JOHN FORCE WANTS TO TAKE FIRST STEP TOWARDS SECOND SWING
DENVER (July 22, 2015) --- John Force is the only driver to win the Western Swing in the Funny Car category. It has been twenty one years since Force accomplished this feat taking out Chuck Etchells in Denver and Sonoma before defeating nemesis Al Hofmann in the Seattle final. Two years later Force almost captured his second Western Swing win with wins in Denver and Seattle and a runner-up finish in Sonoma.
Force has won two of the Western Swing races twice more getting two wins in 2000 (Seattle and Sonoma) and then two more in 2003 (Denver and Seattle). Last year JFR won the Western Swing and Force was in every final round. In Denver Force was runner-up to Robert Hight then Force was defeated by daughter Courtney Force in the Sonoma final. In Seattle the driver of the Blue Def Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car was victorious over veteran and former teammate Gary Densham.
This weekend Force will get started on going after his second Western Swing win streak at the 36th annual Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. This race will feature the double night qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday with final eliminations starting on Sunday morning.
“Last year I came close, but I lost to Robert in Denver and Courtney in Sonoma. We got the JFR Western Swing I guess. This year I’ll have the Blue Def Chevrolet Camaro SS ready to go with my young team of guys led by crew chief Jon Schaffer. Coming to the mountain in Denver is always special. The Bandimere family does a great job and they give us a great race track,” said Force, a two-time winner in 2015.
The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion is sitting in the No. 5 position in the Mello Yello point standings heading into the 2015 Western Swing. Force’s two wins coming at Las Vegas and Epping have the winningest driver in NHRA history in a good position to make a run at his unprecedented 17th Mello Yello Funny Car championship. Force also has a runner-up finish at Topeka at the Kansas Nationals.
“We have had to deal with a lot of change this season. We have a brand new team over here with the Peak and Blue Def Camaro SS Funny Car. We are learning every race and I am looking forward to racing in Denver, Sonoma and Seattle with these young guys. They are really working hard and they give me a good race car.
We have had a lot of success at Bandimere Speedway and I think Schaffer working with Mike Neff and the rest of the brain trust have a really good handle on racing on the mountain,” said Force, a six-time winner at the Mile High Nationals.
Last year on the way to his tenth final round appearance at Bandimere Speedway, the No. 1 qualifier beat Jeff Diehl, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps before running into his teammate Hight. It was a rematch of the 2010 final and once again Hight came out on top.
“The best time to run a teammate is in the final round. You want to make sure you get the win for all your sponsors like Peak, Auto Club, Traxxas, Monster Energy, Mac Tools, Chevrolet and Lucas Oil. Robert and I were in the final together in Las Vegas and that was a big race for us this season,” said Force.
BRITTANY FORCE WANTS TO RACE TO TOP OF MILE HIGH MOUNTAIN
DENVER (July 22, 2015) --- Last year Brittany Force nearly raced to the peak of success at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals the then second year driver qualified No. 9 and raced to the final round. The 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner as NHRA rookie of the year lost a close final to JR Todd after defeating Khalid alBalooshi, Jenna Haddock and Bob Vandergriff, Jr. to reach her third career final round.
In that final Brittany left the starting line first with Todd in hot pursuit. At the halfway mark, she was still out on Todd but then her engine began to lose power due to a mechanical failure. Todd got around her before the finish line with a faster 3.878 second run to Brittany’s slowing 3.968 second pass.
“We went out there and had some great runs. I was proud that on the final run I was able to leave on JR Todd as that was one of the main things, I wanted to make my team proud and make sure I was doing my job as driver. It was a close race, I saw him right next to me and I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty run as I could feel the engine starting to come apart but I kept my foot in anyway trying to get that win,” said Brittany Force.
That race continued an arc of improvement that saw Force qualify for the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in her career and finish in the Top Ten. This season the third year driver has a final round appearance and is solidly in the Top Ten, sitting No. 8 in the Mello Yello point standings with her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster.
This season Force has been surging at the right time racing to two semi-final finishes and a runner-up in Englishtown over the past six races. Two weeks ago Force had a dominant race car in qualifying but suffered the first red-light start of her career in the first round against veteran Pat Dakin. Force took full responsibility for the error and vowed to continue to improve as a driver.
“It sucks that red light happened on a run when we would have gotten the win light. I screwed the entire team and that blows. I have an awesome team behind me. They all pulled me aside and told me to keep my head up and we will get them the next race. I don’t know how to explain it. I was just too amped and so ready to go. I knew we were going to get the win and I was almost overly confident about it that I was too aggressive. I knew I red lit the second I hit the throttle,” said Force. “I am definitely disappointed with myself. You can’t focus on that and you have to put this race behind you. We have to move on and I wish we were going right to another race. We have a week off and I will get things turned around.”
