POMONA, CA – Conditions cooperated with John Force Racing on the final day of qualifying at the 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals and the trio JFR Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Cars made the most of their opportunities. Leading the way was Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS who qualified No. 2 followed by John Force at No. 4 and then Robert Hight in the No. 6 position. The trio could all reach the semifinals in the final race of the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing season.
In the heat of the afternoon Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car jumped to the No. 2 spot with an impressive 3.869 second run at 324.83 mph. It was the quickest run of the session and set up the fifth year pro to get aggressive in the final qualifying run.
“That was pretty awesome. That was a great run for the middle of the day in the heat. I am proud of this Traxxas team and we are in a good position for tomorrow. This is my home track and we are going to go after it in the last qualifying session,” said Force after her strong Q3 run.
In the final session in the last pair of Funny Cars Force launched hard and her Traxxas Funny Car made a move towards the center line and Force had to lift off the throttle. She will go into race day as the No. 2 Funny Car and will face Jim Campbell. This is Force’s best qualifying start at the Auto Club Finals and she will be looking for her first win. During her rookie campaign Force raced to the final round before losing a close race to Cruz Pedregon.
“Our Chevy has been flying and another great job by my Traxxas team. I’m just hoping to keep it going all day tomorrow,” said Force. “It’s the last race of the season and we definitely want to get a Chevrolet in the winner’s circle and end the 2016 season on a high note.”
Robert Hight and Auto Club Camaro overpowered the track on their first run on Saturday. In the final session Hight and his 10,000 hp Auto Club backed Funny Car were on a spectacular run when his racecar began inching towards the centerline. The 2009 NHRA world champion fought the race car but as it approached the finish line the headers just nicked the last timing cone disqualifying a nearly record setting run. Hight will go into race day as the No. 6 qualifier and will face Paul Lee. The 37-time Funny Car winner has a 3-2 record against Lee in eliminations.
“It was very dark out there. The car drifted inside on me and until I got way inside I didn’t notice that (cone). I lifted early and cranked the wheel to miss the cone. I thought I missed it and I still ran 3.85. Probably would have run a 3.84 and probably better than 330 (mph). We have a real race car. If it runs like that, we win this race,” said Hight from the JFR pits.
John Force was the lone Funny Car in the last three pairs of Q3 to make a full run down the Auto Club Raceway track. The PEAK Antifreeze Camaro posted the second quickest elapsed time of the session with a strong 3.879 second run at 330.96 mph. The ageless veteran took that momentum and channeled it into another strong run in the final session.
Unfortunately Force was on a great pass beside teammate Robert Hight when Hight clipped the timing cone effectively disqualifying both of their runs. Force was just a shade behind Hight and his time was ruled ineligible by the NHRA race officials. Force’s run was estimated to be as quick as a 3.85 or 3.84 seconds. Just past the finish line Force’s PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car shot to the left and scuffed the guardwall.
“The PEAK Camaro Funny Car is fast. All we have to do is keep it in the lane and it will be fine. We’re excited for tomorrow,” said Force.
Force will face his long-time nemesis Cruz Pedregon. Last year at this race the pair squared off for the 100th time in the first round with Pedregon collecting his 33rd win against Force. Tomorrow Force will be looking for his 68th round win over Pedregon and his 67th round win at the historic Auto Club Finals. A win tomorrow would be Force’s third of the 2016 Countdown.
The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster and Brittany Force had slipped to the No. 11 spot when she rolled up to the starting line to make her third qualifying run. The fourth year pro launched off the starting line and was powering down the right lane when her engine burst into flames just before the finish line. Fortunately for the three-time 2016 winner Force tripped the finish line timing system 3.753 seconds after she left the starting line and moved up from No. 11 to No. 8 at the end of the session.
In the final session the Top Fuel Force stepped up and made her quickest pass of the weekend 3.731 seconds at 323.27 mph. Force was running beside Doug Kalitta and while her performance improved she did not improve her qualifying position and she will go into race day as the No. 8 qualifier. In the first round she will have lane choice over Richie Crampton. This is a repeat of last year’s first round where Crampton ended Force’s day.
“We’ve had a great season but we want to end on a strong note with Chevy in the winner’s circle. We’re going to throw down tomorrow,” said Force. “We like to double up – get a Funny Car in the winner’s circle and get the Monster Energy Chevy in the winner’s circle and end on a high note so we can really enjoy our off-season.”
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NHRA ON TV
Sunday Nov. 13, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Nov. 13, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET).
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JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK Antifreeze 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 4th at 3.879, 330.96 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q2 and Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Cruz Pedregon (67-33)
ROBERT HIGHT, 47, Automobile Club of Southern California 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.889, 329.75 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Paul Lee (3-2)
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 3.869, 324.83 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Jim Campbell (2-0)
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.731, 323.27 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First round opponent (W-L): Richie Crampton (4-7)
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Sunday, November 13
Final eliminations 11:00 AM