LAS VEGAS (October 25, 2013) –  After the first day of qualifying at the 13th annual Toyota Nationals, Courtney Force sits at the top of the ladder in the provisional No. 1 spot. Force slipped in the first session, but her Traxxas Ford Mustang rallied in the second qualifying attempt to put a 4.052 on the board with not only top speed of the event, but a track record of 318. 24 mph.

“It definitely felt good. You always like to have one good pass so you can build off of that. We dropped a hole earlier and I just got out of it early because it wasn’t getting down there and I didn’t want to hurt anything,” said the 25-year-old youngest daughter of 15-time World Champion, John Force.

Earlier this season at the spring Las Vegas event, Force qualified in the No. 2 spot and on race day took down Tim Wilkerson, Del Worsham, and Matt Hagan before falling to Cruz Pedregon in the final round. If the sophomore driver’s 4.05 holds through two qualifying rounds tomorrow, the will be her fourth career No. 1 qualifier.

“It felt great going up there the second pass. (Crew chiefs) Ron Douglas, Dan Hood and all of my Traxxas team, they’ve done a great job working on my car and gave me a great car. It flew down there in that left lane and pulled me pretty hard to the right. I had to pull it back down there and not let it cross the centerline.”

Force’s 4.05 secured the Traxxas Ford Mustang team three additional qualifying bonus points for being quickest of the session.

“It felt great to make a solid pass. When you get out of your car and your guys are giving you a thumbs up you know it was a great pass. Running a 4.05 and stealing that No. 1 spot from my dad, well, I don’t think he was that happy about it. He was obviously trying to make a better run than me, but didn’t get down there quite as good as he wanted. He came back and said, ‘well, you took the No. 1 spot from me, but I guess it’s better you picking up those three points than anyone else.’”

“Our Traxxas team has been working hard. We have some pretty good luck at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We love being here. The fans are great,” said Force.

Force is running a specialty car for the last two races of the season, a black and turquoise “Rookie of the Year” design that reflects her accomplishments throughout her racing career so far.

“Being out here running the Rookie of the Year car especially is a lot of fun. I got to help Brandon Baker design the car- he’s the graphic designer at John Force Racing. It was really fun to work with him and put all of my ideas and all of the pictures that I wanted on there and see it come to life. I told him I’m a huge fan of matte black 1964 Mustangs and I wanted the real life version of that on my Funny car, so it was really cool to do a matte body. It’s never really been done before and I was a little nervous with pictures on there, but I think it turned out great. It showcases the timeline of my childhood out here at the races all the way to my rookie season in funny car. I really wanted to highlight all the people that I wanted to give thanks to that helped me get to where I am,” said Force.

The 2012 Auto Club Rookie of the Year award winner currently sits in the No. 7 spot in the Funny Car points, but is mathematically still in the running for the 2013 Mello Yello Championship.

“Obviously we don’t have (the championship) out of our sight. Anything is possible and I think my dad proved that in 2010. He knows better than anyone to give me that motivational speech and coming out here, we just want to be consistent. We don’t want to make mistakes. We want to finish the season well. Our goal right now is to win the championship, but we really want to finish better than fifth, which is where we finished last year. That’s our team’s main focus. We want to go rounds, have a consistent race car, pick up the points and try to close that gap and climb back up in the point system,” said Force.

After the first session it was John Force at the top of the Funny Car qualifying order. His Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car was the only Funny Car to run in the 4.0s with a 4.085 second run. It was good enough for three qualifying bonus points and helped the 15-time Funny Car champion extend his points lead over second place driver Matt Hagan.

In the second session with cooler temperatures and the chance to post an even quicker time Force’s Funny Car launched hard but surprisingly smoked the tires for just the second time in three races.

“(Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) was surprised because the tune up was a little different up here because of the altitude. We missed one run in Reading and we missed one today. We will just keep doing what we do. This is just fun. I am having a good time. The teams are all working good together. We are all in there. Courtney running low that is awesome,” said Force, the Mello Yello Funny Car points leader.

The Auto Club Ford Mustang driven by Robert Hight posted their best time, 4.137 seconds, in the first qualifying session. The time held up as the 11th quickest Funny Car time of the day and has Hight positioned to improve on Saturday. In the last session of the day Hight was lined up beside John Force and covered the track in 4.214 seconds which did not improve the 2009 Funny Car champion’s qualifying position.

Hight will go into the second day of qualifying looking to gather up some qualifying bonus points to decrease the deficit he has in the Mello Yello points standings.

The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster piloted by rookie of the year candidate Brittany Force made two productive runs at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  After a two week hiatus the Automobile Club Road to the Future Award contender was mildly nervous by eager to get back behind the wheel.

“Taking two weeks off especially after racing for four weeks in a row was tough. I was a little nervous before my first run but that is normal and as soon as I got that run behind me I was good to go. Taking two weeks off it felt like forever between races,” said Force.

At the conclusion of the first day of qualifying Force was positioned in the No. 9 spot just in front of Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools dragster. Her best time of the day 3.834 seconds came in the second session and had Force ready for Saturday’s final day of qualifying.

 “I love being here in Las Vegas. This feels like a home track for me. I ran here in Super Comp and A Fuel plus we tested here a lot. I know this track and I love being out here. I am confident in this weekend. I feel good about this weekend and I am pumped up. We ran 3.83 and I want to go some rounds with my Castrol EDGE dragster.”

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 10, Posted 12:39 AM, 10.26.2013