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Aug 04, 2014 - 06:54 AM
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2014 NHRA: John Force Wins Seattle; Completes JFR Sweep Of Swing
Posted by: newsla on Aug 04, 2014 - 06:53 AM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: John Force Wins Seattle; Completes JFR Sweep Of Swing


John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang ended the annual NHRA Western Swing in the winner’s circle as 16-time NHRA Mello Yello champion claimed his 141st career win and eighth at Pacific Raceway today at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals. It was also John Force’s third win of the season and fourth consecutive final round appearance. Not only that, the Castrol backed John Force Racing Funny Cars can also claim a Western Swing sweep, as Robert Hight’s win at Denver, Courtney Force’s victory in Sonoma and now John’s success at Seattle have rewritten the NHRA record books.

 

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“It’s great anytime you win but you got to look over there at the Castrol green Ford and all those kids around it. They’re really good, but what makes them really good is they team up with my other three teams with Traxxas and Auto Club and of course, the Castrol EDGE dragster. They all work as a team and that’s what makes it click and if somebody’s in trouble, someone’s helping Mike Neff, John Medlen, Ron Douglas, Todd Smith, Dean Antonelli, the lists goes on and on. It’s amazing how we all work as one team and we all share the money and that’s the way we keep it running,” said John Force.

Going into race day, John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Funny Car had qualified in the No. 1 spot with an impressive 4.057 seconds at 307.86 mph. It was John’s fourth No.1 final qualifying position of the season, sixth at Pacific Raceways and the 150th of his career. Ten years ago Force won this race from the No. 1 position as well.

“I paced myself today and it was it was good day for Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, Traxxas, Peak and all my sponsors. It was a great Western Swing having my grandchildren up here. I think they’re bringing us luck,” said John Force.

Even though crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team took advantage of the great weather conditions on Friday night, they knew to dial back the ground pounding 8000 horsepower BOSS 500 engine for Sunday’s eliminations. The team knew just how far they could push the racing surface before the warmer weather conditions would blow away the massive Goodyear slicks or hurt the engine on John’s Mustang.

“I’m excited, as Jimmy Prock was on his game and gave me a great hot rod. Whatever I try to do to screw it up, like making calls on changing the clutch in which I don’t have a clue, Jimmy just gets it right,” said John Force.

John Force faced Jeff Diehl in the opening round of eliminations and even though Diehl qualified in the 16th spot, John Force wasn’t taking him lightly. These two competitors have faced each other three times in the past and just recently, two weeks ago at the start of the Western Swing at the Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver. Force is 3 – 0 against Diehl so he knew he’d be looking to even the score.

As the lights transitioned from yellow to green on the Christmas tree, the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang left the starting line first. Diehl gave chase from the starting line and could not keep up, as John Force crossed the finish line first with a 4.102 second run at 307.58 mph to Diehl’s trailing 4.354 second pass at 282.36 mph.

John Force then headed into the quarter-finals where he would face nemesis Cruz Pedregon. These two fiercely competitive Funny Car drivers have squared off against each other 93 times in competition with John Force winning 63 of those match-ups. Knowing Pedregon was going to be a tough opponent; John Force had his game face on when he staged his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang.

Once again as the Christmas tree flashed green, John Force left first and went trucking straight down Pacific Raceways. Pedregon gave it everything he had, but the times said it all. John Force ran a 4.161 second pass at 302.48 mph to Pedregon’s losing 4.184 at 296.37 mph.

The stage was now set for a semi-final battle between John Force and Alexis DeJoria. These two drivers are no strangers, as they’ve battled each other 16 times before. With John winning ten of those races, he wasn’t going to throttle back one bit because he knows Alexis is a great driver and her Funny Car is running very strong. As in the previous rounds, he carefully staged his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and again, he left before his opponent.

However, unlike the previous runs in which John’s Mustang went down the Pacific Raceways groove, his Mustang starting hazing the Goodyear slicks just past the 600 foot mark. DeJoria was right there to snatch the win from John, but then her Funny Car started to loose traction. It was John’s massive holeshot and great reaction time of 0.075 to DeJoria’s 0.170 that allowed him to get the win despite running a slower 4.301 second pass to her 4.252 run.

John Force did lose lane choice as he went into final round against another seasoned veteran and old teammate Gary Densham. These two drivers first raced each other 24 years ago in Montreal and over the years, they’ve raced each other a total of seven times in prior final round match ups with John getting four wins. Crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of the team had done their homework and carefully examined each run leading up the final match up. They made sure the lane John was in would be prime time and offer the best traction for his Funny Car.

Once again, John’s Mustang leapt off the starting line first, ahead of Densham and without missing a beat, crossed the finish line first with a 4.173 second run at 302.48 mph to Densham’s tire smoking 5.808 second at 120.44.

