COURTNEY FORCE STAYS No. 1 AT AAA TEXAS FALLNATIONALS
ENNIS, TX – Courtney Force held onto her No. 1 qualifying spot at the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals while her father John Force raced to the runner-up finish at the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals at the conclusion of the day. Force outran Hagan 4.140 seconds to 4.212 but he jumped the start by .053 seconds and was disqualified. The incredibly hot track temperatures which reached as high as 137 degrees kept most of the Friday qualifiers in their same positions throughout the last day of qualifying.
The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion was pumped up and ready to win what would have been his 142nd career victory today, as the final eliminations of last weekend’s postponed Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals. Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, would have to get past three drivers, one a former NHRA champ to achieve another milestone victory in the ever important 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. There was also the potential to “Double Up” if he was victorious today and on Sunday during the final eliminations of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals and to add more excitement, John Force was also going for win number 79 behind the wheel of his Ford Mustang, as this would make him the winningest driver in Ford history.
Unfortunately for John Force, his 7th straight final round appearance would net him a runner-up finish to rival Matt Hagan, as John had an uncharacteristic red light and was instantly disqualified. John has raced Hagan in the finals seven times, and prior to today’s pairing, these two highly competitive drivers were 3-3 in their previous matchups. It was also the second time this season John has red lighted during eliminations.
“This was driver error! My race car out ran him; it whipped him unless he (Matt Hagan) lifted early, but they said he was right down there with me. I got jacked-up, I heard them yelling ‘They’re running Pro Stock’, I knew I was late, I changed my routine, I know better than to change my routine! I’m so furious at myself, you don’t change your routine, and yet I changed it and I screwed up all the work we did. We’re going to try to win this race, we’re going to try to win this championship, and you don’t to it by making those kinds of mistakes. I’m embarrassed,” said John Force.
“But John is a great racer and I’m glad we have a little rivalry. We need that out here in our sport. We can’t be all kissy-kissy,” said Hagan, following the win. “It’s nice to have a winning record again against John. He’s the man to beat and he’s proven it all year long. They’ve been very dominant but with this Countdown it gives us another shot to come out here and take over.”
Today’s eliminations picked up in the quarterfinals, as John’s opponent, Dave Richards, chose not to come to the Dallas race to face John in round two. Having the bye-run, crew chief Jimmy Prock was able to try a different set-up on John’s Castrol EDGE Mustang to see if he could improve the performance of the car’s 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine. Unfortunately, the concrete surface of the Texas Motorplex couldn’t take the power of John’s Funny Car, and the massive Goodyear slicks began to lose traction at the 300-foot mark. The time was only 4.757 seconds at 183.69 mph.
“The fans get two championship races today, here you get Charlotte, Bruton Smith’s race and then you get Billy Meyer’s race, the FallNationals here in Dallas so I’m loving it. I got real lucky in the last round. I want to thank Dave Richards, he couldn’t make it and a lot of times, it’s financial and I gave it away. My old hot rod wouldn’t go down the track, but there’s nothing wrong with the track, we just have to make the right adjustments. Now, it’s going to be a crap shoot and it’s going to be exciting stuff to watch and you know what’s cool, anyone can win this race,” said John Force.
Since John Force was already qualified for the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, crew chief Jimmy Prock was trying to find the right balance of power so John could get past his next opponent in the eliminations. Going into the semi-finals, John Force would fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca III and with Tasca having lane choice, Jimmy Prock was making sure the clutch set-up would be dialed-in to get John down the track in short order.
As the Christmas tree flashed green, both Mustangs blasted off the starting line and it was John leading the whole way down the track as he turned in a 4.271 second run at 293.79 mph to Tasca’s 4.337 at 262.69. This would set up an epic final round match-up with Hagan.
Qualified 5th for the tomorrow’s final round eliminations for the AAA Texas NHRA Nationals, John Force will once again hit the Texas Motorplex looking for win number 142. Regardless, his points lead in the Countdown continues to grow, as he’s going for his 17th NHRA Mello Yello championship.
