TOPEKA, KS – Cool air and an impressive racing surface contributed to one of the quickest and fastest qualifying days in recent memory. The Heartland Park Topeka race track has long been known as a playground for record setting runs but it took a Herculean effort by the NHRA Safety Safari and support staff to bring the multi-purpose facility up to top shelf standards heading into race weekend. Ownership of the home of the 27th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals is in flux but that did not stop the drivers of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series from putting on an impressive display of speed in front of an impressive crowd.
JFR was led qualifying by No. 6 qualifier Traxxas Funny Car driver Courtney Force’s 4.015 second run, followed in the No. 7 spot by the Auto Club Chevy Camaro’s 4.021 second run with Robert Hight and nine-time NHRA Kansas Nationals winner John Force finished the first day as the provisional No. 9 qualifier with an impressive 4.033 second pass. Brittany Force powered the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster to the No. 6 position with a solid 3.762 second run at 325.14 mph.
Courtney Force pushed her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to top speed 324.20 mph, which was a track record at Heartland Park Topeka today. The seven-time national event winner settled into the No. 6 position by the conclusion of Friday’s qualifying sessions. Her 4.015 second run at 324.20 mph came in the second round next to fellow female Funny Car pilot Alexis DeJoria after both drivers lost traction beside each other in the opening qualifying shot at Topeka.
“Our Traxxas team made a solid pass when the track cooled down,” said Force. “We ran a 4.015 and it’s a tough field out there. It only put us in the No. 6 spot, but we did take top speed and the track speed record at over 324 mph, which is exciting for our team. We made a solid pass down there and we’re excited to have this car qualified in the top half and we’ll hopefully keep it that way through tomorrow.”
Currently both Courtney and Brittany Force hold the track speed records in their respective categories; Brittany’s dating back to the Kansas Nationals in 2014 when both women were No. 1 qualifiers. Last season alone, the Traxxas driver raced to top speed at a whopping nine events.
In the first session John Force’s Peak Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car was on a stout run when it hazed the tires at the top end. The scoreboard lit up with a pedestrian 4.200 second elapsed time at 316.30 mph. In the second session with cooler conditions Force blasted down the track and improved with a 4.033 second run that shockingly was only good enough for the provisional No. 9 spot going into Saturday’s final day of qualifying. Force was still impressed with his team but more impressed with the reception his team received from the thousands of fans at the races today.
“One of the things that excited me was the crowd here in Topeka. With all the rumor mills and negative talk about this track closing to see this crowd is great. Somebody will step up and fix it. The crowd was unbelievable tonight,” said Force, a 142-time Funny Car national event winner. “I want to thank all the NHRA people. They left Atlanta and came straight here and worked non-stop for days. They made this facility really nice and for those guys to work this hard is really appreciated by me and all the other drivers. They work hard at the events and to come here and do all the extra stuff is really impressive and unbelievable. My race cars are unbelievable too. We got all four of our race cars down this track and made good runs. We are excited about a good weekend.”
While Force was thanking the NHRA for their efforts Robert Hight was thanking his team for a solid run in the second session. In the first session his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car had an issue at the top end but when it came back for the last run of the day it made a smooth run. Running beside Ron Capps Hight kept his car straight and quick posting a time of 4.021 seconds which was one of Hight’s quickest runs of the season so far.
“That last session was pretty amazing as far as the conditions go. We haven’t had air this good in a long time. We made a good run. We weren’t trying to run in the threes. We are racing for a Sunday tune-up,” said Hight, a three-time Kansas Nationals winner. “That 4.021 second run was right about where (crew chief Mike) Neff thought we would run. That is something we can work with and step up with. The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro is in the top half and with some bad weather possibly headed this way I am pleased.”
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster continued to improve and impress today at the NHRA Kansas Nationals. Last year’s No. 1 qualifier made two solid runs running 3.788 seconds and improving with a 3.762 second run in the late night session. Force finished the day as the No. 6 qualifier and picked up a qualifying bonus point for her Q2 effort only being outrun by Antron Brown and Shawn Langdon.
“This Monster Energy team is really excited about Friday qualifying. We are right where we want to be our goal for this weekend was to get as many quality qualifying passes as we can. Lately we have been struggling in qualifying only getting one or two passes a weekend. That isn’t enough for us to learn going into Sunday. This was a great start to our weekend and to improve on the last run was great. Hopefully we get two more runs tomorrow.”
The improved elapsed times and consistency have the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner excited about the prospects for success this weekend.
“We have some momentum now. We ran quick on Sunday in the first round (in Atlanta) and then we made two quick runs today. We left Atlanta on a good note and we had a good race car. To come here to Topeka and jump right back into the mix with two good runs is awesome. We have had good luck here at Topeka and I hope this isn’t our last race here. Hopefully we can go all the way this weekend,” concluded Force, a four-time Top Fuel national event finalist.
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JOHN FORCE, 66, Peak Anti-Freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 9th at 4.033 seconds, 320.74 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 7th at 4.021 seconds, 318.177 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 6th at 4.015 seconds, 324.20 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 6th at 3.762 seconds, 325.14 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
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Saturday, May 23
3rd round qualifying 2:00 PM
4th round qualifying 4:30 PM
Sunday, May 24
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM