FORCES REIGN AT SONOMA; COURTNEY AND BRITTANY STAY NO. 1
SONOMA, CA – For the second time in 2014 the two youngest daughters of drag racing legend John Force were tops in their respective Nitro classes. Second year driver Brittany Force was No.1 in Top Fuel for the third time and she bacme the first female to ever top the Top Fuel category at Sonoma Raceway. Sister Courtney Force was No. 1 in Funny Car for the third time this season as well. The sisters were No. 1 earlier in the season in Topeka, Kansas.
Courtney Force’s No. 1 qualifying time held up from the second qualifying session on Friday through two addition sessions today. She has never qualified No. 1 before at Sonoma, but this is her sixth No. 1 start of her career.
“My Traxxas team had a good run in Q2. It cooled off and it was a good track for anyone to make a good run on. To come out and run a 4.045 right out the back door, that’s pretty awesome. I’m proud to be driving this Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car. Ron Douglas and Dan Hood, they’ve done a great job giving me a good car,” said Force.
She qualified No. 1 earlier this season in Las Vegas and again in Topeka, where she also picked up the 100th professional win by a woman in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history.
“It’s funny when you look back at the times that my Traxxas team has been No. 1 qualifier. It’s pretty cool that now two of those times have been with my sister. I’m very proud of her and her Castrol Edge team. She’s done amazing job and you really can see the improvement that they’ve got over there. They are definitely one of the top competitors. Obviously, they’ve really shown that.
“It’s exciting to be No. 1 qualifier with my sister. It’s very special, especially being out here in Sonoma. Like I said yesterday, we got to grow up out here and got to watch Eric Medlen, our teammate, win a race here in Sonoma. So it’s kind of cool. His friends and family are out here. We’re going to do the ice cream thing tonight. No one can be upset when you’re eating ice cream; that’s what he always said so definitely going to be eating ice cream in his honor tonight with Brittany and also we’ll be celebrating our No. 1 qualifiers. Hopefully we’ll have more to celebrate tomorrow,” said Force.
The 26-year-old has had the quickest and fastest car on the property here at Sonoma Raceway. Her 4.045 at 319.22 mph has held through four rounds of qualifying and is likely to hold through four elimination rounds on race day.
“It’s kind of cool to think that Traxxas being on the side of my Funny Car is The Fastest Name in Radio Control and we got to be the fastest one out here, so I think my sponsor, Mike Jenkins (Traxxas owner and CEO), is going to be pretty excited about that. He’ll be here tomorrow so at least we’ve done a little bit of impressing so far. Hopefully we can continue it tomorrow and go some rounds,” said Force.
Force will line up beside Peter Russo, whom she has yet to compete against in her three years racing in the Funny Car category. She will have lane choice. In 2014, she has had lane choice in the first round on race day in 12 of the first 15 races along the NHRA Mello Yello series tour.
“I’m a little bummed out. I wish we could have done a little bit better in the heat. We did get a 4.17 down there yesterday, but struggled a little bit today figuring out our breaking point, so to speak, of how far we can push this car, but I guess that’s what qualifying is for. We need to learn it. We knew we had nothing to lose when we had the No. 1 spot, but we’re going to have to figure it out in the heat tomorrow because that’s the most important time that we’re going to be racing. We really got to get this car flying down there against these guys who showed that they can get a good car running pretty good in the heat too. Its’ going to be a tough battle tomorrow, but I’m just proud of all JFR,” said Force.
After today’s two qualifying sessions, Brittany Force’s stellar 3.762 second run from last night held and the 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of Year will race from the No. 1 qualifying spot on Sunday.
“I’m definitely excited. To be number one, that’s exactly what the Castrol EDGE team wanted. I’m so proud of my entire team, they’ve all worked so hard and I’m glad we’re in the number one spot and hung on to it today. I know it’s definitely going to be a challenge tomorrow as our one great run was in the best conditions, when it was cool, and we won’t have that tomorrow. I’m still confident we’ll go some rounds,” said Brittany Force
Compared to her rookie season last year, Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE team have done a complete 180-degree turnaround. For example, at this point last year (through 15 races) Brittany's average qualifying position was 12th with two DNQs (Houston and Norwalk). With Brittany’s claiming the number one spot this weekend, her average qualifying position is now 6th with three number ones and no DNQs.
This is quite an accomplishment for the 28 year-old driver who broke from family tradition of racing Funny Cars and ventured into Top Fuel dragsters. For Brittany, she never had any regrets when she climbed into the cockpit and slid behind the wheel of her machine for the first time in 2013. The fact there’s a 10,000-horsepower BOSS 500 engine cradled right behind her helmet and she’s driving one of the fastest accelerating vehicles on the planet is a challenge Brittany’s up for.
