POMONA – After a tumultuous off-season John Force Racing started the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with a strong first day of qualifying and high hopes for Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The team’s efforts were led by 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion and defending Circle K Winternationals Funny Car champion John Force’s provisional No. 3 qualifying effort, 4.061 seconds at 313.66 mph.

Force posted his best time on Friday in the first qualifying session running within one thousandth of a second of the top spot and picked up two qualifying bonus points for the effort. At the top end Force expressed his excitement to be back on the track.

“I am loving seeing the fans and getting this Peak Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car on the track. We have new sponsors with Peak, Lucas Oil and Chevrolet to join Auto Club, Traxxas and MacTools. We want to put on a good show for them and for the fans,” said Force.

In the second qualifying session Force was in the next to last pair of Funny Car running beside veteran Tim Wilkerson. Force’s Peak Chevrolet Camaro SS launched hard and was accelerating at a blistering pace when it began a violent and abrupt move towards the center line. The nose of the Peak Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car took the brunt of the abuse.

“I banged up the front end of one of my new Camaros. It put a hole out and it was going to run like a four flat. A spark plug went out and it jumped me over onto the center line. It was flying. I couldn’t see (Tim) Wilkerson when it all happened and I tried to come back. I was too far over to come back but I had no choice but to get out of it because of not knowing where he was. When I came back I split it right down the middle on the cones. We will be OK,” said Force.

“I have no complaints for the team. The dragster ran good. It shows we have cars with potential and now we have to adapt to this track. We have new sponsors like Peak, Lucas Oil and Chevrolet to go along with Auto Club, Mac Tools and Traxxas. When I look out at those Chevrolets and how well we ran I am real proud.”

The John Force Racing Top Fuel dragster came out of the hauler and ready to run with the top of the field. Brittany Force started her third season with two strong and competitive runs finishing the day as the provisional No. 6 qualifier 3.779 seconds at 323.97 mph. For the lone JFR driver in Top Fuel is was a great way to start the 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals.

“There is no better feeling than coming out to the Winternationals, the first race of the year, and going straight down the track. Both of our runs were smooth and quick. I think testing in Phoenix definitely helped. We had two great runs today and that is an awesome way to start the season,” said Brittany Force, a top ten finished in Top Fuel points in 2014.

The Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and driver Robert Hight will go into Saturday as the provisional No. 7 qualifier but they know there is plenty of room for improvement. Hight’s first run of the day was a solid 4.086 second pass and in the final session this Chevy was pulling away when the Goodyear slicks lost traction, slowing to a pedestrian 4.280 second beside Chad Head.

“On that last run we were really quick and we just overpowered the track with this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. We ran OK on the first run and that will keep us in the top half going into tomorrow,” said Hight, a three-time Winternationals winner. “(Crew chief) Mike Neff has a really good handle on this tune up so there is nothing to worry about. This is our sponsor’s race track so we want to represent the Automobile Club of Southern California really well and I think we did that today. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll get after it again.”

Courtney Force made a good pass in the first qualifying session today and the Traxxas team began their fourth NHRA Mello Yello season on the right foot. The Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car driver staged her race car in the left lane and posted a 4.132 second run at 302.75 mph to go to the provisional No. 9 position. She followed that run with a 4.097 second run at 293.25 mph in the second qualifying session to wrap up the first day of qualifying.

“So far, we’ve got one run down there. This Traxxas Camaro made a solid pass. It dropped a hole down track, so it slowed us down a little bit to a 4.13 but still got us in the show. We came back up the second run and it dropped a hole again, so we’re working on getting that figured out for qualifying tomorrow. Luckily, I stayed in it as long as I could; as long as I could hold that car straight in my lane. With that hole out it was definitely tough; I was fighting it, but I got it down there as far as I could and we were able to put a 4.09 on the board. Right now we’re qualified in the No. 9 spot, so we’re in the top twelve and in the show so far. We’re excited to come back out here tomorrow,” said Force.

The 26-year-old won the Winternationals in 2013 at the start of her sophomore season. She has had three strong Top Ten finishes in 2012 (5th), 2013 (7th) and 2014 (4th). She has qualified for every national event, started from the front of the Funny Car field seven times, taken her Traxxas Camaro SS Funny Car to thirteen final rounds and claimed seven Funny Car victories so far in her career.

“It’s been a long off-season. It feels great to be back in a race car and it’s exciting because in 2015 there are a lot of changes for John Force Racing. We’re just excited to be out here in Pomona at our home track and now we’re running Camaros. We’re very fortunate to have Chevy come on board with us this year as well as Lucas Oil, Peak Antifreeze and BlueDEF. We’re lucky to have Auto Club of Southern California, Mac Tools and especially Traxxas sticking by our side and staying with this team to get us through another great season. We’re definitely looking forward to it and hoping to impress them out there this weekend,” said Force.

* * * *


JOHN FORCE, 65, Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS

Qualifying: 3rd at 4.061 seconds, 313.66 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd Quickest of Q1)

ROBERT HIGHT, 45, Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS

Qualifying: 7th at 4.086 seconds, 314.09 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

COURTNEY FORCE, 26, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS

Qualifying: 9th at 4.097 seconds, 293.35 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

BRITTANY FORCE, 28, JFR Next Generation Top Fuel Dragster

Qualifying: 6th at 3.779 seconds, 323.97 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

* * * *


Saturday, February 7

3rd round qualifying                   1:00 PM

4thround qualifying                   4:00 PM

Sunday, February 8

Final Eliminations                      11:00 AM

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 2015, Issue 2, Posted 1:30 AM, 02.08.2015