NO. 1 IN BRAINERD JOHN FORCE CONTINUES QUALIFYING DOMINATION
BRAINERD, MN – On the final qualifying run today at the NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals, John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang stampeded to the head of the pack with a stunning 4.060 second run at 315.27 mph after an afternoon rain shower cooled off Brainerd International Raceway. This is John Force’s fifth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 151st of his career in Funny Car. John has also won this event 11 times before and will face Bob Bode in the opening round during Sunday’s eliminations.
“Well, it cooled down, and we knew everybody was going to step up. That extra 30 minutes gave everybody some extra time – and then of course, they went to work on the track. And then (Alexis) DeJoria stepped up there and just killed everybody, and we knew it was there. At the other end, I joked with Cruz (Pedregon) – I said, I really thought Robert Hight would step up, in the Auto Club Ford, and if he doesn’t get me, which we raced, and I made it, I said Cruz will do it, ‘cause he’ll throw the kitchen sink at it – that’s the way he races. And he had trouble at the top end, Cruz did. And I will say this, and I’ve never done this before, it ain’t in my personality, and I don’t know why I did, but I said to the TV camera, I’m going to be number one. It don’t mean you won’t get your tail end whipped tomorrow,” said John Force.
Crew chief Jimmy Prock knew the conditions after the rain shower would be ideal to lay down a good number and that’s what they did. In true Prock fashion, he swung for the fences and his boss, the reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champ, put all that work to good use.
“It’s very simple, Jimmy Prock is on his game and I said Jimmy, push it to were you think it will go, then pull it back from there and it’ll run low ET. I finally figured out how he clicks and that’s all you had to do. That car makes big horsepower and he’s confident in what he does,” said John Force.
Being a professional drag racer is hard and can take its toll on family life, but for John Force, having his wife, children and grandkids with him at the races is like an extra cheering section and support group that gives the seasoned racer even more confidence.
“I told my wife and grandkids and Ashley leaving the car that I’m going for number one. And my wife said ‘You never say that – ever. In 30 years, it just isn’t in your make up!’ I said I have to start making a move now. I’ve gotta get this hot rod in the winner’s circle, and build the confidence in myself and all these kids around me. And let the competition know - we’ve been good – all my cars have been good. Not great, but good, and together they’ve been great,” said John Force.
John Force also picked up three more NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points, but since he’s already locked into the Countdown, it’s not as critical to this fiercely competitive driver, who won’t slow down anytime soon. For John Force, it’s the excitement of getting behind the wheel of his 8000 horsepower Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and going into competition on race day. It’s also the respect he has for his fellow competitors and love of the fans that keeps him going full throttle.
“I love racing Cruz, ‘cause he throws everything but the kitchen sink at it. He’s a good old racer. So, hey, Brainerd, thanks for sticking around after the weather, and we’re going to give you a heavy metal show, and NHRA Mello Yello and ol’ John Force will be in the hunt,” said John Force.
“You can get you back broken on race day and we’ve all seen that. So tonight, we get a good night’s rest come to the track in the morning and race,” said John Force.
Robert Hight had the best and worst seat for John Force’s No. 1 qualifying pass on Saturday night. Hight who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier coming into Saturday had slipped back in the standings as a number of drivers stepped up their performance after the lengthy rain delay. Hight’s second run of the day, a solid 4.081 at 307.37 mph pass, has him in the No. 5 position going into race day and he will face Ford driver Bob Tasca III.
“The conditions really changed with that rain delay and we just wanted to be smart. These are the kinds of conditions we will see in the first round and we can step on this Auto Club Mustang and run quicker. We got exactly what we wanted; a nice clean run. We would have liked to have held onto the No. 1 spot but one of our teammates is on top so that is a positive,” said Hight.
Hight has never started No. 1 at Brainerd International Raceway and he has also never raced to a final. He missed on getting the No. 1 qualifier spot but the five-time winner in 2014 hasn’t given up on going rounds tomorrow.
“I have a lot of confidence in this Auto Club team. My crew chief Mike Neff will look at the data and we will race smart tomorrow. No matter what either John Force or I will be No. 1 going into to the Countdown so we are just going to go out there and try and get that sixth win of the season to build up some momentum going into Indy,” said Hight, the Mello Yello Funny Car points leader.
Courtney Force will start from the No. 11 spot on Sunday and will line up against fellow female competitor Alexis DeJoria in the opening round. The Traxxas team made only two good runs throughout qualifying, but made them during two different times of the day. Conditions on race day are expected to be much different than anything the NHRA team crew chiefs have gone up against all weekend.
“We had two consistent passes yesterday to put us in the top half. We slid down today to put us in the bottom half; not exactly where we wanted to be. We couldn’t get the car to run where we wanted it to all day today. It definitely gets your nerves going a little bit going into race day,” said Force.
This will be the seventh time Force has gone up against DeJoria, but the first time the pair has matched up this season. She is 5-1 to DeJoria in previous events, with her only loss coming in Houston in 2013.
Force picked up bonus points in qualifying for being the quickest of Q1 and now sits just 15 points behind Ron Capps in the NHRA Funny Car point standings. By qualifying for this event, Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team clinched a spot in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, which kicks off in Charlotte, N.C.
“We have a tough first round matchup up against Alexis and she can slide past us in the points tomorrow, but on a positive note we did earn three points in qualifying this weekend and we did clinch a spot in the Countdown to the Championship so we’re keeping our heads up, just putting qualifying behind us. We made it into the show, that’s the most important thing. Now we just have to focus on our firs