ENNIS, TX --- Courtney Force pulled to the starting line today at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals with the intention of qualifying well. She did not, however, expect to seize her second provisional no. 1 qualifier of her rookie season, her first of the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing series Countdown to the Championship.
“Coming into Texas out here, we were excited. Our Mustang runs good in the heat and we were excited to go after it but getting that no. 1 position on that first pass and then watching them run the 0’s when the track started to cool down, I was ready to go after it again. We were going to push the car. We wanted to stay in the top half of the field. That was our main goal today so we could just focus on the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, going in and getting that $100,000 tomorrow and most importantly being out here with my sponsor Traxxas. It’s their home track here in Texas so I’m really trying to do well here and go after a win,” said Force.
The lead contender for Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award for NHRA’s top “Rookie of the Year,” made the quickest run of the class in the first qualifying session. She put up a 4.182 ET at over 295 mph. She then followed up the quickest pass in the Funny Car category, with a 4.081 ET at over 308 mph.
“Maybe it is the Full Throttle I’m drinking, but just the adrenaline coming out of a race car and hearing my guys yell on the radio that I went to the No. 1 spot again. You know, earlier today and then on this last run, just hoping that it holds tomorrow. I’d be so excited and so proud to get my second no. 1 qualifying position in my rookie season. It’s been a great year for us. I really can’t complain about how it’s been going. I’m so proud of my team and my crew chiefs, Ron Douglas and Dan Hood. They gave me a great race car,” said Force.
Six bonus points were awarded in all to Force in the first day of qualifying, stepping her up to just two points shy of passing Johnny Gray in the points standings.
“I think so far we’ve proved today we’ve got a good race car. We can run it in the heat during the day and we can run it when it cools down a little bit at night. We’re hoping that the 4.08 stays tomorrow, but I really don’t believe the track is going to cool down as much as it did today,” said Force.
Force is the first female no. 1 qualifier at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals and the second at the Texas Motorplex. The first no. 1 qualifier at the Motorplex was Angelle Seeling at the now defunct Castrol NHRA Lone Star Nationals in 1999.
“I’m really hoping that it sticks, but we’ve got our main focus on that Traxxas Shootout and going after everyone else. We’re just going to do the best we can. Although we are the first pair out, Capps is going to be tough to beat. He’s one of the best cars out here, but I think I’ve got one of the best cars out here in Texas,” said Force.
Force will go into Saturday’s qualifying sessions and Traxxas Shootout occupying the top spot and will face Ron Capps in the opening round of Traxxas’ “race within a race,’ new to the NHRA series this year.
“It’s definitely crazy. Getting in a little late to the Traxxas Shootout, I guess I was a little disappointed in myself. We were really pushing, but it is the Countdown to The Championship right now. We made that. We made the Top 10 spot for that. So, there’s so much going on. We have our focus in so many different places right now. We want to win the Shootout tomorrow and we want to win the race out here. I think the coolest thing is getting in with that fan vote and going into a lottery not knowing if you’re going to be the last car to get picked and we definitely got lucky,” said Force.
Mike Neff, driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, made a misstep in the opening qualifying session smoking the tires right beside Full Throttle point leader Ron Capps. It was an anti-climatic end to the first session as the last four Funny Cars didn’t make it past 300 ft. before they lost traction.
In the second session running in the first pair of Funny Cars Neff hauled the mail to the finish line with a 4.132 second, 305.42 mph pass that held up as one of the second quickest times for most of the session. Neff eventually had to settle for the provisional no. 5 time but going into the second day of qualifying and most importantly the first round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout he is a in a great position.
“Missing on the first run is always a bummer. It puts you in a tough situation going into the second run. At most events that run is when you have the best conditions and you want to get a good qualifying spot. Getting a good run today is extra important here because of the Traxxas Shootout tomorrow,” said Neff the no. 5 qualifier for the Nitro Shootout.
“If you aren’t qualified today then you go into tomorrow trying to win the Shootout and trying to qualify for the race. That just adds a lot more stress. We messed up the first run but to be able to come back and make a solid run in the first pair when the track was still pretty hot. That was a good positive step for us.”
Neff’s quickest run today was well ahead of Johnny Gray, his first round opponent, who is currently no. 10 with a best run of 4.193 seconds.
John Force, provisional no. 9, is on the cusp of moving into the top half of the qualified field just .014 seconds behind rookie Alexis DeJoria. Force’s run was also early in the session and he knows that getting in the show gives him a leg up on the Shootout tomorrow.
Force will face Jack Beckman in the opening round of the Traxxas Shootout. Beckman’s best time today was 4.109 on a cooling track in the second session.
The AAA Insurance Ford Mustang of Robert Hight stumbled the most on Friday smoking the tires in both sessions. Hight has the advantage tomorrow because his Traxxas Nitro Shootout opponent, Jeff Arend, is also on the outside looking in of the provisionally qualified field. Hight will have the advantage of putting Arend in a less desirable lane tomorrow morning as the no. 2 versus no. 7 team. Hight is also looking to avenge his first round loss to Arend which was the result of a blown spark plug. Going into tomorrow’s first round/third qualifying session Hight holds a 12-2 win record versus the DHL backed Toyota.
Source: John Force Racing