Third, fourth and fifth in Funny Car.
EPPING, NH – A clear sky and bright sun made for excellent conditions for tens of thousands of fans to enjoy the final day of qualifying for the 3rd annual NHRA New England Nationals. Unfortunately the warmer temperatures did not give the John Force Racing Funny Car and Top Fuel teams a chance to improve on their strong qualifying performances from Friday. Heading into race day John Force will hold onto his No. 3 qualifying position (4.055 seconds) followed by No. 4 Courtney Force (4.059 seconds) and No. 5 Robert Hight (4.068 seconds). This is the best cumulative qualifying performance for the three JFR Funny Cars and just the third time all three have qualified in the top half of the field this season.
In Top Fuel Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster held onto their No. 10 qualified position going into Sunday. The most recent Top Fuel finalist posted the sixth quickest run of the third qualifying session and the eighth quickest run of the last session.
“We have to look at our Friday and Saturday qualifying runs to get a plan together for tomorrow. We made some good runs and I got my foot out of it a little early on the runs today. We wound up No. 10 but it really doesn’t matter,” said a confident Brittany Force. “When it comes down to race day you could be the No. 16 qualifier and you have a shot of going all the way. We are going to work on this Monster Energy dragster tonight and get as aggressive as we can with it for the first round. We are racing Doug Kalitta and we have had some wins against him so we are hoping for one more tomorrow.”
Force will face Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fueler in the first round and she is 3-3 in first round meetings against the veteran driver. She lost to Kalitta in their only meeting this season in the first round of the Arizona Nationals. In the last two races the Monster Energy Top Fueler has raced to a semi-final and runner-up finish after starting from the No. 6 qualifying position.
The Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car will start from the No. 3 qualifying position. This will be the fifth time John Force has started from the No. 3 position or better this season. He has only started from the bottom half of the Funny Car field twice this season and has qualified for every event. On Saturday Force posted the second quickest elapsed time, a 4.142 second run, on a track that exceeded 120 degrees. In the final session Force’s Peak Chevy Camaro was on another strong run when it hazed the tires at about half-track and slowed to 4.561 seconds as it cruised across the finish line.
“I am excited to be up here with my blue Peak Chevy Camaro SS and AAA of New England. We were up on the AAA stage today talking to the fans and they were great,” said Force at the end of the day. “The Monster Energy dragster is starting to run and all the Funny Cars are up at the top of the ladder. We have a pretty good ladder but anybody can beat you out here. My race car ran in the cool air but it also ran in the heat.”
Force was runner-up at the inaugural NHRA New England Nationals and on that day he also faced Dave Richards, tomorrow’s opening session opponent, in the first round. Force was the No. 1 qualifier and went on to take out Richards, Jeff Arend and Ron Capps before falling in a close race to daughter Courtney.
Courtney Force qualified in the No. 4 position at New England Dragway with a 4.059 elapsed time at 319.45 mph and will go into final eliminations against competitor Dom Lagana on Sunday. The 2012 Rookie of the Year and her Traxxas team made four consistent runs throughout qualifying to claim a spot in the top half of the Funny Car field.
Excited as well
“I’m excited about where our Traxxas team sits going into race day tomorrow,” said Force. “We’ve done well at this track in the past and being that we are qualified No. 4 going into eliminations gets me pumped up and excited. I think we’ve got a good car this weekend. We have shown consistency on every run.”
The 26-year-old won the inaugural race at New England Dragway two years ago. She qualified in the No. 3 spot and dismissed Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman and finally John Force in the final round to claim her third career Funny Car victory. Last year, the Traxxas team advanced to the semi-finals.
“In Q3 it got a little outside the groove and pulled me hard to the outside wall so I had to get out of it early,” she said. “We lost a little bit of data on that run, but we got it down there and got it far enough to know that we’ve got a good car going into tomorrow.”
This will be the first time Force has matched up beside Dom Lagana in Funny Car eliminations. He is her 29th different opponent in four years of NHRA Funny Car racing. She has won her last seven match-ups beside a first-time competitor.
“Going into tomorrow we have Dom Lagana in the first round and we’re just hoping we can go some rounds so we can climb back up in the points. That’s where our focus is right now and trying to get all of our sponsors in the winner’s circle this weekend,” said Force.
Force currently holds the No. 11 position in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings, just 32 points out of the Top Ten.
“I’m excited because all of the JFR funny cars are in the top five going into race day which is exactly where we need to be because we all need to move up in points before the Countdown to the Championship,” said Force.
The AAA New England Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car will start race day from its best qualifying position of the 2015 season. Robert Hight drove his Chevy Funny Car to the No. 5 spot and will face former teammate Tony Pedregon in the first round tomorrow.
Hight made consistent runs both days running in the cool and heat of New England Dragway. In the final qualifying session Hight was on a very aggressive run and as the Chevy Funny Car moved past the 330 timer it hazed the tires and crossed the finish line with a sub-par 4.871 second elapsed time. The end result was not stellar but the data will prove critical for success tomorrow.
“We made a really good run in the heat today and then in the last session we just pushed it a little hard. You can look at the numbers and it was on a really quick run and it just overpowered the track a little bit. If it is a little cooler like tomorrow morning that run probably would have made it and been one of the quickest of the session,” said Hight. “I am glad we are up there near the top of the qualifying ladder. That is where this AAA New England Chevrolet Camaro Funny car belongs and we have been working hard to get to this point.”