BRISTOL, TN --- Sunday started with 16-time Funny Car champion John Force being recognized as a Legend of Thunder Valley during the pre-race ceremony at Bristol Dragway. The four-time NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals winner received a plaque, a huge congratulatory banner signed by the fans and his name was added to the façade of the trackside suite tower. Force then led one of the largest track walks in recent memory as thousands of fans joined him along with daughters Brittany and Courtney as they strolled down the race track.
“There have been so many memories for me here at Bristol Dragway. Winning the Funny Car race against the Top Fuel dragsters was huge for me. I always want to entertain people and there are a lot of people I want to thank from the sponsors to the media to all of you fans. I look up at the names on the side of that building and it is an honor to see my name up there,” said Force from the pre-race stage.
On the race track Force the No. 8 qualifier in his PEAK/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car was upset in the first round by Jack Beckman. Force was side by side with Beckman when his racecar moved to the inside of his lane and lost traction just enough to haze the tires letting Beckman escape with the win.
"This wasn't the weekend we wanted for any of us. We are all still in the Top 10 (point standings) but that isn't where we want to be. We want to be in the top three. We are learning every day. That's all I can say. Sitting here we have a great car. I love this Chevrolet. It is working. We just have a lot of work to do in the drivetrain, and we will figure it out," said Force in his pit area at the end of the day.
Force’s youngest daughter Courtney Force qualified in the No. 5 position and took her pick of the lane going into eliminations against Dave Richards. Force got the starting line advantage and never looked back. She posted a 3.984 second run at 320.89 mph to Richards’ 7.636 second, 65.61 mph run and advanced to the second round. This was only the third time Force has raced Richards in eliminations; all three were in the first round. Force is now 3-0 to him on race day.
“Our Traxxas Chevy was good and ran well in the heat. Our team did a great job getting the car together with quick turnaround times and to be able to run in the 3.0s in the heat was pretty impressive in the first round,” said Force, who earlier this season won in Houston.
Force lined up beside Matt Hagan for the 19th time in her career. She was 11-7 against him in previous match-ups. Today was the third time they have raced this season, the sixth time they have met in the second round of eliminations on race day, but the first time they have matched up in Bristol. The young driver who turns 28 years-old on Monday posted a 4.048 second elapsed time at 313.66 mph to Hagan’s 4.048 at 316.82 mph, but came up 0.0232 of a second short (approximately 11 feet).
“In the second round our car was a little bit slower than we would have liked. It ran a 4.04 and we had identical ETs, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win. It’s time to look ahead to Norwalk. We’re finishing up our four-in-a-row so we definitely hope to finish on a strong note,” said Force.
The 2012 Rookie of the year will keep the No. 3 position in the Funny Car point standings leaving Bristol and heading into Norwalk, the 12th of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.
“I’m excited to spend the rest of the day celebrating Father’s Day and super excited that our Traxxas team was able to hold onto the No. 3 spot after this weekend. We’re ready to go to Norwalk and go for that win,” said Force.
The second round was also tough for 2011 Thunder Valley Nationals winner Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. The 2009 Funny Car champion won in dominating fashion in the first round over Jeff Diehl. Hight’s 4.000 second run at 319.67 mph was pulling away from Diehl’s 5.581 at 133.43 mph.
In the second round against eventual Funny Car race winner Tommy Johnson Jr., Hight slowed down slightly and Johnson Jr. got the win light with a 3.990 second pass. While the day was short Hight and his Mike Neff tuned Funny Car continued to gather data and information that will be beneficial as the temperatures increase throughout the summer.
“We didn’t get it done today but we aren’t too far off. We were really aggressive yesterday trying to find out how hard we can push this Camaro. Today we just made a solid run to get the first round win. In the second round we had a mechanical issue that we have been battling for a couple races. I think we have a handle on it now and I am ready to get to Norwalk. I would go to the race track tomorrow if I could. This Auto Club team is a great team and we aren’t hanging our heads,” said Hight.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel team started Sunday with a solid first round win over Chris “The Greek” Karamesines. Force took a starting line advantage all the way to the finish line with a winning elapsed time of 3.842 seconds at 317.42 mph. Karamesines saw the Monster Energy dragster pulling away and lifted off the throttle slowing to a 4.243 second time.
The two-time 2016 Top Fuel winner lost to eventual Thunder Valley Top Fuel winner Shawn Langdon in round two. Langdon had a starting line advantage and Force’s dragster hazed its Goodyear tires at half-track. The 2013 Rookie of the Year tried to pedal the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster but she had to watch as Langdon pulled way for his second round win of the day.
“It was definitely tough to end our weekend as soon as we did. I really thought we had this one in the bag. I thought we were going to end up in the winner’s circle. There were so many things riding on it. This is my favorite track. It’s father’s day. My dad got inducted into the Hall of Fame here. It really would have been nice to bring home the win. We didn’t have a bad day. We had four good qualifying runs and we got to the second round. We’ll pack up and head to Norwalk and hopefully get the job done there,” said Force.
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MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Ron Capps, 841; 2. Jack Beckman, 786; 3. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 741; 4. Matt Hagan, 710; 5. Del Worsham, 701; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 691; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr, 675; 8. Robert Hight, 2016 Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 643; 9. John Force, 2016 PEAK/Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, 615; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 588
TOP FUEL – 1. Doug Kalitta, 926; 2. Antron Brown, 873; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, Monster Energy dragster, 754; 5. Tony Schumacher, 675; 6. Shawn Langdon, 595; 7. JR Todd, 562; 8. Clay Millican, 540; 9. Richie Crampton, 535; 10. Leah Pritchett, 412
PRO STOCK –1. Jason Line, 1263; 2. Greg Anderson, 1170; 3. Bo Butner, 758; 4. Allen Johnson, 668; 5. Drew Skillman, 625; 6. Chris McGaha, 524; 7. Vincent Nobile, 535; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 496; 9. Shane Gray, 458; 10. Alex Laughlin, 445
JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK/Advance Auto Parts 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.956, 320.05 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q3)
Race Results: Lost to Jack Beckman.
ROBERT HIGHT, 46, Auto Club 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 3.897, 321.27 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
Race Results: Beat Jeff Diehl; Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 5th at 3.938, 318.32 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Beat Dave Richards; Lost to Matt Hagan.
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 3.773, 323.04 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +5 (3rd quickest of Q1 and Q2; quickest of Q3)
Race Results: Beat Chris Karamesines; Lost to Shawn Langdon.
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FOLLOW JOHN FORCE RACING AT www.twitter.com/jfr_racing
June 23-26 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, OH
July 7-10 Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Chicago, IL
July 22-24 Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Denver, CO
July 29-31 NHRA Toyota Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, CA
Aug. 5-7 NHRA Northwest Nationals, Seattle, WA
Aug. 18-21 Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, MN
Aug. 31-Sept. 5 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, IN
Countdown to the Championship
Sept. 16-18 NHRA Carolina Nationals, Charlotte, NC
Sept. 23-25 AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, St Louis, MO
Sept. 29-Oct 2 NHRA Keystone Nationals, Reading, PA
Oct. 13-16 AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Dallas, TX
Oct. 27-30 NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas, NV
Nov. 10-13 Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, CA