BRAINERD, MN – Courtney Force made two impressive runs today at the 34th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway to go to the No. 2 position in the Funny Car field with a career-best 3.959 ET at 320.66 mph.
She opened up qualifying with a 4.042 second pass at 318.69 mph and went to the top half of the field behind her Funny Car teammates Robert Hight and JohnForce. It was a safe run for the team, especially with the threat of rain on Saturday.
“It’s great to be out here in Brainerd. This is an exciting race for us. The fans, the atmosphere and the crowds always take this race to a whole new level for us drivers and our teams. Our Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car made two great passes today in qualifying. We ran a 4.04 to start qualifying and get us in the top half of the field. We were being safe on that run in case of rain tomorrow,” Force said.
Force and her Traxxas team improved in the second qualifying session with their 3.959 second pass and took over the top spot until the next pair ran. They picked up two additional qualifying points for making the second-quickest run of the session.
“We came back in the second session and pushed the car a little bit harder. We made a career-best run at 3.95 seconds, making us the fastest car out there for the time being. We got bumped down one spot when the next pair made their run, but we’re very excited to see the progress that we’ve made and we really hope to continue this throughout the weekend.
“I’m really proud of my guys, Ron Douglas, Dan Hood and the entire Traxxas team, for giving us one of the best cars out here. We picked up two bonus points on that run and that’s great because right now, every little bit helps,” Force said.
In the first session it was Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team stepping up and grabbing two qualifying bonus points for being the second quickest of the session. His 3.994 second run pushed him to the back of the pack for the night time session. From the top end Hight was complimentary of his crew and the fans that helped make this weekend happen.
“That was a good job by the Auto Club boys. It was a nice straight run. I have to thank all the fans around the track that pulled together after the storm so we could have a place to race this weekend,” said Hight.
The Auto Club Chevy was one of the last two Funny Cars to race down the BIR track with conditions improving every second. Hight blasted off the starting line and crossed the finish line with a solid 3.974 second pass. Hight made back to back three second runs for the first time in his career. He will go into Saturday as the provisional No. 4 qualifier and his confidence was showing at the end of the day.
“Some things that were tried at the match race over the past weekend, we plug them into my Auto Club Chevy for the first time and it makes two three second runs in a row. That is the first time we have ever done that. When you look at the race car it is not out of control and there is room for improvement. We have closed the gap up. We have made some big gains here the last couple of weeks and a lot of hard work by everybody is paying off,” said Hight.
Hight and Courtney Force are joined in the top half of the provisional qualified field by last year’s runner-up John Force and the Peak Anti-Freeze Chevrolet Camaro. Force made a strong run on the first session, fourth quickest, and in the second session crew chief Jon Schaffer took an aggressive approach. Force’s Funny Car hazed the tires and he will be the No. 7 qualifier going into Saturday. Force looked at where the team started the season and where it is headed with two regular season races left.
“It sounds like I am a broken record but from day one at the beginning of the season we put our money back together so we could race. We had to train new people. We weren’t chasing new technology and trying a bunch of new stuff we were just training our people to race. We even had to work on our top teams like the Auto Club because we promoted some of their people. It is coming together,” said Force, an eleven-time Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals winner.
“We don’t have our cars where we want them in the Countdown or the Traxxas Shootout. We have a race and a race and a half (Indy). Lucas Oil is a good partner and a good friend. We took on their new brand Lucas Slick Mist, a wax program, and it makes my race cars fast. We started using it last week in Norwalk at Night Under Fire and we were fast there too. I am a little tired because I spent seven hours decaling cars laying on the ground all day long is tough. Courtney stepping up running that 3.95 gets us right in the league with the top cars but you have to tip your hat to them.”
The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster also continued to turn heads with a top elapsed time in the first session. Brittany Force piloted her dragster to the fifth quickest run of the opening session, 3.787 seconds, and in the last session as the sun set crew chiefs Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson took a shot and stepping up. At half-track in a tricky left lane the Goodyears lost traction for a split second costing Force a sure fire improved time.
“It definitely feels good to pull in here and go right down the track on Friday. That first run was straight down there and we got an awesome number. That number kept us in the top half of the show,” said Force, who sits No. 9 in the point standings. “Unfortunately on our second pass we didn’t get down there under full power but we were really pushing it. We were trying to improve a little bit and we’ll get two more runs tomorrow. It should be cooler tomorrow and we will see if we can step it up.”
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JOHN FORCE, 66, Peak Anti-Freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 7th at 4.010 seconds, 317.94 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 4th at 3.974 seconds, 319.07 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q1)
COURTNEY FORCE, 27, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 2nd at 3.959 seconds, 320.66 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest in Q2)
BRITTANY FORCE, 29, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 7th at 3.787 seconds, 326.00 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0