Brainerd,MN --- A two hour rain delay two-thirds of the way through the final Funny Car qualifying session gave the fans that hung around a tremendous performance show and shook up a tight Funny Car field on Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway.
The final eight cars in the fourth qualifying session with the exception of Jeff Arend averaged elapsed times of 4.057 seconds as the track cooled to 88 degrees to close the session.
With all the shuffling going into the session Mike Neff was facing a first round match-up with teammate Courtney Force and at the end of the session he will face an equally tough race against Funny Car point leader and teammate Robert Hight. Neff will be looking to avenge two losses this season to the Auto Club Mustang team.
“All in all, we went down the track every run in qualifying so that’s always encouraging. We made some changes coming into this race so we were just trying to walk our way through it and make some full passes and learn more. I feel like we’ve done that. We improved a little bit the last three runs. So I feel good about that,” said Neff.
“Unfortunately we have to race my teammate Robert tomorrow. That’s never good. Especially when they can run as good as anybody. That’s unfortunate, but all in all, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
“We did have a good opportunity tonight after the rain. The track cooled off; coolest track temperatures of the weekend,” said Neff. “We definitely thought we could run better than we did tonight, but it didn’t quite do it.”
Rookie of the Year front-runner Courtney Force and the Traxxas Mustang will square off with veteran Ron Capps in the first round. The 24 year-old Cal State-Fullerton graduate recently defeated Capps in the semi-finals of Denver to kick off the Western Swing. Force will go into race day as the No. 12 qualifier and two weeks ago Force won her first race from the No. 14 spot.
“We had a good day of qualifying; made some decent laps down the track. Our last run we were hoping to get a good run out of and move up into the top half of the field. We tuned the car to get it running quick, but before we even got a chance at it, we had a crack in our fuel line and they made us shut the car off right on the starting line,” said Force.
“We feel good going into tomorrow. We have (Ron) Capps first round and we’re just going to have to do the best we can to go some rounds and earn those points to get us locked into the Countdown. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang has been running good all weekend. We just gotta keep it consistent and outrun Capps in the first round.”
If Courtney wins two rounds of racing tomorrow she will clinch a spot in the Countdown to the Championship. Facing a veteran like Capps in the opening round will give the rookie a strong test to start the day.
John Force will go after his 12th win at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals tomorrow and he will be battling to hold onto his Top Ten spot. He moved up from 9th to 8th in the Full Throttle point standings with a strong qualifying performance. A couple round wins tomorrow could go a long way to extend the 15-time champion’s Top Ten finish streak to 28 years in a row.
“Alexis (DeJoria) is doing a great job. Her car is as good as mine. We really need this bad, but so does she, and there are a bunch of us jammed up; (Tim) Wilkerson, (Bob) Tasca (III). I don’t know who (Matt) Hagan runs, but it doesn’t matter. Tomorrow I just think the good Lord will make a decision and whichever one he makes is the one I’m going with,” said Force.
John Force, 63, Castrol Gtx High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 6th At 4.067 Seconds, 311.85 Mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd Quickest Of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Alexis Dejoria (3-2)
Mike Neff, 45, Castrol Gtx Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 7th At 4.072 Seconds, 313.15 Mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd Quickest Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Robert Hight (5-8)
Robert Hight, 42, Auto Club Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 10th At 4.090 Seconds, 310.98 Mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Mike Neff (8-5)
Courtney Force, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 12th At 4.100 Seconds, 308.99 Mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Ron Capps (1-4)
Sunday, August 19
Final Eliminations 11 A.M.
Source: John Force Racing