“I raced Densham 40 years ago at this track and we were having so much down there in the staging lanes. I know we’re supposed to be serious, it’s race day but when you’re racing a friend (Densham) and he comes up here on a budget and look how good he does, steps it up and races with these guys, and after only being out here few times all year and to get in the final is awesome for him. I always that I don’t mind losing to a teammate like Robert (Hight) or Courtney (Force) and when I’ve lost to Gary, I don’t mind as I feel he’s still a teammate,” said John Force.

Today’s win, his 78th in a Ford Mustang Funny Car, tied Force with NHRA Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden as the winningest Ford sponsored driver in any motorsports series.

“I want to thank everyone, especially my teams and everyone that works together. This track has really come around and I want to thank the owners for investing in the track and our sport. I had a ball up here this weekend. We also some luck today, DeJoria out ran me, the kids really good and she’s under a lot of pressure like my kids but I was able to get the win,” said John Force.

He and daughter Brittany, driver of the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster will head to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio for their annual Night of Fire event next weekend in which John Force will do some good old fashion match racing with Ro Capps, Cruz Pedregon and Dale Creasy Jr.

Courtney Force qualified in the No. 2 spot going into eliminations today right behind her father John Force, but her excitement was cut short when she smoked the tires in the opening round against Gary Densham. This was the first time the third-year driver has competed against Densham.

“We had a rough first round. We went out and blew the tires off. It obviously wasn’t the run we had hoped to make. We had a good car all weekend, but we couldn’t get it down in the heat today. On the first pass the car didn’t react how we expected it to. The good news is we are staying in the No. 4 spot,” said Force.

The 26-year-old driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car is now just nine points out of the No. 3 spot currently occupied by Ron Capps.

While Force was racing to victory Mello Yello points leader Robert Hight was watching and supporting his closest pursuer. Hight, the No. 6 qualifier, was ousted in the second round by Matt Hagan. Both drivers launched together but Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang hazed the tires at about 300 feet. Hagan pulled away to get the win with a 4.241 to Hight’s 4.287 second pass.

“We felt like we had a Funny Car that could go all the way today. It just was charging in the second round and hazed the tires. We will get ready for Brainerd and the US Nationals. I am definitely glad we have kept our win streak intact and it is cool that our team swept the Western Swing,” said Hight, a five-time winner in 2014.

In the first round Hight outran Bob Tasca III with a winning pass 4.112 to 4.918. It was a big win for Hight considering it kept the Mello Yello points leader from suffering back to back first round losses for the first time in the season. Hight has once again held onto the points lead for a career best 13 events in a row.

Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE team were hoping to rounds today at the NHRA Northwest Nationals, but the 2013 NHRA Auto Club Rookie of the Year was stopped in the opening round. Despite Brittany’s early exit today, she still remains upbeat and positive, even though she was unable to get to another final round during this year’s annual NHRA Western Swing.

“It’s a little disappointing as I wanted to get past first round, especially since we went out in the opening round last weekend in Sonoma. With Khalid alBalooshi just behind us in points, I really wanted to get past him because now, there’s only one point between us,” said Brittany Force.

Brittany had raced alBalooshi five times in the past and was looking to even the score, as she was 2-3 against him in past match ups. At the flash of the green from the Christmas tree, Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Dragster left the starting line first, as the sophomore Top Fuel driver had a better reaction time than alBalooshi. With alBalooshi in pursuit, the crews on the starting line and the fans in the stands knew it was going to be a close race.

Just past the halfway mark on the drag strip, alBalooshi’s race car started to tighten the gap and began to close in on Brittany’s lead. When the scoreboards on the top end lit up, it was alBalooshi just nudging out Brittany Force by approximately six feet and getting the win.

The time slips said it all, as Brittany ran a strong 3.841 second run at 314.31 mph to alBalooshi’s 3.809 second pass at 319.22 mph. Brittany Force was looking for some payback for a first round loss last year at the Northwest Nationals but she knows this is part of racing.

“I’m hoping we can hang on to our number seven position as race day progresses, but we’ll move on and head to Brainerd. Hopefully we’ll get the car down the track and have a better weekend,” said Brittany Force.

The Castrol EDGE team will get the weekend off from the NHRA races and return to their home base in Brownsburg, Indiana. It’s been a grueling Western Swing, so Brittany Force and her crew are looking forward to some time off but it won’t be for long. For Brittany Force, it will be a time to reflect on her second Western Swing as a Top Fuel competitor.

“We definitely started the Western Swing on top going to the finals in Denver. From there, it went downhill but if look at our runs from this weekend here in Seattle, are run today was pretty good compared to our other runs and like I’ve said, it doesn’t matter until the Countdown starts and as long as we stay in, we’ll turn it around and that’s all that matters,” said Brittany Force.

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