BRAINERD, MN – The final day of qualifying at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals was cut short by rain and the fields were set after the third qualifying session. John Force made a career best run of 3.93 seconds to secure the No. 2 qualifying position. He picked up two qualifying bonus points for his effort. For the first time all three John Force Racing Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Cars made three second runs at the same event and all three will start in the top half of the field led by Force.
John Force made an impression for the capacity crowd at Brainerd International Raceway even before his Peak Chevrolet Camaro SS crossed the finish line. The 11-time Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Funny Car winner had one of the most memorable burn outs if his storied career. As Force was rolling through the water box he hit the throttle his 10,000 hp Funny Car and it veered to the right dramatically. The veteran driver regained control and calmly staged his Funny Car.
“I don’t know if I got something underneath the tire on the burn out but I am better than that. (Auto Club crew chief) Mike Neff and young (Force’s crew chief) Jon Schaffer and the whole brain trust we just keep trying. We are a mile behind those guys over there at Schumacher Racing but I am excited because I have this Peak Chevrolet Camaro and we are getting better. We are running with these guys and not just me but Robert and Courtney. We have a lot of Peak customers here plus we have support from Traxxas and Auto Club. I am hopped up on Monster right now. The only thing different is that Lucas Slick Mist and I think I put that stuff on my hot rod and made it fast,” said Force from the top end after his historic run.
On the run Force blasted down the track with a career quickest elapsed time and was the No. 1 qualifier until the last pair of Funny Cars made their final attempt. Force was bumped back one spot and will face No. 15 qualifier Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round. Force is 12-4 versus Creasy but has had challenges against the veteran driver in their past handful of meetings. He defeated Creasy in the first round of the Lucas Oil Nationals in 1999.
While Force was leading JFR on Saturday it was Robert Hight who will carry his two blistering runs from Friday into race day. In his one shot at the track today Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car were on a serious run when his race car drifted to the right and Hight had to get off the throttle.
“We were on a strong run today and it just overpowered the track. We can back it down tomorrow and be fine. The great thing about what we are learning is these Chevrolets are tunable. Mike Neff has a great handle on this race car and we made two three second runs in a row yesterday and I have never done that. We will just need to go rounds tomorrow,” said Hight.
Hight will face Ron Capps in the first round and he most recently Ron Capps in Sonoma where he defeated him in the second round. He is 2-3 versus Capps this season.
Courtney Force will pair up with John Hale in the first round of eliminations on Sunday at the 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd. She drove her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to a career-best 3.959 elapsed time at 320.66 mph to qualify in the No. 4 position.
“We only got half of a day of qualifying in out here in Brainerd today. We pushed our car hard in Q3, the conditions were great, but we stumbled a bit on that run when it shook and I had to shut it off. We were really going to go after it in Q4, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
“We made a good run yesterday with our career-best ET and that got us qualified in the top half of the field. We’re going into race day in a good place. I think we found the spot on our race car where we know how far we can push it so we’re ready for race day tomorrow,” said Force.
This is Force’s best ever starting spot at Brainerd International Raceway. She will have lane choice over Hale, whom she has never faced in eliminations. He is her 29th different opponent in the Funny Car category.
“We’re excited to be out here in Brainerd with the fans. We’re hoping for a good race day tomorrow for our Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS team. We definitely need some good results. We have a great team and car so we’re definitely going to work hard for it,” said Force.
The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster will be the most affected by the lost session when you consider they made one solid run yesterday and then overpowered the track on the following two runs trying to find the balance between power and traction. Force will go into race day as the No. 11 qualifier and will face rookie Top Fuel driver Dave Connolly in the first round. Force’s run of 3.787 seconds held up and her team was trying to take advantage of cool temperatures and improve on that time.
“Everyone is in the same boat. We would have liked to have had that last qualifying run. We did get one good run and on the second run we were pushing it pretty hard. Hopefully conditions will stay cool so we can use the info we got from the first run and be set up for tomorrow. I am lucky to have two great crew chiefs in Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson. I’ll have Dave Connolly in the first round and we will have to give it our best,” said Force, the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year.
Brittany Force is 1-0 versus Dave Connolly. She beat the Top Fuel rookie in the first round of the Gatornationals earlier this season.
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JOHN FORCE, 66, Peak Anti-Freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.930 seconds, 324.83 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Dale Creasy Jr (12-4)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.974 seconds, 319.07 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q1)
First round opponent (W-L): Ron Capps (27-19)
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.959 seconds, 320.66 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): John Hale (0-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 11th at 3.787 seconds, 326.00 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First round opponent (W-L): Dave Connolly (1-0)
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Sunday, August 23
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM