- Friday 04 July, 2014
From John Force Racing, Inc.:
John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage team brought the packed house at Summit Motorsports Park to their feet with a rousing 4.03 4 second pass at 319.45 mph good enough for the No. 3 provisional spot in Funny Car. The other two JFR Funny Cars were going to track record ETs but overpowered the track. In Top Fuel second year driver Brittany Force experienced extreme tire shake in the second session but remained in the top twelve going into Saturday’s final day of qualifying.
With two strong and consistent qualifying runs under his belt, John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang kicked off the 8th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals by qualifying in the third spot with a solid 4.034 second run at 319.45 mph. He also picked up one NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Point and is looking to end his winless streak at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio this Sunday.
“My hot rod’s just going down the race track and being consistent as it ran a good number tonight. We were going to try and run little quicker and after Jimmy (Prock, crew chief, Castrol EDGE Mustang) looked at our pass run on the computer, we could have run in the threes. There were some cars that ran four-flats right after us so we got bumped from first to third,” said John Force.
In the opening session, John Force’s Mustang Funny Car went straight down the groove and ran a solid 4.110 second pass at 311.34 mph and ended that session in the sixth position. This is exactly what Jimmy Prock wanted to do, make a clean run that the team can tune from.
“We weren’t really pushing it on that first run as we’re trying to find consistency. We know how to run fast, we just can’t do it two times in a row so Jimmy’s pulled the horns back as we aren’t swinging for the fences,” said John Force.
With the improving weather conditions on the second qualifying session, the Castrol GTX High Mileage crew was tuning-up the already potent 8,000 horsepower Mustang to take advantage of the cooler air temperatures. They also knew they could pick up some important NHRA Mello Yello Bonus Points if John Force ended the night session qualified in the first, second or third position.
“We got a point in that night session and everyone counts if we’re going to stay in the Top Ten and make it to the Countdown,” said John Force.
This is the reason John and his crew chief, Jimmy Prock, have intentionally slowed the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang down. They know under perfect conditions, they can set track and NHRA national records at will. But they need to make the car consistent and repeatable if it’s going to wins races and championships.
“We were going for a 4.02 or a 4.03 run on that second session as we’re trying to work our way back to being consistent and qualifying in the top-half of the field. We’ll keep working on it to go quicker when we need to. We’ve made improvements in the last few weeks with our clutch setup and hopefully it will start paying off for us,” said Jimmy Prock.
For Mello Yello points leader Robert Hight and the Auto Club team their No. 1 goal was to start strong on Friday. It was mission accomplished as Hight’s Mike Neff tuned Funny Car posted the third quickest run of the first session with a 4.096 second run at 310.34 mph. In the second session with cooling temps and a setting sun all the top Funny Car team were vying to become the first Funny Car team to post a three second run. Hight watched friendly rival Del Worsham run 4.000 seconds in front of him and he knew the chances of a three second run were available.
The Auto Club Mustang launched hard but appeared to drop a cylinder almost immediately robbing the 8,000 hp race car of valuable power. Hight was forced to lift at about 200 feet and his chance of running in the threes for a packed crowd drifted away like the smoke form the massive fireworks display at the end of the night.
“We made a great run in the first session. Those conditions were closer to race day conditions and you just want to start every race with a solid run. In the second session it was pretty late and the track conditions were tremendous for low ETs. There were a lot of the Funny Car teams that were gunning for a three second run. We were definitely going for it after we saw Del run. We will hopefully get another shot at it tomorrow night. These cool conditions give us a great chance to get some data for the Countdown and we want to put on a great show for the fans. This track was amazing today and it will only get better tomorrow,” said Hight, the provisional No. 10 qualifier after two sessions.
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team led by Ron Douglas made two consistent passes today in qualifying. They opened up the day with a 4.147 at 309.91 mph and improved during the night session with a 4.106 at 321.42 mph, top speed of the day and a track speed record.
“It’s great being out here on the Fourth of July. I’ve got my entire family with me, my Traxxas team and all of our guys. Being out here at the Bader race track is always a lot of fun. Its great having some night runs here. We got our Traxxas Ford Mustang down there and ran a 4.14 on the first run. We were able to improve on the second one with a 4.10,” said Force.
Coming into the weekend, Force was the track record holder for speed at Norwalk with a 319.67 mph run that was made last year. This is one of six tracks at which she is the current record holder for speed (Atlanta, 320.58; Vegas, 325.37; Topeka, 322.96; Epping, 323.35; and Chicago, 322.50). She has posted top speed at six of the last nine events on the NHRA Mello Yello Series.
“It wasn’t exactly the ET we wanted to run, but we got it down there. We have a consistent car and we locked into the Top 12 so we get to keep our time for tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day. We got qualified, which is all that matters. We’re just looking to improve our ET tomorrow night,” said Force.
Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE Dragster made a solid qualifying run in the first session today and the sophomore Top Fuel Dragster pilot ran a solid 3.860 second run at 322.04 mph and qualified in the eleventh spot.
“On that first run it went out there and it ran great despite me clicking off it early before the 1000-foot mark. It still ran a good number and we were qualified eighth after that first session. However, after that second session, we got bumped down to 11th,” said Brittany Force.
In the evening session the massive Goodyear slicks on the Castrol EDGE Dragster were working overtime and fighting for traction in trying to keep its 10,000 horsepower on the freshly groomed track surface at Summit Racing Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
“During the evening session, the track and air temperatures cooled down and everyone’s stepping it up. I was hoping to do the same thing but on that last run it shook so hard and rattled the tires that I couldn’t get it down the track and had to get out of it. We get two more runs tomorrow and we’re banking on those to move up in qualifying,” said Brittany Force.
As the air and track conditions were improving, the Castrol EDGE team was going for the number one qualifying position like they have many times before this season. Crew Chief Todd Smith and the rest of the guys hopped-up the dragster to take advantage of the evening conditions. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out the way the wanted.
“We were definitely trying to run low ET as this track got really good. We’re looking at the data from that last run to determine how bad we missed the set up as the car shook really bad. We under estimated the track conditions but we’ll get two more shots at it on Saturday. We’ll learn from this and move on,” said Todd Smith.
JOHN FORCE, 65, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 3rd at 4.034 seconds at 319.45 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
ROBERT HIGHT, 44, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 10th at 4.096 seconds at 310.34 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd Quickest of Q1)
COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 11th at 4.106 seconds at 321.42 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 11th at 3.860 seconds at 322.04 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Saturday, July 5
3rd round qualifying 5:30 PM
4th round qualifying 8:00 PM
Sunday, July 6
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM
Photo by Gary Nastase Photography