John, Courtney Force battle for top Funny Car qualifying spot in Seattle
Dad gets his 150th career top qualfiying position.
In another classic family battle for performance, age and experience toppled youth and enthusiasm as John Force lost, then retook his No. 1 qualifying position at the 27th annual O’Reilly Northwest Nationals to his youngest daughter Courtney Force in the final qualifying session on Saturday. Force, the 16-time Funny Car champion, had the quickest Funny Car on Friday night and Saturday morning posting 4.085 second runs in the evening and the heat of the day.
In the final session Courtney Force and her Traxxas Funny Car blazed a path to the No. 1 spot running 4.082 seconds right in front of the elder Force. In his last shot at regaining the No. 1 spot John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car lowered the ET mark to 4.057 seconds to grab his 150th career No. 1 qualifier.
“You are supposed to have a little bit of fun with it. We have our ups and our downs. She bumps and I figured Robert or the Traxxas car could get me. Jimmy turned around and asked what we should do and I told him to turn it up. We knew what it would run. You really don’t want to show the competition what you’ve got. If you can hold your cards and get them in the evening then you can step on it. She whipped me last week and I wanted to whip her today. I knew she could run,” said Force.
“After she ran I saw (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) running to the box because it was cooling and the temperature dropped a couple of degrees after she ran. We all make plenty of power. When you are the last to run you get your shot,” added Force.
When John Force is the No. 1 qualifier his performance on race day is second to none. The Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car goes to the semi-finals 72.3% of the time and reaches the finals an astonishing 58.5 %. Force has only lost from the No. 1 position 6.7% of the races he has been the No. 1 qualifier.
The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Champ started today’s qualifying session with a stellar pass in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang. Not only did John Force set the low ET for the round with a stout 4.085 second run at 304.39 mph, it was exactly the same time he ran yesterday during the late afternoon session when the weather and track conditions were ideal. Considering today’s pass was made in less than perfect weather conditions is pretty impressive, as the air temp during the session was 84 degrees and the relative humidity was 47 percent.
Crew chief Jimmy Prock has gotten back to his ways of giving his boss one fast and consistent race car. The clutch issues that plagued the Castrol GTX High Mileage back in May and June are hopefully a distant memory as John Force is looking to claim his eighth Northwest Nationals win and race from the No. 1 qualifier spot on Sunday for the fourth time this season. .
Force is 3-0 against Jeff Diehl and beat him in the first round two weeks ago at Denver.
Courtney is improving
Courtney Force has qualified better each and every time she has raced her Traxxas Ford Mustang at Pacific Raceways in Seattle. In 2012 during her rookie season she settled in the No. 14 spot and went four rounds on race day to take home her first ever Funny Car win. Last year, Force qualified in the top half of the field in the No. 8 spot and went to the semi-finals.
“I feel like we’ve got a good race car out here in Seattle for the Northwest Nationals and it’s good to be back here. The fans are amazing and it’s good to come back to a familiar race track where I got my first win in both Top Alcohol Dragster and in Funny Car. It’s exciting to be here,” said Force.
This year, after four sessions of qualifying, the 26-year-old Traxxas driver has qualified even better. Force got out of the groove on Q1 causing her hotrod to smoke the tires, but she made a good pass on Friday night with a 4.125 second run at 301.60 mph to go to the No. 6 spot.
The 2012 Auto Club Rookie of the Year made two solid passes to wrap-up qualifying. She came out with a 4.166 ET at 298.40 mph in Q3, but jumped up to the No. 1 qualified spot in Q4 with a 4.082 ET at 306.33 mph. Unfortunately she was bumped down to the No. 2 spot when her father posted a 4.057 shortly after.
“We had a great two days of qualifying. We went for that No. 1 spot today, but my dad stole it from us. We still made a pretty good run. It’s great to have all three JFR funny cars in the top half going into race day,” said Force.
Force will be matched up with Gary Densham in the first round. She has never competed against him in eliminations, making Densham her 26th different opponent in Funny Car.
“I’ll be paired up with Gary Densham. It will be a tough match. It’s the first time I’ll be racing him. We’ll just have to give them everything we got. Ron Douglas has given me a good car as he always does so I just have to do my job tomorrow and stay focused and get this car to the other end,” said Force.
Hight could be a factor
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team entered today with no time and nothing but a clean slate in qualifying. He made the 14th quickest run on Friday but his Mike Neff tuned Funny Car made up for any perceived performance questions with a great run in the in the first session a 4.107 second run that was the third quickest run of the day.
In the cooling temperatures of the final qualifying session Hight and Neff again combined for a solid 4.108 second run at 300.66 mph. Hight will enter race day with the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car in the No. 6 position and will face Bob Tasca III.
“We went to the finals here in 2005 my rookie season and lost to my teammate Eric Medlen. I would love to get back to the finals tomorrow and get my first win in Seattle. We won Denver to start the Western Swing and it would be cool to finish the JFR Funny Car sweep of the Swing with a win at the end. We will be ready for the first round,” said HIght.
In the third session, Brittany Force was on a good run right up to the timing lights but just before the 1000 foot mark, the Goodyear slicks on the Castrol EDGE Dragster lost traction before the finish line. She still managed to run a solid 3.848 second pass at 310.84 mph, an improvement over her prior run of 3.868 seconds from yesterday. It was also one of the quickest passes of the session, and considering it was made in the same weather conditions the team will face during tomorrow‘s eliminations, Brittany was quite happy with the run.
Brittany also had another reason to smile, as at the end of the third qualifying session, even though she remained in the 11th spot, she was the fourth quickest of the third session with that great 3.848 second run. Knowing her Castrol EDGE Dragster is heading in the right direction under the guidance of Todd Smith and Dean “Guido” Antonelli is very reassuring to the sophomore Top Fuel driver as Brittany knows she capable of going rounds, heading to the finals and even getting her first nitro win this weekend.
Brittany Force will face Khalid alBalooshi in the first round on Sunday and the second year driver will be looking for some payback for a first round lost last year at the Northwest Nationals.
“I am perfectly fine with not being the No. 1 qualifier. It didn’t work for us last weekend so I am OK with that. We ended up No. 11 today and we will be racing Khalid alBalooshi in the first round. He is a great competitor and I can’t wait to go up against him. I am confident we will go rounds tomorrow,” said Brittany Force, currently the No. 7 Top Fuel driver in the Mello Yello point standings.
Schumacher, J. Force And A. Johnson race to provisional No. 1’s at Northwest Nationals
Schumacher, Johnson and Force top Seattle NHRA qualifying