JOHN FORCE, BRITTANY FORCE RUNNERS-UP IN PHOENIX
PHOENIX —- The CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals concluded today with a pair of Forces narrowly missing their first ever double up win in Funny Car and Top Fuel. Funny Car legend John Force lost a close race to veteran Tim Wilkerson while Brittany Force came up a few thousandths of a second short against Leah Pritchett in Top Fuel. Teammates Robert Hight and Courtney Force bowed out in the semi-final round giving John Force Racing one of its strongest race days in over a year. The collective success on race day moved John Force up to No. 2 in the Funny Car points in front of an advancing Robert Hight (3rd) and Courtney Force (6th). Brittany Force’s final round finish moved her from 10th to 3rd in the Top Fuel point standings.
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster qualified No. 5 and quickly dispatched No. 12 qualifier Shawn Langdon with a 3.723 second run that was second quickest of the first round. In the quarter-finals Force pulled up beside veteran Terry McMillen and once again it was Force getting the win light. Force’s 3.771 second run pass was just one one-thousandth slower than Doug Kalitta her semi-final opponent. In the semis Force had to give up lane choice to Kalitta but crew chief Brian Husen had a solid tune-up in the Monster Energy Top Fueler and Force raced to her seventh career final round and second final at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Force’s winning elapsed time of 3.760 seconds gave her lane choice over Leah Pritchett’s winning 3.832 second time. For just the second time in the history of the NHRA two females squared off in the Top Fuel final and raced for the coveted “Wally” trophy. The winner would become the 101st different Top Fuel winner and today Leah Pritchett took the win in an incredibly close final. Pritchett took a slight starting line advantage and turned those few thousandths of a second into a winning edge at the finish line so her 3.775, second run at 323.12 mph defeated Brittany Force’s quicker 3.774 second at 321.35 mph pass. At the end of the day Force took the positive away from a successful but not victorious weekend. “It feels good when you consider this is our second race into the season and we are already in a final. That is pretty outstanding especially with all the changes we made in the off-season. Getting to that final makes us feel really good. We have a long season ahead of us but I know it will be a good one,” said Force, who moved up to No. 4 in the Top Fuel point standings. “Going rounds definitely gives you confidence. When you have guys like Brian Husen and Alan Johnson working on your car but it also really pushes you to make sure you are on your game. Now I have a car and I have to perform well and do the job as a driver. It adds some pressure but I think it adds pressure in a good way,” added Force. Just before Brittany Force had her shot at her first win John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant/Republic Services Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car were trying to grab their 144th victory in their 242nd final round appearance. Force had a parts breakage issue with his blower at over 300 mph but the eight-time CARQUEST Nationals winner would not let that take anything away from Tim Wilkerson. “Parts breaking are part of the game. I am not going to make any excuses against Wilkerson. He is a great racer and he does it all. I want to congratulate him on that win. What I look at is you come to these races for one reason; to win and to win the championship,” said Force. “We put four cars in the semi-finals. We had Robert Hight, me, and Courtney in the Funny Car semi-finals and Brittany with the Monster Energy dragster was in the Top Fuel semi-final. We got two cars to the finals today,” said Force, who moved up to No. 2 in the Funny car points. “We didn’t get the wins but I congratulate Pritchett and Wilkerson for a great job. What we have to look at is we are turning the corner. Our race cars can race with any one. I am not saying we are faster than the other teams but we can hit a lick in the heat or in the cool air. Our game plan we put together of letting Alan Johnson run the Top Fuel team with his crew chief, the quarterback, Brian Husen and letting Mike Neff run the Funny Cars is already showing an improvement. I am not the smartest guy in the world but I listen to smart people.” In the first round Force had to race John Hale who is tuned by the legendary Jim Dunn. Force’s Chevrolet turned on the win light with a 3.955 second pass which was not enough to give him lane choice over Jack Beckman in the second round. Fortunately for Force his crew chief Jon Schaffer was able to coax another round win over Beckman for the second race in a row. Force got the win light with a pedestrian 4.014 second run beside a tire smoking Infinite Hero Dodge’s 6.082. That round win set up a semi-final match against his daughter Courtney Force. In the semis she went up in smoke and Force posted another 4.006 run to reach his first final round of 2016. Courtney Force had an eventful and successful day at the CARQUEST NHRA Nationals. From the No. 2 qualifying position, she opened with a stellar pass against No. 15 qualifier Terry Haddock. It was the first time these drivers have raced in eliminations and Haddock was Force’s 31st different Funny Car opponent. The 27-year-old was first off the line and never looked back. She posted a 3.930 ET at 326.79 mph. It was the second-quickest pass of the first round. In the second round, Force matched up with Tommy Johnson Jr. It was the eighth time they have met in eliminations, but the first time they have raced at Phoenix. Force had the jump off the starting line and posted a 3.973 ET at 319.67 mph next to Johnson Jr.’s tire-smoking 7.998 ET at 92.39 mph. They have raced four times in the second round and four times in the semifinals. They are now 4-4 in eliminations. Before she knew it, Force had a solid and consistent car in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, she was matched up with her father and 16-time champion John Force and did not have lane choice. Force was 7-8 against her dad in prior events. The youngest Force daughter had almost a 52% win advantage in the semis going into this match-up. Once again, Courtney had the starting line advantage, but was up in tire smoke before the Christmas tree. “The only thing I’m thinking right now is how impressed I am with this Traxxas team. They worked really hard this weekend and together we were able to go to the No. 2 position in qualifying, pick up five bonus points and go to the semi-finals on race day. I see a lot of improvement on our car this year as a whole. I feel like our Traxxas Chevy is consistent, fast and it’s really looking like a promising season,” said Force. It was the second year in-a-row that Force has qualified in the No. 2 position at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and also the second year in-a-row a teammate has prevented her from advancing on race day. She currently holds the No. 6 position going into the third race of the season.
The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team led by Robert Hight and tuned by Mike Neff once again started the season with back to back semi-final finishes. Today’s effort did net the 2009 Funny Car world champion another track record day with his first round elapsed time of 3.905 seconds at 327.11 mph speed setting both ends of the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park record book. His win over Cruz Pedregon propelled him into a second round race with friend and reigning Funny Car world champion Del Worsham. “We should have made that run last night. I thought it dropped a cylinder and I lifted because it went to the right when I stood on the gas. It was a great, great 60 foot so I kind of blew that and I thought about it all night,” said Hight the 2012 CARQUEST Nationals winner. “It drove me nuts but good job to the Auto Club team to come out swinging like that first round. When you race Cruz Pedregon you have to race like that.” In the second round Hight raced into the three again with a stout 3.977 second run to get the win and set up a Hight versus Wilkerson semi-final. In the semi-final Hight watched his teammate Courtney Force drive into immediate tire smoke and then his similarly tuned Camaro also went up in smoke and had to settle for being one of the final four Funny Cars on Sunday. “Another semi-final finish for this Auto Club Chevrolet is pretty good. We want to get those wins and I think we have a car that can get wins. We are having some issues on race day but I am not going to make excuses,” said Hight. “We’ll have a couple weeks to get ready for the Gatornationals and we’ll use every one of those day. Mike Neff and these Auto Club guys have given me a great race car and we are going rounds and qualifying near the top. I was glad to go some rounds today and especially excited to get the track record in the first round of eliminations. That is how this Auto Club Camaro should perform.”