CHANDLER, AZ – Courtney Force came into the 31st annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and on the first day of qualifying did exactly what she needed to do to continue her qualifying efforts from the Circle K Winternationals in Pomona. The 26-year-old Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS driver raced to the top of the field for the second race in a row and will have to compete in two rounds of qualifying on Saturday to determine if she will keep that spot.
“Who knows if it will hold, obviously tomorrow I think the conditions will cool down again for the second pass, it feels great for tonight. It’s a lot of fun for our team. We’ve come out to Phoenix and haven’t had the best luck out here in the past, hopefully we can turn it around this weekend,” said Force.
To kick off qualifying today, Force made a 4.095 second pass in the first session to grab the No. 7 spot and then followed that up with a blistering 3.996 second pass to reclaim the No. 1 position in her Traxxas Chevy.
“It was definitely a good run for our Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car. Its only Friday, but it feels great to be able to get down there and make a good solid pass running in the 3.0’s. It definitely makes you feel good as a driver knowing that you’ve got a car that can run that number and put it on the board, not just once at the first race of the season, but we did it again out here,” said Force.
Force’s 3.995 ET in Pomona was her first time running in the 3.0’s in competition and today fans saw consistency and improvement blooming from the Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car team.
“We came out to Phoenix for pre-season testing and we made some solid passes there. We went into it (testing) not knowing how we were going to do and to come out and have Brittany (Force) come out and run her quickest career run in the 3.60’s and all our Funny Cars to run some solid passes all in the 3.0’s, it was an amazing day of testing. That’s definitely what we needed going into the new season and the boost of confidence we all needed as well,” said Force.
This is Force’s fourth professional NHRA season in the Funny Car ranks. In that short time, she has picked up seven national event wins and eight No. 1 qualifiers. If her 3.996 holds through Saturday, this will make her ninth career No. 1.
“It’s definitely been a little bit of a struggle to get everything ready and done, but that’s why my dad is who he is. He’s done a phenomenal job and kept these teams together and done a great job for all of us. Just excited for all of the sponsors like Traxxas, Auto Club, Peak, Lucas Oil, Mac Tools and Chevy that have come on board and we owe it all to my dad. He works hard throughout the off season, day in and day out. Brittany and I do the best we can. We’ve been to a few meetings ourselves trying to get sponsors and some might be in the works actually. It’s exciting for us,” added Force.
“We may have not gotten a win in the first race out here, but that’s going to take some time. My dad’s got a new team with him this year and these guys are doing a great job. I’m proud of them. My dad’s working well with them and they’re showing it on the race track,” said Force.
The only other female to compete in the Funny Car category with the youngest Force daughter is Alexis DeJoria, who qualified in the No. 2 spot today at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.
“I love being out here and hearing her on the radio. I thought she was going to run (3.99) too. It’s just exciting that we can be one and two right now. It’s not very often that we get to see two girls get to be one and two out of a full field of men. It’s pretty exciting. Whether it’s me or her, I hope we can stay up top,” concluded Force.
While Courtney Force was sitting atop the Funny Car provisional qualifying standings teammates John Force and Robert Hight were situated in the No. 7 and No. 8 spots, respectively. They had solid days just not spectacular days in their Chevy Camaro SS Funny Cars.
John Force was the fourth quickest Funny Car of the first session when his Peak Antifreeze Camaro tripped the lights with a 4.035 second elapsed time at 315.05 mph. That run was quick enough to hold up as the seventh quickest run of the day.
The Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS and driver Robert Hight made steady progress today. In the first session their 4.13 second time had him in the top twelve but the team was focused on stepping up in the second qualifying session. As conditions improved Hight stepped up his game with his Mike Neff tuned Funny Car. His last run of the day was a solid 4.038 second pass.
“The second run we were just going out there to put a good number up on the board. We just wanted to race the track and not overpower it. The conditions were pretty good and I think you will see some more great runs tomorrow. It was great to see Courtney run in the threes again. We are all working together and I think you will see all the JFR Camaros step up tomorrow,” said Hight, the runner-up at last year’s CARQUEST Nationals.
On the Top Fuel side of qualifying Brittany Force rocketed to the No. 8 provisional spot. At one point during the second qualifying session Force was as high as No. 5 but she slipped back and her 3.792 seconds at 323.81 mph held up to keep her in the top half of the field.
“Friday night being able to get one good run in always feels good. Obviously you would like to make two great runs. To leave Friday night with a good run going into Saturday you feel more confident. You don’t want to leave with the feeling that you are hoping to get a good run,” said Brittany Force.
This is track has become a familiar spot for the third year driver but she knows that past performance is no guarantee of future success.
“It definitely helps knowing that we were here a few weeks ago and we had some success. It makes me feel more comfortable when I am sitting on the starting line looking down track. Knowing that we put a 3.69 on the scoreboard, that makes this whole team have the attitude that we want to do that again. We get pumped up for that and we went rounds last year. It does work in and help me as a driver but at the same time I always try and go into every track with a clean slate. I just want to focus on getting my car down the track,” said Force.
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JOHN FORCE, 65, Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 7th at 4.035 seconds, 315.05 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 8th at 4.038 seconds, 296.70 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 1st at 3.996 seconds, 321.58 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
BRITTANY FORCE, 28, JFR Next Generation Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 8th at 3.792 seconds, 323.81 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
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Saturday, February 21
3rd round qualifying 2:00 PM
4th round qualifying 4:30 PM
Sunday, February 22
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM