BRAINERD, MN ---- On a day when the winner’s circle eluded John Force Racing the team kept their eyes on the bigger prize as John Force and Courtney Force both clinched their berths in the 2013 Countdown to the Championship. By virtue of their first round wins and a first round loss by Del Worsham the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and the Traxxas Ford Mustang will be running for the championship over the last six races of the season.

John Force made the quickest run of the weekend in his first round win over Alexis DeJoria powering his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car to the stripe with an elapsed time of 4.027 seconds at a track speed record 319.45 mph.

In the second round the eleven-time Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals winner made a superior run against veteran driver Johnny Gray but at the finish line it was Gray taking the win light thanks to a minute starting line advantage. Force’s 4.061 second run was the second quickest of the second round and showed that he has a race car that can contend for the Mello Yello Funny Car championship.

“I have a race car that can win the championship. If you run number like that you always have a shot at the championship. We have found some performance with these new chassis. The only thing that has to get right is me,” said Force, the fifteen-time Funny Car champion.

“We are making adjustments. I have been playing with the cockpit in my car. We have turned this Funny Car around thanks to Jimmy Prock and Danny DeGennaro. We are setting track records. I have no complaints. I am not where I need to be but I know how to fix that. The team is confident in me and I am confident in them. Right now we have locked up our spot in the Countdown. I am driving somehow different and I don’t know what it is. I have had my eyes checked. I just have to get my energy where it needs to be. I will be OK.”

Robert Hight was racing for the win and the final spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout to be contested at the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals Labor Day weekend. He was also racing to keep his Auto Club Ford Mustang in the Top Ten in the Mello Yello point standings. His first round win over Chad Head combined with first round loses by Bob Tasca III and Del Worsham helped solidify his position in the Top Ten. Hight is now only four points behind Bob Tasca III out of the No. 9 spot. He also has a round and a half advantage over Worsham going into the final race of the regular season.

Hight’s Auto Club Mustang Funny Car made a strong run in the first round over the rookie Head covering the 1000 ft. track in 4.055 seconds to Head’s 4.970 second run. It was the fourth run in a row for the Auto Club Mustang to run either 4.05 or 4.06 seconds.

In the second round Hight had a parts failure in his run against fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson. Hight was leading past half-track before Wilkerson’s Circle K Mustang passed him at the last second.

“We were on a great run and we just had a parts failure right before the finish line. Wilkerson made a great run and we just had some bad luck. The good news is we did put a round on some of the guys behind us and we closed the gap on the guy in front of us. We are just four points behind the guy in ninth place. We picked up six points in qualifying bonus points this race alone. This is a great race car and you look at the runs we made in qualifying and in the first round. We are consistently running 4.05s and 4.06s. You can win a lot of races that way,” said Hight.

“I need to ask all my fans now to get out and vote for me and this Auto Club team for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. I have the best fans in the country and we will need every vote to try and give our team the best shot at winning the lottery to get that eighth spot in the Traxxas Shootout.”

At the second to last event of the NHRA regular season, Courtney Force not only drove her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a quarter-final finish, but she clinched a spot in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. 

Force double-stepped the throttle pedal on the starting line next to Bob Tasca III, but managed to steer clear of leaving too soon, turning on the red light and disqualifying her Traxxas Ford Mustang team in the opening round.

“That was me cracking under pressure. I made a mistake and double stepped the throttle. It felt like forever for the tree to come down. My foot was ready to leave and it did. I was able to hold it, pull back on the brake and get the car stopped before lighting the red light. Thankfully when the tree did come down I left and was able to still get a .036 light. But honestly, that was just a mistake on my part,” said Force.

In two years, Force has matched up with Tasca III seven times on race day. The 25-year-old now holds an impressive record of 6-1 over the fellow Ford driver.

“Thankfully my team gives me a great race car. Ron Douglas does a great job tuning my Traxxas Ford Mustang with Dan Hood,” said Force.

The 2012 NHRA Rookie of the Year took the win with a 4.094 at over 317 mph to Tasca’s 4.114 ET at 308 mph.

“There was a lot of pressure on me for that run. I know my team really wanted it. Obviously we were very concentrated on getting clinched into the Countdown to the Championship and I was trying to help my teammate Robert Hight out. I think that’s where I got a little flustered. I really wanted a good light against Tasca because I know he is really good on the tree up there and I just got a little ahead of myself,” said Force.

