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ST LOUIS – The third stop of the 2014 Countdown to the Championship got underway today at the 3rd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, and John Force’s 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang shook the earth under Gateway Motorsports Park. By the end of today’s two qualifying sessions, the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champ cruised to the provisional number one spot with a ground pounding 4.022 second run at 319.52. Force also picked up three NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points for his stellar qualifying effort.

“We always know we can run better at night, you know what I’m saying, and it pushed us into the evening and the fans coming from work had a chance to see a great show, but when conditions cool down, we run good. It’s the Countdown and every point helps. Just last week I threw away 20 points running off that Charlotte race in Texas. You can’t make mistakes, so every round counts and there are only three races after this and championships are won or lost and things I did like my red-light in Texas against Hagan. I changed my routine, I screwed up and I got so mental racing him. My car was running good, I was on my game but I still screwed up. So, I’m going to get back to where I belong, get my head right and focus and just race the car next to me,” said John Force.

On Force’s first qualifying run, his Mustang began to haze the Goodyear slicks about 400 feet down the track and he had to back off the throttle. The time was only 4.594 seconds at 191.43 mph that put Force No. 12 after the first session.

“My day started bad, it’s my anniversary with my wife Laurie, we’ve been married for 33 years and so I went down and bought her a plaque and had it carved with her name and I put the wrong date on it. So I went back with my daughter and got her another one but I told her (Laurie), ‘I’m going to run low ET for you tonight and she said why and I said I just feel I can, I know this car has been fast.’ And then it did, so then she comes over and says ‘If you can pull that off then I’ll believe anything you say from now on,’ so anyway, we got away with it and that’s her anniversary present – and some roses,” said John Force.

During the second session, the weather and track conditions cooled down and improved. Crew Chief Jimmy Prock, who likes to swing for the fences, wanted to take advantage of the situation and get John’s Mustang moved up in the qualifying order. Prock also wanted to make sure the already potent Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang wasn’t too aggressive and overpower the surface of Gateway Motorsports Park.

The Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang catapulted off the starting line, and blasted straight down the groove of the left lane of Gateway Motorsports Park with no hints of spin. When the scoreboards lit up on the other end, John’s stallion had run a stout 4.022 second pass at 319.52 mph.

“I’m amazed nobody else ran any quicker. Jimmy (Prock, crew chief, Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) said it’ll run a 4.06 or a 4.07 but it always runs quicker than he thinks and we ended up running a 4.02,” said John Force.

“I love night racing and I have a lot a great memories here at Gateway Motorsports Park, it’s awesome. The stands looked packed and the new owners and NHRA have done a great job marketing this event,” said John Force.

The AAA Insurance Ford Mustang started the day with the strongest run of the class earning Robert Hight three qualifying bonus points. Hight’s 4.109 second run at 311.27 mph gave him the cushion he needed to run last under ideal conditions in the second session.

“You want to start strong on Friday because that sets the table for the rest of the weekend. We were No. 1 after the first qualifying session and that gave us the chance to run later in the session. You definitely want those qualifying bonus points but really the benefit is to run later in the session so Mike Neff can watch other teams run,” said Hight, the 2010 AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals winner.

In the second session as the sun set Hight was in the last pair of Funny Car alongside veteran Ron Capps. Hight’s Ford Mustang Funny Car charged off the starting line in the right lane but it did not run as strong through the middle of the track and HIght only improved on the ET slip to a time of 4.099 seconds and he settled into the No. 8 provisional qualifying spot.

“We would have liked to have stepped up in that last session but we are in the top half going into Saturday. You want lane choice on Sunday and I like our chances on Saturday. Mike Neff has a great handle on this Funny Car and at this track. We are servicing the car tonight with the plan of making quick runs tomorrow and getting a good race day set-up,” said Hight.

The Traxxas Ford Mustang team continued their streak of healthy qualifying passes today at Gateway Motorsports Park. Driver, Courtney Force, got her red and black hot rod in the field in the No. 3 spot for now.

“We made two great laps out her at Gateway Motorsports Park. My Traxxas guys are back at it this weekend after coming off a win in Dallas, Texas. We made two solid runs and picked up one point for being third quickest of the first session and one more point in the second session. We’ll stay in the No. 3 spot going into tomorrow,” said Force.

Force went to the top half of the field in the first qualifying attempt with a 4.131 ET at 305.91 mph and added one bonus point to her total. She then stepped it up in the second session with a 4.047 ET at 317.87 mph. The third-year driver will have two additional passes on Saturday to improve her time for Sunday’s eliminations.

“The conditions are going to cool off being that we run after Top Fuel so we’re looking to push the car even harder tomorrow. So far, we’re in the top half of the field where we need to be,” she said.

Force has qualified in the top half of the field in 16 of the first 20 races this season. She has started from the No. 1 spot on race day four times this season, and made it to the winner’s circle for three of those races.

Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team came on strong today at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. With two qualifying sessions completed this evening, Brittany Force drove her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster to the provisional No. 10 spot with solid 3.809 second run at 323.12 mph.

The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year, racing in her first Countdown, has the drive and determination to step it up even more, and is primed to go rounds during final eliminations this Sunday.

“That 3.80 pass in the second session definitely felt great, especially coming off a tough weekend in Dallas. To be able to go out there and make two good runs, with the last one putting us in the ten spot still makes me and the team feel confident for tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s eliminations,” said Brittany Force.

In the opening session, Brittany’s dragster was on a good run when the BOSS 500 engine began mixing it up and dropping cylinders near the finish line. She still ran a solid 3.994 second run at 294.18 mph. It was not the performance she was looking for, but it was good enough to get in in the No. 11 spot. The always optimistic Brittany Force knew her crew, led by Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli, would be able to tune-up the Castrol EDGE dragster and step it up going into the second qualifying session.

When it came time for the second session, Brittany’s crew was still trying to get a handle on the chang

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