Courtney and Brittany Force Friday leaders in Sonoma

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Sisters top Funny Car and Top Fuel.

It was a banner day for John Force Racing at the 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Courtney Force (in photo) and Brittany Force both raced to the No. 1 positions in their respective classes, Funny Car and Top Fuel. Right behind Courtney Force in the Funny Car class was father and 16-time Funny Car champion No. 3 and current Mello Yello points leader Robert Hight No. 6. If the Force women hold onto their top qualifying positions it will be the second time in the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season the two youngest daughters of Funny Car champion John Force will go into race day as the quickest drivers. The pair also achieved this feat in Topeka a race Courtney went on to win.

Courtney Force and her Traxxas team raised the bar on the competition today as the the 26-year-old drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang straight down the track in session one with low ET and top speed of the round. She posted a 4.176 ET at 304.19 mph, good for the top spot and three qualifying bonus points.

“Going up there I was looking at the times and watching people go ahead of me for Q1, then we were able to lay down the 4.17 and go to the No. 1 spot. I was thinking, ‘Man, you can tell it’s hot out here when these Funny Cars are slowing down by that much,” said Force, a four-time Funny Car winner.

In the second session, the Traxxas team reclaimed their No. 1 spot with a stout 4.045 at 319.22 mph, proving quickest and fastest Funny Car on the property on the first day of qualifying, and once again securing three additional bonus points.

“It cooled off, that sun set, but even before the sun went down I saw people running 4.05s and 4.07s and it was getting really consistent early on in the qualifying field. So I thought alright, if we can run this it’s going to keep cooling down and we can run in the low 4.0s. Then again I know that I’ve got dad out my window and typically he’s always outrunning me. So I’m in the car. I’m listening. I’m trying to see what everyone’s running and I knew that we were on a good pass when I could just barely see dad out my window and I turned on the win light. He then flew by me and I thought, ‘Ok, that had to be a good one.’ I got to the sand trap a little bit quicker than before, so that’s how you can kind of tell that you’re on a quick run. My guys actually didn’t even show up at first, then they came around and said that we were in the No. 1 spot running a 4.045.  It’s always a good day for me if I’m paired up next to my dad and I can turn on a win light. I don’t care if its Q1 or final round, it just makes my day right there,” said Force. 

Hoping for her third number one

If Force’s 4.045 holds throughout both qualifying sessions on Saturday, it will be her third No. 1 of the season. It will also be her first No. 1 here at Sonoma Raceway and her sixth of her career.

“It’s so great being out here in Sonoma. This is the middle of the Western Swing. To me, this is childhood memories all wrapped up at this event. I love coming out here. Obviously I’m a California girl. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to sweep the Western Swing because we weren’t able to get the job done in Denver, but just to come out here so far and to be No. 1 qualifier, it will hopefully be my third of the season, but you never know until tomorrow. The conditions are going to be close to the same. We’re running about the same time, maybe a little bit earlier. But these cars are running pretty quick. These guys are figuring it out and I think they’re going to continue to do that through Q3 and Q4,” added Force.

“Hopefully we can hold onto that spot or even improve on it tomorrow, but I’m just excited for my Traxxas team, for all my sponsors: Ford, Castrol, Auto Club, BrandSource and Mac Tools and Peak. It’s just a good day for us so far and it’s cool to have dad right there behind me in the field and my sister Brittany going to the No. 1 spot. It’s definitely exciting to see and I hope we can both hold onto it just like we did in Topeka,” said Force.

The 2012 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year also had a few words on why it’s special to beat her dad, 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Champion John Force.

'Everything is special about beating dad'

“It’s dad. Everything is special about beating dad. I mean, I remember coming to Sonoma and being out in the stands with my box of animal crackers, sitting there with my lemonade watching dad compete here. It’s so surreal to line up against him no matter what event it is. But to be here in Sonoma especially, to line up next to him and turn on that win light, it’s just so much fun. I’m just very fortunate that I get to do the job that I get to do. I love every second of it and it’s just fun to watch my sister top the Top Fuel field tonight and hopefully it stays for both of us tomorrow,” said Force.

When asked what her favorite part about Sonoma is, Force brought up teammate and family friend Eric Medlen, who passed away in a testing accident in 2007.

“It’s kind of one of our home tracks; being in California. Like I said, we grew up out here as kids. This part in particular being that I remember when Eric Medlen won, our teammate. His whole family is out here; his friends.  Just the whole vibe of this race track holds a special place in our hearts; the whole John Force Racing team. So for me and Brittany, that’s for sure something special to us. That’s always in the back of your head when you’re racing out here. You’re always thinking of Eric Medlen and his family. I’m sure when I get back they’ll be there cheering me on and it’s just exciting to be out here with our family.

Tight knit family

Obviously I have a tight knit family. We pick on each other a lot but we just enjoy what we do out here and have a lot of fun with it.  We did the Eric Medlen dinner the other night and it was a lot of fun. It kind of brings you back to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. We’re raising money for the Speedway Childrens Charity. We do it because we love it, just like Eric loved racing as well,” said Force. Right after Courtney Force finished the day as the No. 1 Funny Car driver Brittany Force drove her Castrol EDGE Dragster to the number one qualifying spot. The 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year blasted Sonoma Raceway with a ground pounding 3.762 second run at 325.53 mph. She also grabbed three NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points for securing the number one spot on that final qualifying session.  

