SONOMA, CA --- On a record setting day at Sonoma Raceway Rookie of the Year front-runner Courtney Force and the Traxxas Ford Mustang were tops of the field for JFR racing to the provisional No. 5 spot with a career best 4.059-second pass. The Funny Car provisional No. 1 qualifier was Cruz Pedregon who covered the 1000 ft. track in 4.028 seconds. In four Full Throttle Drag Racing Series professional categories all eight track records, four elapsed time and four speed records, were reset today.
In the first session the youngest racing Force was the quickest Funny Car of the session with a then career best run of 4.083 seconds at 307.16 mph. Her previous quickest run was 4.099 seconds in Phoenix earlier this season. She picked up three qualifying bonus points and had bragging rights over the provisional No.2 driver at that time Alexis DeJoria.
“It was a good day for our team. First session out getting my career-best ET at 4.08 was definitely exciting and to get that no. 1 spot along with it was a really cool moment. I know we have a great car. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang has been running consistent and. To come out here to Sonoma, a track that means so much to all of us and it’s my first time here in a Funny Car, it’s even more awesome to get my career-best here and then to do it again in my second qualifying session,” said Force. “So you know starting out qualifying with two good runs like that under my best definitely gives us a little more confidence going into Saturday qualifying. We’re in the top half of the field and all our other cars are right there as well.”
As the last John Force Racing Funny Car to run in the second session Courtney had seen her time fall from No. 1 to No. 6. She was running beside veteran Johnny Gray and she crossed the finish line in front of Gray with a time of 4.059 seconds at 312.71 mph. The run moved her up to No. 5 and has her excited about going into the second day of qualifying.
“I knew the second session was going to be tough to hold onto the no. 1 spot. I knew everyone was going to fight to run in the (four) oh’s since they saw our car could run it and I knew a lot of these guys could run it too. I was hoping we could get it back in that last qualifying session, but to go back out and run another personal career-best ET with a 4.05 all in the same day is definitely a good start to the weekend out here in Sonoma,” said Force.
Points leader Robert Hight smoked the tires in the first session but made a strong comeback in the second session. He posted a 4.102 second run and grabbed the No. 9 qualifying spot guaranteeing that the Auto Club team would carry a time over into Saturday.
“You get behind the eight ball when you don’t go down the track the first run. I do believe that we were actually ahead of Courtney, if you look at her drive shaft to ours, ours was going good, it was flipping, it wasn’t piling up, but something was wrong with our tires. I almost didn’t make the run,” said Hight, the 2008 Sonoma Nationals winner. “During the burnout it had a vibration that was unbelievable. Backing up, that thing was hoping off the ground. And anyway, it started shaking on the run, not tire shake but a vibration and it eventually just came loose, but you can see it on the drive shaft on the computer. It caused it to smoke the tires.”
“We came back here and a tire was just about to blow out. Anyway, you can look at it a lot of ways; lucky, you know, that it didn’t happen. I honestly thought it was coming off, it was vibrating so bad. But I believe that it caused us to smoke the tires and it put us behind. We went back up there thinking that we would be conservative in the second session and we’re number 9,” said Hight.
“It’s a better car than that, but I’m just glad to be in there. There are some good cars on the outside. It’s going to be hotter tomorrow and we’re stuck with where we are at. We just have to do better than everyone tomorrow and that will determine the winner on Sunday. If you can do good tomorrow and be on the top with each qualifying run and build points each session, you got a good shot.”
Mike Neff opened up the second session of Funny Car qualifying and quickly showed the rest of the field that the Sonoma Raceway track was ready for record times. Neff’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang clicked the clocks on a single run with a time of 4.102 seconds. For Neff, the driver and crew chief, of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang getting a quick enough time get him near the top half was a good effort considering he was so early in the session.
The seven time Sonoma NHRA Nationals winner John Force struggled on Friday. In the first session Force made his best run of the day a 4.218 second pass. It was the second quickest run for JFR in the first session but in the final session his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang slowed when it smoked the tires just past half track. He will have to grab one of the four available slots along with notable drivers Matt Hagan, Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham who are also on the outside of the top twelve qualifiers.
JOHN FORCE, 63, Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang Qualifying: 13th quickest at 4.218 seconds, 294.50 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
MIKE NEFF, 45, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Qualifying: 10th at 4.102 seconds, 305.77 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 42, AAA Insurance Ford Mustang Qualifying: 9th at 4.090 seconds, 309.27 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang Qualifying: 5th at 4.059 seconds, 312.71 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (quickest of Q1)
Source: JFR Team