Courtney Force qualified in the No. 1 spot for the fourth time this season and the second time at the Texas Motorplex when her track record 4.039 ET held through two additional qualifying sessions today. The 26-year-old also posted a track record speed at 314.90 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car.
“No matter what, it’s going to be tough tomorrow on race day. It’s hard for anyone to run out here in the heat, as you could see on that last run. We had a pretty consistent car out here this weekend. I think we pushed it a little too hard on that last run to see what it would do in the heat, but I think we’ll learn something from it for tomorrow on race day,” said Force.
The youngest Force daughter has posted top speed in eight of 17 races this season alone and could add to that number tomorrow. She will match-up against Tony Pedregon in round one. This is only the fifth time the pair have raced each other, but the third time this season. She is currently 3-1 against him. They have raced each other twice in the first round and twice in the second.
“It feels good to go out there and have this Traxxas Ford Mustang back and going back to the No. 1 spot, especially here in Texas. I’m really proud of my team for giving me a good race car this weekend and definitely hope to continue it tomorrow throughout race day. You know, we didn’t have such good luck last weekend in Charlotte so we’re really hoping to turn things around. We could definitely use the points to climb our way back up there for the Championship. I definitely think we still have a chance at it. It feels good to make some consistent passes and be able to get down there in the heat like we did earlier today, definitely gives you a little bit of confidence for tomorrow. We had one bad run, but I think we can learn from it,” said Force.
The 2012 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner for NHRA’s top Rookie of the Year won the 100th NHRA pro race by a woman at Topeka earlier this season. She has a total of five career wins, the most by any woman in Funny Car history.
“I think we’ve got a good car and a good shot at it this weekend. I think if we can keep our Traxxas Ford running consistent and just outrun these guys and girls in the heat, we have a pretty good chance at taking home a win here in Texas,” said Force.
This is the hometown race of Force’s primary sponsor Traxxas, The Fastest Name in Radio Control. Traxxas came on board with Force at the start of her rookie season in 2012.
“There’s a lot of pressure I put on myself. Coming out here, the base for my main sponsor Traxxas, you definitely want to impress them. You see a lot of new faces coming out here that work at headquarters and are coming out to support our team. We definitely want to do a good job and make them proud and also make them realize that they made the right decision going with me. So, there’s a lot of pressure I put on myself to make Traxxas happy, especially Mike Jenkins (Traxxas Owner and CEO),” said Force
Force admitted her struggles with this track and why she wants to win this race so bad, remembering John Force’s crash in 2007at The Motorplex, just months after teammate Eric Medlen passed away during a testing accident.
“This is the one track that always sticks out in my mind. It’s the home of Traxxas, but also where my dad had his incident. So no matter what, that always kind of sticks out every time I’m running in the left lane, but I’d really like to get a win here and have a happier memory,” said Force.
Force suffered an unfortunate first-round match-up against her father and 16-time champion John Force in Charlotte last weekend; the first race of the 2014 Countdown to the Championship. John Force has now been to seven straight finals.
“The one thing I’m thinking is, ‘get me on the other side of the ladder from him.’ I don’t want to run him. Obviously it cost me last weekend and for me mentally, my teammates are my biggest competition right now. I would be okay if they got it, but I really want it and I don’t want to be running into them along the way. I want to take out these other guys and be facing my teammates in the final. That would be ideal, but like I said, last weekend we went up against him and that’s just not what we want. On a positive note, I think we’ve got a good car and that’s the only thing we need to focus on; our team and going after that win. We’ll worry about him when we get to him,” said Force.
Robert Hight and the AAA Texas Ford Mustang team will go into race day tomorrow as the No. 9 qualifier and will face Jack Beckman. Hight raced to the semi-finals of the postponed Carolina Nationals but tires smoke in the first session today in a win over Jeff Arend. In the final round of qualifying which was also the semi-finals Hight dropped a close race to eventual race winner Matt Hagan.