During Saturday’s first session, Brittany Force once again made a solid run of 3.914 seconds at 285.35 mph. She was on a good pass until she started to haze the tires towards the top end. Brittany Force still had the fourth quickest pass of Saturday’s first round of qualifying. What really mattered for the Castrol EDGE team was to make a good run in the heat of day and that was their objective. They know the conditions on race day will be very similar as today and that’s what they were shooting for.
“Obviously our run last night was awesome, going to number one and running that 3.76. But we won’t be running in the evening come race day so it’s these runs from earlier today that are really going to matter. We were fourth in that session and had a pretty good run and I even lifted early. It felt like it was hazing the tires, starting to shake a little and starting to smoke the tires. So, I got out of it to make sure we didn’t blow-up the engine and hurt the car,” said Brittany Force.
Heading into the final session, Brittany Force was on another good run but at half-track the massive Goodyear slicks began to lose traction. Regardless, no other Top Fuel competitor was unable to unseat her number one berth in both sessions so for the third time this season, she’ll head into race day from the pole position.
“Even though we didn’t quite get the car down there today, the two runs we made gives us enough information to work from going into race day. On both runs I had to get out of it early so not to break parts. Throughout qualifying, my dad was cheering us Courtney and I on and he’s proud of us. We’re also are very proud of him and everything he’s accomplished so we cheer for him too,” said Brittany Force.
With three final round appearances this season, Brittany Force has the momentum is ready to close the deal and claim that first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
“I love this race track and I remember coming here with my dad when I was younger. To take home my first win at Sonoma Raceway would be awesome and unreal,” said Brittany Force.
Seven-time Sonoma Nationals winner John Force will race from the number three spot on race day. With this being Force’s 650th NHRA National Event, he’d like also to claim him 141st victory and third win of the season on Sunday. John Force would also like to lock up his spot in the Countdown to the Championship tomorrow but there’s four tough competitors standing in his way.
The seasoned veteran will face the number 14 qualifier, Paul Lee, in the opening round. Even with the lane choice advantage going to Force, the 16-NHRA Mello Yello World Champion will be on his game plan and shows no signs of slowing down. With his eyes on winning an unprecedented 17th Mello Yello Funny Car World Championship, John Force is focused on winning. With a 6-3 record against Paul Lee, he won’t take him lightly when the two line up for battle on Sunday.
With all the cars running extremely well from the John Force Racing stable, the reigning NHRA Funny Car champion looks for to race day with anticipation not just for him, but for his teammates.
“You’re always excited for race but it’s more. Your attitude is you mentally can win and that means you can beat anybody. It stays with you through the day and I’m just excited. Robert is running good and I’m right up there,” said John Force.
In Saturday’s first session, John’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was glued to the track and ran a strong and consistent 4.161 second pass at 297.94 mph.
“We pushed it in the heat to see what we could run and we know what we can’t. But, we still have the numbers above who we’re racing so we’ll just go out there tomorrow,” said John Force.
During the final qualifying session, John Force’s 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang began to spin the massive Goodyear slicks at just past the 330-foot mark and could only muster a 5.172 second run at 144.49 mph. That didn’t matter though as crew chief Jimmy Prock was working on the race day tuned up in which the weather and track conditions will be hot.
For John Force, he’s extremely proud to once again see both his daughters, Brittany and Courtney, claim their second combined number qualifying spots in Top Fuel and Funny Car.
“I’m especially proud of Brittany and Courtney, two sisters, low ET in two categories, that’s history there. No one else but my daughters have ever done that so I can’t say how proud they make me,” said John Force.
In the opening session on Saturday the Auto Club Funny Car turned heads with a Saturday best run of 4.134 seconds at 304.60 when the track temperature was over 130 degrees. Yielding those kinds of performance numbers positioned the team to make an even more aggressive run in the second session.
“That is a pretty stout run in these conditions. (Crew chief) Mike Neff did a great job getting this Auto Club Mustang set up,” said Hight, after his Q3 run.
In the late afternoon heat Robert Hight’s Mustang was ready to once again try and grab three mello Yello qualifying bonus points but a dropped cylinder was the team’s undoing. HIght’s new Auto Club Mustang was on another strong run before it hazed the tires and slowed to a still impressive time of 4.161 seconds.
“That last session this Mustang was going to probably run 4.11 but it dropped a cylinder at two and a half seconds. This Auto Club Mustang was flying before it put that cylinder out. It still ran decent since we were top four in that last session with a cylinder out. I am proud of the way we raced. We messed up in the first run,” said an enthused Hight. “We did what we had to do last night. We have a top half car. Today we made the best run of the day when it was the hottest. That is what we are going to have to do four times tomorrow. When Mike Neff and my guys get on a roll like this in qualifying it usually goes pretty well on race day.”
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.070 seconds at 313.73 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (2nd Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Paul Lee (6-3)
ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 6th at 4.088 seconds at 310.48 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tommy Johnson Jr (8-3)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.045 seconds at 319.22 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Peter Russo (0-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.762 seconds at 325.53 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Clay Millican (1-2)
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Sunday, July 27
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM