J. FORCE, HIGHT IN TOP HALF FRIDAY AT AUTO CLUB FINALS
POMONA, CA – John Force was playing for keeps today as he fired the opening salvo during day one of qualifying at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals from the hallowed grounds of Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello World Champion is racing for another title and knows every point is critical if he’s going to get around his rival Matt Hagan. The winningest driver in NHRA history ended the day qualified in the number four spot and claimed two valuable NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points, cutting his deficit to 19 points unofficially or one round of racing.
It was in the opening session the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang blasted right down the groove at Auto Club Raceway and turned in a 4.015 second run at 316.60 mph. This put Force in the number two spot and he picked up two additional bonus points after the run. Force knew Hagan would step it up and therefore he rallied his team as they went to work with crew chiefs Mike Neff and John Medlen as they reviewed the run data and went to work on extracting more power from the already potent 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine.
“All the points are valuable and it doesn’t hurt but we have a long way to go here in qualifying and Hagan knows how to make the hot rod run. But, we’re back here at Auto Club Raceway and we are having fun. We have new sponsors with the existing ones like Castrol and Ford and we’re going to fight for this championship for them and that’s what’s exciting. I’m still just having fun but the wolf’s knocking on my door and I’m ready to fight. The fans here are awesome, this is our home, and we’re going to give it all we got,” said John Force.
In the second session, both track and air temps cooled and once again, John Force was lined up with Hagan. At the flash of green, both Funny Cars bolted off the line and each driver got in trouble. Hagan instantly blazed the tires while John Force was on a great pass but just past half-track, the massive Goodyear slicks went up in smoke. The Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang could only turn in a 4.281 second pass at 228.21 mph. Even though John Force didn’t get any points for on that second session, he breathed a sigh of relief knowing Hagan didn’t two or three points on today’s final qualifying session.
“It got through the tire shake and I thought it was going to go all the way but it got loose near the finish line. For Friday, we got a couple points for Castrol, Ford and all our sponsors and we’re going to win this championship, that’s what we’re going to do,” said John Force.
With two more qualifying runs tomorrow, the Castrol GTX High Mileage team will go after more NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points by trying to run within the top three spots in each session. By amassing more points, John Force will have an even better shot on race day and his Funny Car will be dialed-in for Sunday’s eliminations.
One slip-up this late in the game can end his chances of claiming his 17th NHRA Mello Yello Championship but from how the reigning Funny Car champ ran today, he’s in the hunt, going wide open and not pulling the chutes.
The Auto Club Ford Mustang was one of the most consistent Funny Cars at the Auto Club Finals. In the first session Robert Hight covered the track in 4.051 seconds at 317.87 mph. His time was quick enough to get him to the back of the pack for the final qualifying session of the day. Running beside provisional No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon Hight’s Mustang Funny Car tripped the timers 4.036 seconds after taking the green light at 317.49 mph. It was the third quickest run of the session and earned Hight a valuable qualifying bonus points.
“These Auto Club guys have a great set-up for this race track. Between crew chief Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer I have so much confidence in the performance of this Auto Club Mustang Funny Car. We tested after Las Vegas and ran great. Today was a good day. Our goal is to get as many bonus points as possible so other drivers don’t get any. We want to finish as high in the points as possible and get John Force Racing another Funny Car championship. This was a great start,” said Hight, the 2009 Mello Yello Funny Car champion.
Hight will go into Saturday as the No. 6 qualifier just two spots behind team leader John Force.
After two rounds of Funny Car qualifying at the 50th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals Courtney Force sits outside the top twelve and not in the field. The Traxxas team will start with a blank slate on Saturday and have to race their way into the final show of the year.
On her first pass of the weekend, Force launched hard, but her Traxxas Ford Mustang went into tire shake soon after. She made an 8.095 second run at 70.57 mph. She came back in session two with more trouble and dropped a hole at the beginning of the run.
“We dropped a hole at the hit on the second run. We’re struggling a little bit out there today. We’re trying to get this thing down there. The conditions have been good but we’re just stumbling a little bit. We’re going to go into tomorrow with a clear head and just kind of start all over on trying to get this car in the show,” said Force.
The 26-year-old qualified No. 3 at this race last year with a 4.016 second run. She has qualified in the top half of the field 18 times this season including the last six races in a row.
After suffering a setback in testing that took her primary chassis out of commission just over a week ago, Brittany Force climbed back into the cockpit of her new Castrol EDGE Dragster and thundered down Auto Club Raceway during today’s opening sessions at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, California. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year is getting acclimated to the different chassis that requires almost a completely new driving style but the sophomore Top Fuel Driver ran a stout 3.856 second run and ended up in the number 16 spot.
“I’ve made two runs in the new car today and I still don’t feel comfortable in it. It takes time to adjust and I’m not quite there yet. I still getting use to the way it drives and feels and we’re working on it. In that night session, the track was really good and my Castrol EDGE Dragster was on a great run until just before the finish line it got too close to the wall. For me, I’m a little cautious when it comes to those things and I got out of it. I may have gotten out it a little early but we get two more runs tomorrow. Hopefully we can figure things out and make some smooth passes down the track tomorrow,” said Brittany Force.
The cool air temps combined with the track conditions were conducive for stellar performances from many drivers in the second session. The Castrol EDGE team was hoping to take advantage of these conditions and step of their game but they came up just short.
“Everything comes up so quickly when you run the speeds we do it that it gets really dark once you past the finish line. Luckily, I’ve been trained to do everything without looking at it because it was pitch black down there and I could see a thing. I was still able to shut the car down and get it stopped,” said Brittany Force.
In the opening session, Brittany Force was on a good run when right before the traps, catastrophic engine failure occurred, thus slowing down the speeding dragster to a 3.883 second run at 261.37 mph.
“On that first run, I was adjusting to the new car and everything felt completely different. My view out the canopy is completely different, the way I sit in the car, just everything you can image feels different. The new car handles completely different and it takes time to adjust. I was a little nervous right before we fired up the dragster and I did the burnout, probably because the Vegas testing accident was still on my mind. But, the Castrol EDGE team got the car down the track despite the motor coming apart right before the lights,” said Brittany Force.
The Castrol EDGE team will get two more shots down Auto Club Raceway tomorrow and with the data crew chiefs Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli gathered today, they’ll be able to make the necessary adjustment and step up the performance of Brittany’s dragster. With this being the final race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season, Brittany Force is focused on going rounds and winning her first Top Fuel race for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 4th at 4.015 seconds at 316.60 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q1)
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 6th at 4.036 seconds at 317.49 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 20th quickest at 8.095 seconds at 70.57 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 16th quickest at 3.856 seconds at 286.01 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0