BRAINERD, MN --- John Force, the winningest driver in the history of Brainerd International Raceway, started the 31st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals posting the second quickest run on the opening day of qualifying. Force’s Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang covered the 1000 ft. race track in 4.067 seconds at 311.85 mph. Force is right behind Ford Racing teammate Tim Wilkerson who drove and tuned the Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang to the No. 1 spot, with a time of 4.049 seconds.
Force had two solid runs on Friday behind the wheel of his Castrol Ford Mustang Funny Car. His opening run was the fourth quickest of the session. The 15-time Funny Car champion is battling to hold onto his top ten spot in the Full Throttle points and two good runs to start the event was a big boost to his team.
“All these Mustang Funny Cars are running good. We’re kind of exceptional so far with that 4.06 in second. We picked up a few points there on (Matt) Hagan (who is 11th in the points) and yet lost a few points to Wilkerson because he was ahead of us,” said Force, the No. 9 driver in Full Throttle Funny Car points.
“Courtney went right down the track and made it into the top twelve for today. That’s what you need to do. So, tomorrow we’ll see what conditions are and we’ll throw what we have at it.”
Joining Force in the top twelve are Mike Neff, driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, and Seattle winner and Rookie of the Year front-runner, Courtney Force.
Neff clinched his spot in the 2012 Countdown when his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang completed its first qualifying run. Neff, who is 5th in the Full Throttle points, made the 7th quickest run on Friday, a 4.090 seconds at 306.12 mph.
“Overall, I was happy with today and I’m always happy to clinch that spot to get into the countdown because that’s’ the first goal of the year it seems like. If you had to list your goals, it’s to make the countdown. If you’re not in there, you don’t have a shot at ‘the big one,” said Neff, a two-time winner this season.
“I’m pleased for the most part with (how we did) today even though we didn’t qualify a little better, but we’ve changed some things around so this was one of those days where it was important to just make a couple of runs down the track and kind of ‘walk before you run’ type of scenario so to make a good run tonight and run 4.09, I feel good about that,” said Neff.
“The track is really good. There were some great runs out there. The weather looks like it’s going to be pretty similar all weekend and I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to run better than that 4.09 tomorrow based on what the conditions look like and how good the track is.”
Courtney Force hot off of her first win two weeks ago in Seattle will go into Saturday’s second day of qualifying as the No. 11 provisional qualifier. She won from the No. 14 spot in Seattle and her Traxxas Ford Mustang has been one of the most consistent Funny Cars on tour this year qualifying for every event.
Force continues to stay focused on getting better and going rounds. If the rookie can stay qualified and go two rounds on Sunday she will join her teammates Robert Hight and Mike Neff as a Countdown qualified driver.
Finally, Robert Hight’s tough luck continued at Brainerd International Raceway. His Auto Club Ford Mustang made the 13th quickest run of the day but that time, 4.146 seconds, will not carry over into Saturday. There are eighteen Funny Cars on the property so that mean two will be on the outside looking in at the end of the day tomorrow. Hight knows how tough this field is and he knows that conditions could be equally as good tomorrow. For the 2009 Funny Car champion and current Full Throttle point leader making two consistent runs tomorrow will hopefully set him up for race day on Sunday.
Source: John Force Racing