Four-car team 'ready for tomorrow,' said Brittany Force
After two days of qualifying at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park the four drivers from John Force Racing are ready to take on the tough competition that awaits them on race day. Led in qualifying by Mello Yello points leader and Summernationals No. 3 qualifier in Funny Car Robert Hight (in photo), the trio of JFR Ford Mustang Funny Cars will all have the all-important lane choice in the first round. Castrol-backed John Force will have his pick of lanes as the No. 4 qualifier and most recent winner Courtney Force and the Traxxas Funny Car will also be able to select her path to hopeful victory as the No. 7 qualifier. In Top Fuel Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE dragster continued to impress with a strong No. 5 qualifying effort on the heels of her No. 1 effort last weekend in Topeka.
Brittany Force, the 2013 Auto Club Rookie of the Year, made a two solid qualifying runs and is poised to claim the first Top Fuel win for Castrol EDGE and John Force Racing.
“I think the Castrol EDGE Team is definitely on a roll. My crew guys led by Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli have really put an awesome race car together. We ran that 3.77 last night and to come back today and run that 3.78 on our last qualifying past is impressive. I actually had to back pedal my car a little bit as it was starting to spin the tires on the top end. I know we can run even better so I’m pumped and excited for tomorrow,” said Brittany Force
Earlier during today’s first session, the track couldn’t handle the 10,000 horsepower the BOSS 500 engine was pumping out. Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster smoked the tires down the track and could only manage to run a 4.571 second run at 159.70 mph. This didn’t discourage her or the crew as they quickly regrouped and made the necessary adjustments to the clutch on other components on the dragster.
“Our first run wasn’t that good my dragster smoked tires 400 feet out. It obviously wasn’t what we were looking for but my guys got it figured out before the last session,” said Brittany Force
On her fourth and finally qualifying session today, Brittany was in the tricky right lane that had surface issues at the 700-foot mark. It had been throwing the other Top Fuel teams curve balls but crew chief Todd Smith had a handle on it. Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster went right down the groove and lit scoreboard up with a strong 3.78 second pass at 313.66 mph. Even though she didn’t improve from her Friday run of 3.777 seconds, she showed the competitors her race car is consistent and ready for Sunday’s eliminations.
“The car almost made it down the track but there’s a bump near the finish line and it’s a little tricky to drive through this rough section of the track. I was going around 300 mph when I felt the car jump and take a right turn so I had to wrestle the steering wheel and it felt like it the tires were going up in smoke so I lifted early before the finish line. Still, it ran a good number and we’ll be ready for tomorrow,” said Brittany Force.
Brittany Force will face Spencer Massey in round one on race day. She is 2–5 against Massey in prior match ups and she’ll be looking to avenge her semi-final loss to Massey during last weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals.
“We’ll have lane choice over Spencer Massey for round one tomorrow and I think the left lane might be better but that call is ultimately up to my crew chief. I’m looking forward to going rounds so we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” said Brittany Force.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team will be racing for their first victory at the Summernationals and he will have to face fellow Blue Oval race Bob Tasca III in the first round. Hight posted the third quickest qualifying run of the event a blistering 4.014 second pass on Friday night.
“That run on Friday was great but we wanted to get down the track twice today to get ready for Sunday. Our first run was good and in the last session I think we were just a little too aggressive. I am not worried. Mike Neff will set this Auto Club Ford Mustang up great,” said Hight.
In the opening session today Hight was running beside Tim Wilkerson and ran 4.093 seconds which was only one of six runs that session in the 4.0 range.
John Force was looking to improve during today’s qualifying sessions but tricky track conditions and mechanical gremlins prevented him from improving from yesterday’s 4.015 second run. Despite having two opportunities to move up in qualifying, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang will start Sunday eliminations from the fourth position.
“Right now we can’t seem to repeat and conditions tomorrow could possible make it a one-lane race track, especially if the sun comes out. That right lane could be a problem but we’ll see what happens,” said John Force.
Even with mild temperatures and partly cloudy skies shielding some sunlight from hitting and heating up the temperamental track surface of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, John Force continued to struggle in getting his Funny Car’s performance consistent and repeatable.
“We’ll take it one run at a time and see if we can’t get past Hagan in round one. Like always, we’re excited as Brittany, Courtney and Robert all ran well and we’re all in the show. I’m excited to see if Brittany can get her first tomorrow so we’re going to keep on trucking and put some hot rods in the finals,” said John Force.
While this may present challenges for some teams, the Castrol GTX High Mileage brain trust of crew chief Jimmy Prock, assistant crew chief Danny DeGennaro and the rest of the crew member will have John’s 8000-horsepower Mustang ready for Sunday.
“We went back to the old clutch disc we had been running two races ago. Unfortunately, it was engaging a little harder than we wanted it on that first qualifying pass. With the changing conditions in the afternoon, we were shooting for a 4.0 run on the second session but we just miscalculated,” said assistant crew chief Danny DeGennaro.
On Sunday, the 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Champion will face Matt Hagan in the opening round. These two have squared off against each other a total of 18 times with each driver claiming nine wins. He last faced Matt at the season opener NHRA Winternationals where John defeated him in the final round.
Tomorrow, John will be focused on one thing, driving his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang to the winner’s circle for his 140th career victory and ending his 13 year NHRA Summernationals drought at Englishtown, New Jersey.
Courtney Force posted a stout 4.030 during Friday’s night session to take her into today’s qualifying passes. The Traxxas Ford Mustang followed up with two great passes today to put the team in the No. 7 spot for Sunday’s eliminations.
“It’s exciting coming out to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park here in Englishtown, New Jersey and to have this Traxxas team go out and make some consistent runs. That’s exactly how we wanted this weekend to start before going into race day on Sunday,” said Force.
In the third qualifying session, Force posted a 4.080 ET at 306.33 mph, followed by a 4.045 ET at 319.14 mph in the fourth and final session. The Traxxas team’s 4.045 was second-quickest of that session, awarding the team two qualifying bonus points.
“We went out and laid down some 4.0s and it took us to the top half of the field. We finished off qualifying with a 4.04 to pick up two bonus points for being the second-quickest car in that session,” said Force.
The 25-year-old will have lane choice over Tim Wilkerson in the opening round. Force is 7-1 against Wilkerson in previous match-ups.
“It feels good having a consistent race car going into race day. We’ll be matched up against Tim Wilkerson, so we’ll do the best we can. We’re feeling confident right now and we’ll see what we can lay down tomorrow,” said Force.
JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 4th at 4.015 seconds at 310.48 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First round opponent (W-L): Matt Hagan (9-9)
ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.014 seconds at 316.45 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest in Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Bob Tasca III (12-5)
COURTNEY FORCE, 25, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 7th at 4.030 seconds at 319.07 mph Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q4)
First round opponent (W-L): Tim Wilkerson (7-1)
BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 5th at 3.777 seconds at 324.44 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
First round opponent (W-L): Spencer Massey (2-5)
Sunday, June 1
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM