previous events. This is the seventh time the pair has met in the first round; the other two meetings were in the semi-finals. This is also their first time racing each other at The Strip at Las Vegas.
“We’re not running as hot as we had hoped. I’m learning some things about these lanes at this race track and it’s challenging for this team but we’re definitely looking to do better tomorrow and hopefully come out on top,” said Force.
Coming into the 16th annual Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals Courtney had never qualified lower than No. 6 at The Strip.
“We’re still looking for our first win of the season. We’ve done well here in the past. We’re just going to go back to our old ways and hopefully do well tomorrow when it counts,” added Force.
Brittany Force will be starting her third attempt at victory at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals from the No. 7 qualifying position tomorrow. The lone John Force Racing Top Fuel entry will face veteran Clay Millican. The pair coincidentally ran beside each other almost exclusively in qualifying so their first round match-up will be just another run for Force.
“I have run beside Clay every qualifying pass I think so it is funny how that works out some times. We got a couple good runs in this weekend so I am confident. We might need to step it up in the first round but I like that we are No. 7. I just want to go rounds tomorrow,” said Force, who is currently No. 8 in the Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. “I love being out here in Las Vegas. It is like a home track for me. I know how hard my entire team and crew chiefs have put into this Top Fuel dragster. We are ready for our first win so we would love to do it this weekend in Las Vegas.”
Force’s quickest run of the weekend, 3.801 seconds, was actually a tick quicker but Force lifted before the finish line. Force has raced at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in three different race cars and has many fond memories of round wins and success in the desert.
“I am definitely very comfortable here at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I have been down the track countless times. I love this track and I am very comfortable here,“ concluded Force.
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.086 seconds, 317.19 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (2nd quickest of Q1, quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Chad Head (2-0)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 10th at 4.091 seconds, 314.97 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Ron Capps (25-17)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 13th quickest at 4.236 seconds, 297.16 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Alexis DeJoria (5-3)
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, JFR Next Generation Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 7th at 3.801 seconds, 310.77 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Clay Millican (1-3)
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Sunday, April 12
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM