BRISTOL, TN – As the final qualifying session of the 13th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals wound down both John Force and Courtney Force each had a chance to shake up the ladder and avoid an awkward Father’s Day. Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang came the closest improving her qualifying position from Friday just missing a move up the ladder by .002 of a second. The youngest Force will race her father by virtue of her No. 11 qualifying position and his No. 6 qualifying spot.
Courtney Force however was the quickest of both sessions today and racked up six total bonus points to inch her way further up the ladder in the NHRA Funny Car Mello Yello point standings.
In Saturday’s first session, Force posted a 4.161 ET at 305.98 mph and followed that with a 4.129 ET at 306.95 mph.
“In the heat of the day, it felt really great to get this Traxxas Ford Mustang down there and making good runs. We were the quickest car of both sessions. I think it was very important to make a couple of good passes in the conditions we experienced today because they’re more comparable to race day conditions that we are expecting for tomorrow. I’m excited,” said Force, the 2012 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner.
“Unfortunately I have to run my dad first round tomorrow, on Father’s Day, but we’re going to have fun with it. I guess it’s going to go either way and I’m really hoping I can take home that win. I see it as a good Father’s Day present for him if I win. My dad has taught me everything I know and a win tomorrow will just show him I’ve been listening.”
John Force was solid on Saturday getting down the track both sessions and showing that his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will be a tough car to beat on race day. In the first session he posted a 4.170 and then in the final session beside Matt Hagan Force improved to 4.153 seconds at 306.33 mph. His Friday night time of 4.071 secured the No. 6 qualifying spot for the three-time Ford Thunder Valley Nationals champion.
“We have a good hot rod right now. We’re fighting to keep that Ford in the Top Ten, but I’m up against Courtney tomorrow. My daughter is a great driver; her car is running right there with me,” said Force.
“Bottom line, we teach them to win. I’m driven to win myself. For Castrol, Auto Club, Ford, BrandSource, Mac Tools and Traxxas, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to give the fans what they buy that ticket for and that’s a great show. Whoever wins, will win for the day, but we’ll see who wins the championship,” said Force.
Force will race his daughter for the second time this season. Courtney outran the 15-time champion in the first round of the Gatornationals in March and she is 3-1 against him for her career.
Robert Hight, the 2011 Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals champion, continued his two day battle with Bristol Dragway. The Auto Club Ford Mustang driver will go into Sunday as the No. 16 qualifier. This is the third time Hight has qualified 16th this season. Ironically he has advanced to the second round in his previous two races as the No. 16 driver, Phoenix and Charlotte at the Four-Wide Nationals.
“You can’t win a lot of races qualifying 16th. You also have to be qualified to have a chance at winning. We have a chance. This Auto Club Ford Mustang has just not been reacting to (crew chief) Jimmy’s (Prock) tuning adjustments. We are not going to give up. Del Worsham (No. 1 qualifier) is a tough racer and a good friend. It will be a tough race for both of us tomorrow,” said Hight.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster achieved a number of firsts today at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. For the first time in her young career she earned qualifying bonus points, posting the second quickest ET in the third qualifying session and she will have lane choice on Sunday for the first time. As the No. 8 qualifier Force will be able to choose her lane against No. 9 qualifier J.R. Todd.
“I’m happy to be qualified No. 8. That’s the highest we’ve qualified for an event so far. I’m glad we’re starting to work our way up in the field. I’ll be running J.R. Todd tomorrow in the first round and I’ve never run him before so I’m excited to be running him. I’m hoping we can make some improvements and just have a good race car for tomorrow.”
Force is trying to muscle her way into the Top Fuel Mello Yello Top Ten but in one of the toughest groups of Top Fuel drivers that will take a Herculean effort. This weekend eleven different drivers earned qualifying bonus points. Seven-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher is the only driver to get qualifying bonus points in two different sessions. Drivers earn bonus points by posting one of the three quickest ETs in the qualifying session.
She will race J.R. Todd who has stepped in to fill the seat for Brandon Bernstein who is recovering from back surgery.
“We’ll take any points, not matter what. We earned two qualifying points and that’ll help us move up and get into the top ten hopefully,” said Force, who sits 77 points behind No. 10 Clay Millican.
“That’s really exciting getting that lane choice over J.R. Todd because that way my team can pick the lane that we really need to hopefully get our car down the track. I have never had it (lane choice) before, so I’m happy to have that for the first time.”
While Force is focused on improving with every run her confidence has grown with every race. Being able to talk with her father on a daily basis at the track has given the rookie driver a solid baseline for success.
“It’s fun to be able to be out here and celebrate Father’s Day with my dad and most of my family is out here so it’s exciting. Hopefully we can get a win for my dad and bring that home for him.”
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JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 6th at 4.071 seconds, 301.54 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Courtney Force (1-3)
ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 16th at 6.849 seconds at 90.78 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): Del Worsham (12-8)
COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 11th at 4.129 seconds, 309.56 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q3 and Q4)
First Round Opponent (W-L): John Force (3-1)
BRITTANY FORCE, 26, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.828, 319.98 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent (W-L): JR Todd (0-0)