With Force’s opening round win, the Traxxas Ford Mustang team clinched a spot into the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

“It was also pretty amazing to hear that my dad and I clinched on that first run. Winning first round and picking up all those points is definitely huge for my team especially knowing that we are set in the Countdown going into Indy. It’s a lot less to stress about,” said Force.

Unfortunately, Force lost a tough match to Matt Hagan in the next round. She posted a 4.093 at 312 mph to Hagan’s 4.056 at 311 mph.  

“The good news for today is, it helped out my teammate Robert Hight to get that win and we were able to clinch into the Countdown. Those were both big deals. I’m very proud of my team. It’s a huge accomplishment to be clinched into the Countdown to the Championship early for the second year in a row. We’re 2-2 right now so I’m very excited,” said Force.

“I’ve got a great team behind me. I think we’ve got a great race car. As long as I don’t make any mistakes I think we’ve definitely got a good shot at this championship. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang team works hard and I can tell that they want this championship as bad as I do. Having a strong team and just being able to work together and keep each other motivated puts the Traxxas team at an advantage.”

Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster made their best pass of the weekend in the first round. Racing beside Spencer Massey Force launched hard and stayed with the veteran driver until just about 800 feet before he pulled away. Force’s 3.823 second run at 317.72 mph while Massey crossed the finish line in 3.791 seconds at 319.67 mph. Massey eventually went on to defeat Clay Millican in the final round and win for the fourth time this season.

 “I’ve raced Spencer quite a few times and unfortunately, he beat me again. It was one of the best runs we’ve had all weekend. We really stepped it up and had a good run. It just didn’t quite get down there fast enough. Spencer ran a 3.79 against us and got the win light. He had a fire at the end of the track after his run and he got out safely, so that’s what is most important,” said Force, the rookie of the year contender.

At the conclusion of the event the second youngest Force will also be asking her fans to vote to put her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout in the Top Fuel ranks. Throughout the weekend Force was passing out trading cards and commemorative balloons reminding fans to vote on NHRA’s Facebook page.

 “The Traxxas Shootout fan vote starts today after the race is done. I would love to get that fan vote! I’d be the first woman in the Top Fuel Traxxas Nitro Shootout, so I would love to represent all the ladies out there and really show everyone what this Castrol EDGE team is really capable of,” concluded Force.  

* * * *


FUNNY CAR – *1. Matt Hagan, 1253; *2. Ron Capps, 1129; *3. Cruz Pedregon, 1066; *3. Johnny Gray, 1066; *5. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 1054; *6. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 1039; 7. Jack Beckman, 1015; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 952; 9. Bob Tasca III, 906; 10. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 902

TOP FUEL – *1. Shawn Langdon, 1370; *2. Spencer Massey, 1249; *3. Tony Schumacher, 1199; *4. Doug Kalitta, 1009; *5. Antron Brown, 994; *6. Khalid alBalooshi, 1002; *7. Clay Millican, 928; *8. Morgan Lucas, 917; 9. Steve Torrence, 794; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 789; 11. David Grubnic, 717; 12. Brandon Bernstein, 623; 13. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 595

PRO STOCK – *1. Mike Edwards, 1540; *2. Allen Johnson, 1390; *3. Jeg Coughlin, 1275; *4. Vincent Nobile, 1113; *5. Shane Gray, 1031; *6. Jason Line, 1008; *7. Greg Anderson, 977; *8. V. Gaines, 879; *9. Erica Enders-Stevens, 779; *10. Roger Brogdon, 724

*Clinched spot in Countdown to Championship


JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.050 seconds, 313.95 mph

Bonus qualifying points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)

Race results: Beat Alexis DeJoria. Lost to Johnny Gray

ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 4th at 4.054 seconds, 312.64 mph.

Bonus qualifying points: +6 (2nd quickest of Q2, 3rd quickest of Q3, quickest of Q4)

Race results: Beat Chad Head. Lost to Tim Wilkerson.

COURTNEY FORCE, 25, Traxxas Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 7th at 4.077 seconds, 316.23 mph

Bonus qualifying points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q1)

Race results: Beat Bob Tasca III. Lost to Matt Hagan.

BRITTANY FORCE, 27, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster

Final Qualifying: 15th at 3.881 seconds, 315.78 mph

Bonus qualifying points: 0

Race results: Lost to Spencer Massey

* * * *

Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2013, Issue 8, Posted 12:29 AM, 08.21.2013