“It was hot today but we got down the track in the final qualifying session. We made it to the semi-finals of the Carolina Nationals and stayed in the No. 2 spot. We get to race tomorrow and we will try and go more rounds then. I am confident with how this AAA Texas Funny Car is running. You look at these JFR Funny Cars and we are all making some good runs in the heat. I hate that we are all on the same side of the ladder,” said Hight, a five-time winner this season.
Racing wrapped up today at the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, and Brittany Force just short of making the cut, and thus failed to qualify. The 2013 Auto Club Rookie of Year tried to get her Castrol EDGE Dragster in the field, but unfortunately tricky weather and track conditions threw Brittany and her crew a curve ball.
With three final round appearances this season and strong showings throughout the year, this was Brittany’s first DNQ in a Countdown race. Prior to today, the last time Brittany didn’t qualify for a race was at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio back in July of 2013.
“We are bummed. This was not the plan. Every run counts and we need to go rounds. We are going to hold our heads up. We are No. 10 in the points right now and we can’t go any lower. We will get ready for the next race and keep trying hard,” said Brittany Force.
In Saturday’s first qualifying session, the air temperature was hovering around the low 90s and the crew chiefs were struggling with track temp that was above 130 degrees. This affects the set-up greatly, and they knew it would be same conditions on Sunday’s final eliminations. At the flash of the green from the Christmas tree, Brittany hit the throttle of her Castrol EDGE Dragster.
Unfortunately she hazed the massive Goodyear slicks and began to lose traction. She tried to pedal her dragster to get it to settle down and regain traction, but her racecar just smoked the tires to the 1000-foot mark. The end result was a 4.661 second pass at 222.11 mph. Brittany would still be on the outside looking in going into the fourth and final qualifying session as she was still in the 17th spot.
On the fourth and final qualifying session, track temps hovered between 137 and 139 degrees and the crew was trying get the Brittany’s car to cooperate and make a clean run. Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster was on a good pass until once again, the massive Goodyear slicks began fighting for traction at the 300-foot mark. The sophomore Top Fuel driver did everything she could to settle the car down and back pedal it to drive through the tire spin and wheel shake conditions, but never got the dragster to hook up, as it smoked the tires all the way down the track as it turned in a 4.110 second pass at 242.63 mph.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team will look at the run data from this weekend, make adjustments, and then head to the 3rd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois.
MELLO YELLO POINT STANDING (Through Charlotte2)
FUNNY CAR - 1. John Force, 2202; 2. Robert Hight, 2161; 3. Matt Hagan, 2150; 4. Ron Capps, 2126; 5. Alexis DeJoria, 2104; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2084; 7. Courtney Force, 2076; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2057; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2052; 10. Del Worsham, 2043
TOP FUEL - 1. Tony Schumacher, 2176; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2149; 3. Steve Torrence, 2133; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 2122; 5. Spencer Massey, 2114; 6. Antron Brown, 2112; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2106; 8. JR Todd, 2064; 9. Richie Crampton, 2051; 10. Brittany Force, 2043
PRO STOCK - 1. Jason Line, 2206; 2. Erica Enders Stevens, 2150; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2117; 4. Dave Connolly, 2110; 5. Shane Gray, 2133; 6. Jonathan Gray, 2115; 7. Vincent Nobile, 2109; 8. Allen Johnson, 2104; 9. V Gaines, 2072; 10. Chris McGaha, 2042
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2208; 2. Andrew Hines, 2185; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 2134; 4. Steve Johnson, 2098; 5. Matt Smith, 2096; 6. Hector Arana, 2091; 7. John Hall, 2084; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, 2072; 9. Angie Smith, 2062; 10. Michael Ray, 2061
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 5th at 4.081 seconds at 314.24 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
First round opponent (W-L): Jeff Arend (16-5)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 9th at 4.088 seconds at 312.13 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First round opponent (W-L): Jack Beckman (14-11)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.039 seconds at 314.90 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Tony Pedregon (2-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 17th quickest at 4.110 seconds at 242.63 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0