READING, PA – Qualifying at the fourth stop of the 2014 Countdown to the Championship got underway today at the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania. For John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage team, they had his Mustang hitting all eight as the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion is in the hunt for another Funny Car title. With crew chief Jimmy Prock taking advantage of the great weather and track conditions, John’s hot rod ended the day in the provisional No. 3 spot. With a strong 4.046 second run at 318.24 mph, Force also picked up two valuable NHRA Mello Yello bonus points for his qualifying effort.
“We we’re trying to make sure we got in with both Castrol cars. Brittany did an awesome job and drove the Castrol EDGE car out the back door and ran a 3.76 before she had engine problems. As far as us, we played it kind of safe, try to run what we ran on the first session but the track was really good and the motor just could turn the tires and it made the car shake. We ended up third but we were really trying to make the show because they were saying it was going to rain all day tomorrow. Now they’re saying the will be gone by 10 in the morning say that means we’ll all get to run again. We know what’s in that car, it’ll run in the threes and if it runs, it’ll set the record again,” said John Force.
It was on Force’s first qualifying run that his Mustang ran right down the track and tripped the timing beams with that 4.046 second run. Even though he was second quickest after the first session, his Castrol GTX HIGH Mileage has the fastest time over all the opponents with that 318.24 mph run. Crew chief Jimmy Prock had Force’s Mustang tuned perfectly as it went to the number two spot. Force also collected his NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points which is important as the Countdown race gets tighter and tighter with each passing round.
“It was a good start for and with the weather being questionable tomorrow, we don’t know if we’ll get to race on Saturday so we just wanted to make a solid run and get in the show and hopefully in the top half. Going into the second session, we wanted to run a little better but we we’re weren’t looking to set a record or low ET. We’re more concerned about qualifying against the top cars and solid performance that keeps up staying in the top four than going out and smoking the tires. Unfortunately we were too soft in the tune up and didn’t have enough wheel speed and smoked the tires,” said Jimmy Prock.
During the second session, the weather and track conditions cooled down and improved. Crew Chief Jimmy Prock, who likes to swing for the fences, wanted to take advantage of the situation and get John’s Mustang moved up in the qualifying order. Prock also wanted to make sure the already potent Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang wasn’t too aggressive and overpower the surface of Gateway Motorsports Park.
Unfortunately for John Force, his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang smoked the massive Goodyear slicks almost at the hit of throttle and could only run a 8.756 seconds at an off pace 77.12 mph. He did get bumped from second to third after the second session but his Funny Car is still feared among the competitors in the pits.
“Cruz (Pedregon) ran 3.99, (Matt) Hagan ran four flat, Courtney’s (Force) car, just like me, couldn’t turn the tire. We go to get more aggressive but we were trying to get in the show. But, we made it and Robert (Hight), he flew in that second session and got faster and we got to all the cars in the top five, that way the competition is all racing their teammates in the early rounds,” said John Force.
With two more qualifying runs tomorrow, the Castrol GTX High Mileage team will look to qualify in the top three in each session and as Force likes to say, “gobble-up points like Pac-Man,” he knows these are important to maintain the lead in the Countdown. It will also give Jimmy Prock and crew more opportunities to fine tune Force’s Mustang and get ready for Sunday’s eliminations at the NHRA Nationals. John Force will be racing for his 142nd career victory and chasing his 17th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Championship.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang came into Reading with the game plan of making good runs and trying to pick up some qualifying bonus points. They made smooth runs in both of the qualifying sessions today a 4.072 second run to start the day and they stepped up in the night time session with a 4.053 second run. They were amongst the quickest Funny Cars of the day and Robert Hight is encouraged heading into Saturday.
“We are solidly in the top half of the field. We would have liked to have picked up some qualifying bonus points but going into Saturday as the No. 5 Funny Car is a pretty good position. I think we will get to run tomorrow even if some rain moves through. The conditions here were great and I think a lot of teams got really aggressive after they saw Cruz’s 3.99. We wanted to run quick but smart,” said Hight.
Courtney Force is sitting in the provisional No. 12 spot after the first two qualifying sessions at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa. The first three races in the Countdown to the Championship have put the 26-year-old Traxxas Ford Mustang pilot in the No. 2 spot in the Mello Yello point standings and the team is looking to hold on to that position.
“We have great conditions out here at Maple Grove Raceway. It’s been cool and the track is in great shape. We went out today and ran a 4.10 to get us in the field. It wasn’t our best run, but it was a safe run to put us where we needed to be after the first session,” said Force.
On the second qualifying attempt, Force launched off the line and her Traxxas Ford shook and went into tire smoke.
“Since we had made a pretty good pass on Q1 we decided to go after it since the conditions were there. We tried a little bit too hard, but we went for it on that run. It shook right off the line and spun the tires. Obviously we were trying to run in the 3.0’s. We couldn’t get the job done, but there’s always tomorrow and so far we are still in the top 12, which is the most important thing. We’re just trying to pick up those qualifying bonus points and couldn’t get it done today, but we’re looking forward to tomorrow,” said Force.
Brittany Force showed the competition and her fans, that it’s “Game On” as the Castrol EDGE Dragster blasted off the starting line like a missile and ran an impressive 3.765 second pass at 322.81 mph during the second qualifying session at the 30th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. The 2013 Auto Club Rookie of the Year ran her quickest Top Fuel pass since Sonoma earlier this year. Brittany also picked up two NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points for her awesome qualifying performance in that second session despite having her BOSS 500 engine explode into a fireball right as she crossed the finish line.
“That was definitely a crazy run. I watched it on the screen when NHRA replayed it and I no idea there was a fireball that big right behind me. My Castrol EDGE dragster went right down the track and it felt like it left hard and was on a smooth straight run then, it started to rattle about six or seven hundred feet out, it shook a little but it picked and I drove right through it. Right as I crossed the finish line I felt an explosion behind me, I knew it was a big one but not as big until I saw the footage later on. It hurt the car but like crew chief said, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. We ran such a good number, we’re number two and I’m pumped,” said Brittany Force.
In the opening session, Brittany’s dragster started out on a good pass but it quickly began to haze the massive Goodyear slicks and could only muster a 4.894 second run at 144.06 mph. The always optimistic Brittany Force knew her crew would evaluate the run and make the right call heading in the second qualifying session.
“On the first session, my dragster left good then at 300-feet, it went up in smoke so I decided to get out of the throttle and not risk doing more damage. There are only sixteen Top Fuel dragsters here so we didn’t see the need to pedal it and get it down there as it would only hurt the car. I knew we’d have another session later in the afternoon and the conditions would be a lot cooler, we wanted to put a good number on the board and it did,” said Brittany Force.
When it came time for the second session, Brittany’s crew had a handle on the weather and track conditions and the crew, led by Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli, made the right call and took advantage of the conditions to move the Castrol EDGE Dragster up from the 14th spot to No. 2.
“We knew the conditions would be better and didn’t want to lose the opportunity to move Brittany up in the field. She was on a good run until something happened to the engine right at the stripe. We’re looking at it now and will fix it. We’re all happy she qualified number two as it’s a great confidence builder for the whole team,” said Todd Smith.
The Castrol EDGE team will get two more shots down Maple Grove Raceway and with Brittany currently qualified second place, the crew can focus on getting the car set up for Sunday’s final eliminations. With only two races in the Countdown, Brittany Force is focused on going rounds and winning her first Top Fuel race for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
“I try not to focus too much on the Countdown, I know there’s that added pressure as you want to do good for the team and you want to work your way up the ladder. Right now, we’re number 10 and you can’t kick us out of the Countdown, we can only go up from there, so that’s our plan we’re going after it. Each weekend I jump in the car I just look at it as another race and I have a job to do, doesn’t matter which race it is or who’s in the next lane, I’m going to do my job and get the car down the track. We all have a lot of work to do tomorrow to get ready for those two runs but we’re ready,” said Brittany Force.
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 3rd at 4.046 seconds at 318.24 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 5th at 4.053 seconds at 318.17 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 12th at 4.108 seconds at 305.29 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 2nd at 3.765 seconds at 322.81 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q2)
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Saturday, October 4
Nitro Qualifying Session 3 12:00 p.m.
Nitro Qualifying Session 4 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 5
Final Eliminations 11 a.m.