ENGLISHTOWN, NJ ---- John Force nearly missed his warm-up today to start the 44th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals. His rental car had a dead battery but thanks to a chance encounter and some help from the Harley-Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle technology team he was able to get to the track just in time to warm the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and get a first round win over teammate Robert Hight.
Force faced teammate Robert Hight in a tough first round race between teammates and family members. Force took the win over Hight and while the scoreboard might have reflected a hole-shot victory for Force who ran 4.167 seconds to Hight’s 4.139 seconds the 15-time champ knew it was just a reflection of different racing styles.
“Robert is one of the best racers out here. Our Mustangs ran about the same. Robert was in dead shallow and I really rolled it in. We got the win on the scoreboard but like I said on TV it was anyone’s race,” said Force, a four-time winner at the NHRA Summernationals.
“We all stayed in the Top Ten and Brittany went some rounds. You have tough competitors every round. You race a guy like Worsham in the second round you have to get up for a race like that. He had lane choice and he took advantage of that. We will go get them at Bristol.”
In the second round Force lost lane choice to Del Worsham and that spelled doom for Force’s chances of winning at Raceway Park for a fifth time. Fortunately, for Force and Hight there was a repeat winner in Funny Car and there are still two open spots for winners in the Traxxas Shootout as well as the fan vote position.
Hight and Force both had their ups and downs in qualifying at the Summernationals. Hight made his quickest run during the final qualifying session, a quickest of the session 4.121 second run, to move up to the No. 7 position.
It set him up for a race against his mentor and father-in-law. All the JFR Mustangs have been running consistently close ETs since Topeka where they qualified 1-2-3 for the first time since 2010.
In the opening round Hight was racing for lane choice in the second round and flickered the staging light with the shallowest of staging maneuvers. He did not hang his head after an early exit just two weeks after his first final round appearance of 2013.
“It was a tough first round. We both had good race cars and I think if we would have qualified better you would have seen my Auto Club Mustang and John’s Castrol GTX Mustang in the second round,” said Hight, who was a semi-finalist at this race last year.
“You hate to race teammates and we are both trying to get wins and get spots in the Traxxas Shootout. We have an off-weekend and then we have four in a row. I am ready to get back at it.”
Previous Funny Car points leader Courtney Force and the Traxxas Ford Mustang earned the most qualifying bonus points, a total of five, for any of the Funny Cars at the Summernationals but she missed two opportunities to move up into the top half of the field. She was faced with a tough No. 8 vs. No. 9 first round race against Johnny Gray, one of the hottest racers recently.
In the first round both Funny Cars left at the same time but Gray was able to outrun Force who clocked the fourth quickest elapsed time of the first round. Her 4.123 second first round run would have trailered eventual winner Matt Hagan, semi-finalists Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham as well as quarter-finalists Bob Tasca III and father John Force had she been racing them in the first session.
“We had Johnny Gray in the first round and we just got outrun. I thought I was going to drive around him at the top end but we ran out of track. If we have run any other car in the first round I think we would have won. That is NHRA drag racing. You have to beat the person next to you and we just couldn’t do it today.
The bad news is we lost but the good news we are further ahead this season than we were last year. We have won a race and gone to a final round so far. At this point last season we hadn’t even been beyond the semi-finals,” said Force, who already has two final round appearances in 2013.
“I am looking forward to the race tracks coming up this summer. We had quite a bit of success at those tracks last year. That is where we picked up and got on a roll. We have had a rough patch these past couple of races and this race we had some problems in qualifying. You can’t make excuses you just have to go to the next one and hope that we can improve and start moving back up the points.”
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster continued to improve posting consistent runs on Saturday that qualified the rookie driver for the eighth time this season in a tough Top Fuel category. That momentum gave the Automobile Club Road to the Future Award candidate the confidence to defeat veteran Doug Kalitta in the first round for her third round win of the season.
Force used a starting line advantage, .071 to .096, to get her dragster to the finish line first even though her elapsed time was a shade slower, 3.884 to 3.873 seconds, than the Mac Tools dragster.
“I was very excited to be qualified and running Doug Kalitta in the first round. I have really been working on my reaction time so to get a hole shot win was awesome. I have been talking with my crew chiefs and some other drivers on how to improve my lights and I have been practicing on my tree. I have really been focusing on that.
My lights still need improvement to stay consistent but they are getting there. I knew I would have to have a good light against Doug because he is such a great racer,” said an elated Force.
In the second round Force was tasked with racing one of the toughest cars and best leavers in the category, Spencer Massey’s Schumacher Electric Battery Extender dragster. She did a masterful job of pedaling her dragster for the first time in her career. When the dragster began losing traction Force got off the throttle and seamlessly let the dragster settle down before getting back on the gas.
“Going into the second round racing Spencer Massey was another big round. He is an awesome driver so it was fun to get up there and run him. Unfortunately I didn’t get the win light but I was able to pedal this Castrol EDGE dragster and get it to hook back up. That was something new and I am learning something every run.”
Force’s comfort level at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park may have played a role in her success today.
“I was No. 1 qualifier here in A Fuel so that gives me some confidence here I think. I came back with a good attitude and some confidence that we would do well here. I am going to try and keep that same mentality at the next races this season,” said Force.
“Sitting in my dragster makes me more comfortable and lets me practice my routine. I spent more time in the car this weekend just in the pits going over my routine. The practice I think was very helpful.”
John Force Racing