POMONA, CA –John Force will go into race day at the 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals as the No. 1 qualifier. Force was the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday on the strength of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car’s 4.015 second pass.
Today during the final qualifying session Force was bumped back by Matt Hagan’s 4.014 second pass before the newly crowned 16-time Mello Yello NHRA Funny Car champion raced into the record books with the first three second pass in Funny Car history at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, 3.995 seconds at 319.37 mph.
Force and his Jimmy Prock tuned Castrol GTX Ford Mustang have put together a historic string of qualifying efforts over the last four races. From coast to coast Force has an average best qualifying elapsed time of 4.004 seconds. Starting in St. Louis (No. 3, 4.023 sec), Reading, Pa. (No.1, 3.987 sec), Las Vegas2 (No.1, 4.011 sec) and today at Pomona2 (No. 1, 3.995 sec). Three of the four runs have been track records (St. Louis, Las Vegas2 and Pomona2).
At the top end Force exited his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car and showered his crew chief brain-trust and his sponsors with praise.
Jimmy told me on the radio to ‘Hold on kid!’ I just want to thank all the sponsors Castrol, Traxxas, Auto Club, Ford, Mac Tools, BrandSource and Freightliner. We did that on Goodyear tires which was awesome. I want to thank Auto Club for extending our sponsorship.”
This was Force’s record 146th No. 1 qualifier and it was his third in a row and sixth of the season. Force has won the last two races from the No. 1 spot and he will face journeyman Funny Car driver Bob Bode in the first round.
“First I am not writing any history. Jimmy Prock runs that Funny Car like I said yesterday. Right now we are on a roll and it is just working. This is a team effort with Mike Neff, Ron Douglas, Dean Antonelli, John Medlen working with Jimmy and Danny DeGennaro. We are all one team. Neff pushed it and went for it with Robert.
Courtney ran 4.01. I saw the look on Jimmy Prock’s face and I knew he was going for it. The Schumacher’s they beat us to the threes but we got the record here at my home track in Pomona in front of a pretty good crowd. I am pretty excited,”
Force described the second three second run of his career to the media in the Shav Glick Media Center with his trademark enthusiasm.
“I knew it was a good run. I could hear my guys yelling. I knew it ran in the threes. It is just a feeling that you get. It is a rocket ship that goes down through there and it didn’t vibrate,” said Force. “It was on a mission. I heard my guys on the radio but they didn’t tell me exactly what it ran. I knew she ran in the threes I just didn’t know how quickly.”
In the pair right before Force’s historic run Robert Hight and the Auto Club Funny Car team were making their own bid for history. With the conditions improving rapidly crew chief Mike Neff was trying to get the maximum effort out of the track and was successful for approximately 700 feet. At the top end at the Auto Club Mustang was charging on all eight cylinders but Hight hazed the Goodyears and slowed as he crossed the finish line.
“We are ready for race day. We were going for a low elapsed time run and we just overpowered the track a little bit. That was all it took to smoke the tires,” said Hight, the No. 5 qualifier. “We can back it down and be ready for round one tomorrow. Our goal is to move up as high as we can in the points. We got bonus points in three straight qualifying sessions before the final qualifying session. This Auto Club Ford Mustang has been consistent all weekend and we will be ready to close out the season on a high note.”
Hight will face perennial championship contender Ron Capps in the first round. Both drivers are looking to move up in the points. Hight holds a 22-14 record against Capps. This will be the third time they have faced each other at the Auto Club NHRA Finals and currently their head to head record is 1-1 in the season finale.
Courtney Force opened up qualifying today in a great side-by-side match-up next to Capps. The sophomore driver posted a 4.109 elapsed time at over 312 mph and moved up a few spots in the Funny Car field. The Traxxas team had to bring out their back-up body after a small explosion on Friday during the second qualifying session.
“We had to switch bodies after yesterday. We put the pink car back on since we ruined our rookie car which is a bummer, but we’re excited that we’ve had some pretty good luck with the pink Funny Car. We went out there in the first session and ran a 4.10, which stepped us up a little, but the conditions weren’t quite perfect yet. We kept it safe on the first run and on the second we wanted to improve. We were looking for something better and we found it in Q4,” said Force.
The 25-year-old raced her pink Traxxas Ford Mustang to a 4.016 second run at over 319 mph in the fourth and final qualifying session today. Temperatures dropped quickly as the sun went down and helped to move the Traxxas team up into the top half of the field.
“In the final session we ran a 4.01 and went towards the top which is what we wanted. I’m very proud of my team. They thrashed to get that car ready for qualifying today and to go out and put a 4.01 on the board makes us very excited for what can happened tomorrow,” said Force.
Force will go into Sunday in the No. 3 spot and take on Funny Car competitor and Ford racer Bob Tasca III. Force is 7-1 to Tasca in previous match-ups.
The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster continued to impress on the final day of qualifying. Rookie driver Brittany Force lowered her career best elapsed time for the second day in a row posting a 3.784 second run at 323.74 mph. The run was good enough to keep the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future contender in the top half of the field in the No. 8 position.
“I’m very excited about our weekend out here. It’s definitely a tough field out here in Pomona for the last race of the season. Everyone is really trying to qualify well to get those extra bonus points. Our car has been running great.
We ran our best ET ever, a 3.78, and we just did it again in the last session. We have a really good car- the best it’s ever run. It’s really consistent. We were No. 4 at the beginning of the day but got bumped down to No. 8. I’m really excited for tomorrow,” said Force.
Force will face Spencer Massey for the sixth time this season. Force recently defeated Massey in Las Vegas for the first time in five attempts.
“I’ve raced Spencer quite a few times and he’s kicked my butt in the past, but he’s fun to race. I got him last race in Vegas, but our plan is to go out there and get past first round. It’s going to be a tough match-up, but it’s nothing that our Castrol EDGE team can’t handle,” added Force.