“It’s really exciting to go to number one, especially with my sister Courtney next to me in Funny Car. We did that back in Topeka and that was awesome, so it’s great to do it again out here in Sonoma, as I love coming out here; it’s one of my favorite tracks to race on,” said Brittany Force, runner-up last week in Denver.

Going into the second session, the track and air temps started dropping. Crew chief Todd Smith wanted to step up the already potent 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster even more and get Brittany in the top half of the field. When the scoreboard lit up with the 3.762 run, Brittany was surprised and delighted.

“It totally shocked me when I got out on the other end. I didn’t know if my microphone came out, but my crew guys didn’t say anything in my earpiece and I didn’t know what was going on until they told me when I was out of the car. I was confident the Castrol EDGE team would stay number one in the final session,” said Force.

“My dad was definitely more nervous than me. He was pacing back and forth and I was just hanging out at top end to see if my 3.76 second pass was going to hold, as there were some fast cars that hadn’t run yet. I was confident that it was going to hold, as we had a good run. The Castrol EDGE team is pumped and we’re all excited to get that number one spot.”

Tough first session

On the first session, Brittany’s dragster leapt off the starting line like a missile and was on a good run until it started dropping cylinders and hazing the tires at top end. She did manage to run a 3.969 second pass at 279.85 mph. She was in the number four spot, but eventually got moved down to the number 10th spot at the end of the first round.

One thing Brittany is thankful for is there are no team cars in Top Fuel. Unlike sister Courtney or brother-in-law Robert Hight, who race Funny Cars and inevitably can face John Force on race weekends, Brittany doesn’t have to worry about that come Sunday eliminations. “It’s definitely nice not having to race a teammate in the first or second round. I love being over in Top Fuel, it’s a challenge, but I wouldn’t trade classes for anything,” said Force.  

After today’s two qualifying sessions at scenic Sonoma Raceway John Force ended the day in the No. 3 position with a stout 4.070 second run at 313.73 mph. The reigning NHRA Funny Car champ did grab a total of three NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points for the consistent runs his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang made in both sessions.   “We were in the heat earlier in the day and Jimmy’s (Jimmy Prock, crew chief, Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang) making sure it’s going down the race track. My hot rod stepped up big time in the second session when it went that 4.070,” said John Force.

In the first session, John’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang made a great run straight down Sonoma Raceway. He crossed the finish line first and ran a 4.177 second pass at 300.26 mph and ended up in the number 2 spot, just 0.001 of a second slower than fellow teammate and daughter Courtney Force, who ran just a tad quicker with a 4.176 second run and was number one on the first session.

John did pick up two NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points for being the second quickest on the first qualifying round. Considering both of these runs were made with the track temperature at 128 degrees and air temperature hovering around 94 degrees, the brain trust at John Force Racing knows how to set the tune-up on these intricate 8000-horsepower machines.  “I’m content and excited that my two girls, Brittany and Courtney, are qualified number one and hopefully it will hold for tomorrow in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Good day for John Force Racing,” said John Force.

Going into the second session, the weather improved, as both the air and track temperatures came down. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello World Champion and his crew chief, Jimmy Prock, were swinging for the fences. The goal was to see how far they could push the track conditions without overpowering the racing surface.

At the first hint of green, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang blasted off the line and turned in a great 4.070 second pass at 313.73 mph. With ever changing conditions, Jimmy Prock knows the track will be a different animal on Saturday and even Sunday so he’s tuning for consistency.

Prock will get two more shots to fine tune John’s Funny Car tomorrow. The Castrol GTX High Mileage Team has found the consistency without sacrificing performance to go rounds and win races. After John’s runner-up finish last weekend at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals, to teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight, he’ll be looking to even the score on race day, regardless of who’s in the next lane.

Hight has a lot to gain

The Auto Club Ford Mustang piloted by Robert Hight has the most to gain from a successful Sonoma Nationals As the most recent winner he is looking to achieve the tricky Western Swing, winning three races in a row, something that has only been achieved once. Hight isn’t focusing solely on that achievement but rather success one round at a time.In the opening session Hight’s Funny Car was on a strong pass when the Good year slicks lost traction at about half track under the heat of the Sonoma sun. The slower elapsed time force the Mello Yello points leader to run early in the second qualifying session and beside two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon HIght more than made up for any first session miscues by posting a solid 4.088 second pass which at the time was the second quickest run of the day. Hight eventually wound up No. 6 but has high hopes for Saturday success.

“We got behind the eight ball when we didn’t get down the track on the first run. We were early in the second session but we made a good run. I think tomorrow will be the key day because it will be race day conditions. Those are the conditions were I have a lot of confidence in my team and crew chief Mike Neff. We are in the top half now and I think there could be a chance to move up a little tomorrow. We have some momentum and I am looking forward to the next two sessions,” said Robert Hight, a five-time winner in 2014.

John Force Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Event Sonoma
Track Sonoma Raceway
Drivers John Force, Robert Hight, Courtney Force, Brittany Force
Article type Qualifying report
Tags auto club, castrol, ford mustang, john force racing