Fans in search of a close encounter.

Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals responds with qualifying and pit action.

NORWALK, Ohio – “Oh, the man!”

Watching a Castrol GTX crew tear down engine components, fans weren't aware of the presence of 15-time Funny Car World Champion John Force until he pulled up on his scooter in front of them.

John Force and his daughters, Courtney and Brittany, set their race mode on “nitrous” during first round qualifications in Funny Car and Top Fuel at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, part of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Friday, July 5, 2013 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

Even so, John and Courtney Force signed autographs before racing back to the starting line to cheer for Brittany Force to break into the stiff Top Fuel competition in the National Hot Rod Association.

Hours later, John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., piloted his 2013 Castrol GTX Mustang to his second number 1 qualifying position this season and an unofficial track record with an elpased time at 4.021 seconds, along with a speed of 317 mph.

Second qualifying Robert Hight, John Force's son in law, who also sizzles the track on the John Force Racing Team, added a second unofficial track record in Funny Car with a speed of 318 mph.

John Force waits while Courtney Force signs a girl's shirt.“I was amazed,” John Force said.

During the heat of the day, he turned out an elapsed time of 4.139 seconds and 306 mph.

“We're okay but we're not where we want to be to win a championship," John Force said. "There's just a good bunch of racers in the class right now.
I got a good race car, We've been trying a lot of stuff.”

John Force's crew chief, Mike Neff, won Funny Car at this event last year.

Mike Neff has a lot going for him, John Force said, especially with his driving experience. For example, Mike Neff noticed a tendency in John Force to over steer and take the Mustang out of the groove.

“My other car was a dump truck,” John Force said. “This new car has power steering, and drives like the dragsters. I'm excited because I get to race with the big boys again. I was getting spankings all the time.

“I've been coming to Norwalk for 18 years,” John Force said. “You feed off the fans, man, especially here. (Bill Bader Sr.) said to me, 'It's not just drag racing, Force. It's entertainment.' Even Courtney said, 'Dad, they really do love you here. They yell. They cheer.'”

One fan who stands about 6 feet 2 inches tall, showed John Force a picture of John holding a child.

“I said, 'Oh, look at that little kid. He's so cute.' He says, 'That was me,'” John Force said. “There I am holding this guy.”

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson, The machine for the man.Greeneville, Tenn., qualified number 1 for the second year in a row at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

“After the sun went down, of course, the track just got awesome all of a sudden,” said  Allen Johnson, the 2012 Pro Stock world champion. “I think it's going to be a knock down, drag out for awhile.”

His Mopar J&J Racing 2013 Dodge Avenger found the groove.

“It just loves this track,” Allen Johnson said.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Michael Ray, New Braunfels, Texas, cranked his 2012 Sovereign/Star Racing Buell XB9R to the number 1 qualifying position on a 6.926-second elapsed time at 193 mph.

All of the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifiers logged elapsed times in the sixes, with the number 12 bump spot on a run of 6.995 seconds and 192 mph occupied by Mike Berry, Littleton, Colo., on a VROOM, MBP and Lat Racing Oil sponsored 2010 Buell XB9R.

“The class has never been more competitive,” Michael Ray said.

The Taylors from Canada.After the first round, Michael Ray's crew found two broken intake valves, he said. As a result, the team showed up for the dance, then passed on the second round.

“We decided it was better to fix it and make sure it's peachy and loving life,” said Michael Ray.
Along the Budweiser trackside fence, Matt Haynes, Cleveland, and Luke Redd, Cleveland, voted for Nitro Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters as their favorites.

“We look forward to it Summit Racing's Greg Anderson in the racing zone.every summer,” Matt White said. “I've been coming here since I was 15 with Night Under Fire. The Bader family has done a fantastic job with this place. It's the best sports venue around. It's clean, friendly, the bathrooms are good. They do a good job. Love this place.”

Garnet, Jesse, Walt and Bull Taylor staked a claim to a section of trackside fence and set up camp in Scotty's Campground for the 12th year in a row with 15 family members from the Niagara area of Ontario, Canada.