The driver of the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster knows that aggressive driving and being consistent have to go hand in hand. Force has continually been working on balancing the two and has seen positive results. With a winning record at Bandimere Speedway Force is ready to take the next step at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
“I had success here last season and we almost got the first JFR double-up win in Nitro when Robert Hight won Funny Car. That was our best weekend of racing and I want to see if we can do a little better this weekend,” said Force.
HIGHT NOT LOOKING PAST DENVER AS THREE WEEK SWING BEGINS
DENVER (July 22, 2015) --- The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS and driver Robert Hight will be looking at the next three races as a chance to build some momentum as the regular season winds down. With a final round appearance and three semi-final finishes the three-time Mile High Nationals winner is looking to get his fourth win at Bandimere Speedway.
“Denver is unique, so we have a plan for Denver,” said Hight, a 34-time winner. “I have had a lot of success there, and I love racing at Bandimere Speedway. Some of the info will be applicable, but really, racing in Denver is about confidence and just racing the track.”
In the recently released Mike Dunn Power Rankings for ESPN Hight and the Auto Club Camaro SS Funny Car team were ranked No. 2 but the veteran driver turned NHRA analyst on the strength of Hight’s success at Bandimere Speedway.
“I would love to win the Western Swing,” said Hight. “It sounds simple, but to do that, you have to start with a win in Denver. I think you can get momentum anytime in the season. The best time is the Countdown, but it doesn't hurt to get some wins and momentum over the summer heading to Indy and the Countdown. My team has been positive all season because we have been on the same page as far as our plan.”
Hight is sitting in the No. 9 spot in the Mello Yello point standings and a surge in Denver would help solidify his eleventh consecutive Top Ten finish in the point standings. Hight isn’t just looking to make the Countdown he and crew chief Mike Neff was to be in the mix for another NHRA championship. The new look Auto Club Camaro SS Funny Car has been a solid performer for John Force Racing so far this season.
“We have been really happy with the performance of the Camaro Funny Car. I think we are getting a better handle on the tune-up and the horsepower. The key will be getting started on Friday with good passes and getting some info [crew chief] Mike Neff can tune with,” said Hight.
Throughout the season Hight and Neff have been working towards a new combination that will be consistent and powerful for the Countdown
“It is very critical,” Hight said. “We started really seeing positive improvements in Bristol, and we made five straight quick runs in Norwalk. This is when you need to start running consistently. I feel like you will see us continue to make improvements.”
Racing at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals forces all the Nitro teams to adapt to a new set of circumstances that they only see once a season. Hight and Neff won on themountain last year and feel confident they can make another strong run this season.
COURTNEY FORCE WANTS TO GET SOME MOUNTAIN MOMENTUM IN DENVER
DENVER (July 22, 2015) --- The Western Swing kicks off this weekend with the 36th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison,Colo. This is the start of Courtney Force’s fourth Western Swing with her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team since her debut in 2012. Luckily, the 27-year-old has had some luck at this track in the past. She has qualified in the top half of the field twice in the last three years and was runner-up in just her first race at Bandimere Speedway in 2012. It was her second final round appearance after going to the finals two weeks prior at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago. Today, Force has a total of 14 final rounds in the Funny Car category, yielding seven NHRA Mello Yello tour victories.
“Coming to this track reminds me of being so extremely close to my first win with my team. We had gone to the final round twice in three weeks, but I felt so proud of my team that we had come that far. I'm hoping we can have another final round appearance here and maybe this time we will be ready to take home the win. Although it can be a little overwhelming competing at back-to-back races, I think our team does better when we get in a rhythm. However, if you start the swing off on the wrong foot it makes it that much harder to regroup before the next race,” said Force.
The youngest daughter of John Force currently occupies the No. 11 spot in the NHRA Mello Yello point standings, just ten points out of the No. 10 spot.
“We came so close to leaving Chicago in the top 10 and had made some pretty big strides to get there, but with the mechanical trouble we had in the first round, it set us back 10 points and back to the No. 11 spot,” said Force. “We've definitely had a lot of ups and downs this season and it has proven to be our toughest year yet, but we have shown so much progress these last few races with our car and I believe we can get ourselves back in that top ten if we just keep doing our best. We are looking forward to the Western Swing and hopefully getting ourselves back in the hunt. We are motivated and extremely focused.
In advance of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Force and her fiancé, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, will go through a one-of-a-kind racing skills challenge at Sonoma Raceway. Force, NHRA’s winningest female driver, and Rahal, currently second in INDYCAR points, will go head to head on the drag strip, the road course, and in an old-fashioned grape stomp before they say “I do.”
“Before the swing, I will be at Sonoma Raceway to promote the Sonoma Nationals from July 30-Aug. 2 along with Graham Rahal who will be promoting his race; the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Aug. 28-30. During the media day we will be competing in a multi- part skills challenge! We are excited to get the media members involved and since we are both extremely competitive both on and off the race track, it will be interesting to see who wins,” said Force.