At the pedestrian crossing in the staging lanes, John Ward, Strongsville, Ohio, checked out the Summit Racing Pro Stock cars and drivers.

Mike, Nicholas and Matthew Brown hunt munchies.“It's really nice to see these guys in person, instead of just on TV all the time,” John Ward said.

Under the Summit grandstands, Mike Brown, 50, North Canton, Ohio, an electrical contractor, followed his sons Nicholas Brown, 10, and Matthew Brown, 6, on a hunt for munchies during the boys' first visit to NHRA Nationals.

“I come every year,” Mike Brown said. “I want to join the Top Eliminator Club, though. That seems like the best value for the money.

Michael Brown also likes the e-mail bursts from Summit Motorsports Park, he said, because they keep him informed.

“I like Monster Trucks,” With Grandpa at the races!Matthew Brown said, “and race cars.”

Along the Summit trackside fence, a father and three sons enjoyed their first visit to the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals by soaking in track action all day.

“It's great,” said the dad, Dave Schrock, Medina, an employee at a computer company. “I came when I was a kid, haven't been back since then.”

Don Schrock, 19, just graduated from high school and intends to join the United States Army like his older brother, David Schrock, 25, on leave after his first six months as a soldier.

Sam Schrock, 24, studies aeronautics at Kent State University.

Near the Summit side staging lanes full of dragsters and altereds, Mark Canankamp, Wadsworth, Ohio, perched his grandson, Caleb, 3 ½ on his shoulders for a better view.

“I work for Goodyear,” Mark Canankamp said. “But I'm just here with the family right now -- my wife, two daughters and a son in law.”

Sandy Montague, a secretary from Poland, Ohio, and her husband, Ted Montague, a mechanic, stood above the sign on the Budweiser trackside fence Friday evening and watched the NHRA fire show in their sixth visit to a Nationals race.

The Schrocks took in their first NHRA Nationals from the fence.Why ask about their favorite attraction?

“Top Fuel, come on,” Sandy Montague said.

“It's got to be the Nitro cars,” said Ted Montague, who hopes to return July 28, 2013 to Summit Motorsports Park to race his blue 1981 Oldsmobile in the Dick Miller Racing Olds Powered Nationals.

Tim Nicholson, 33, Eastlake, Ohio, a manufacturing supervisor, responded with first impressions of Top Fuel and Funny Cars.

“It's pretty sweet; it's loud,” Tim Nicholson said. “I never saw anything like this. This is like, whoa!”

Brian Puthoff, 38, Cincinatti, an engineer in machine design, said he's attended every NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park except two.

“It's a good time,” Brian Puthoff said.

Just before the finale, Bill Bader Jr., president of Summit Motorsports Park, introduced Jill Canuso, Pottstown, Pa., and the Hanna Motorsports Queen of Diamonds II Jet Dragster, in a state-of-the-art design.

Then Bill Bader Jr. thanked fans for supporting Summit Motorsports Park and enabling it to become what it is.

“We need to appreciate the Dave Rampy, right, receives an ice cream scoop for his 2012 event win.freedoms we enjoy in what I still believe is the greatest country, America. Love this country,” Bill Bader Jr. said. “If you don't, get out.”

The Queen of Diamonds II puffed up to the starting line, blowing streams of smoke and fire toward the huge billboard at the staging lanes fence.

Jill Canuso charged through the quarter mile in 5.56 seconds and 282 mph.

Immediately Bader Family Signature Fireworks exploded into a fireshow of blue, green, yellow and red.

Fans enjoyed the show.

“Awesome,” said Greg Gasser, Castalia, Ohio, attending his sixth NHRA Nationals. “Obviously the Top Fuel is our favorite.”

“Great,” said Jerry Gasser, Castalia, Greg's father. “Top Fuel and fireworks. I've been to four or five Nationals.”

“Cool,” said Greg's young son, Seth, on his third visit.

Hood art from the Mopar tent.

Team Summit.

Summit Racing stages for Pro Stock.

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