ROBERT HIGHT LOOKING TO ST. LOUIS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP BUMP
ST LOUIS (September 21, 2016) --- In 2009 Robert Hight used a race win at the Countdown opening race in Charlotte to propel him to his first NHRA Funny Car championship. The 2005 NHRA Auto Club Road to the Future Rookie of the Year raced from the No. 10 spot to the championship on the strength of that win as well as two other wins over the final six races. That year Hight followed up his Carolina Nationals win with a first round defeat at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals. Last weekend Hight raced to the quarterfinals but the 37-time winner is not worried about slipping out of the Countdown conversation.
“I think if you can average semifinal finishes throughout the Countdown you should be in a position to have a shot at the championship when we roll into Pomona for the Auto Club Finals. Three of the last five Countdown races are sponsored by the Auto Club so I know I will see a lot of friendly faces and support. This weekend in St. Louis is a race I have won before and feel good about getting to. We tested on Monday (in Charlotte) and made some really quick runs in the heat and cooler conditions,” said Hight.
Earlier this year Hight picked up his third career win at the historic Gatornationals in Florida. Since that race Hight and his Mike Neff tuned AAA Insurance Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car have been the textbook definition of inconsistent and have battled minor issues that have kept them from dominating like they are used to. Stretches of consistent qualifying were derailed by early exits on race day. The team has managed to stay focused and race to a handful of semifinals and for the third year in a row Hight raced to the final round of the lucrative $100,000 to win Traxxas Nitro Shootout.
“We turned a corner I think around the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. We ran well in the Traxxas Shootout and lost a close race to Courtney (Force). We made it to the second round of the race the next day before losing to (Matt) Hagan and he went on to win the race. We just need to string together some good runs on Friday of qualifying so we start at the top of the field and then we need to string together four good runs on Sunday. I know we can do it and we can start in St Louis,” said Hight.
With five races left in the season Hight’s AAA Insurance Chevy is also looking to maintain an unprecedented streak of winning at least two races every year since 2005. No professional driver has started their career with a level of success and winning consistency like that. For Hight though the wins don’t mean a lot without the championship.
“I have said it before but I want to have a dominant race car. I worked on John Force’s Funny Cars in the 90s and you won’t see that kind of sustained performance dominance again but I think you can get it right and win a lot of races. There are five races left in this Countdown and we need to start getting round wins so we can get that second championship and 19th for John Force Racing. Everyone in this pit is just focusing on that,” summed up Hight.
AAA INSURANCE MIDWEST NATIONALS WINNER COURTNEY FORCE READY FOR RETURN TO VICTORY
ST LOUIS (September 21, 2016) --- In 2014 Courtney Force was in a dogfight for the points lead with 16-time Funny Car champion John Force. At the time the third year pro was chasing down her dream and also trying to reel in the winningest driver in NHRA history, who also happened to be her boss and father. The youngest Force defeated her father in the semifinals at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals on a hole shot before getting her first victory at Gateway International Raceway over Matt Hagan. Unfortunately, neither Force was able to hold onto for the ultimate prize but the excitement of being in the battle for the NHRA Mello Yello championship is still fresh on Courtney Force’s mind.
“I think I have the best and most consistent Funny Car I have had in my entire career. (Crew chiefs) Danny Hood and Ronnie Thompson have this Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro running so well. We had a hiccup in Charlotte but that was just a close race to lose that could have gone either way,” said Force.
This season Force has been in the points lead, won the O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals in Houston and captured the $100,000 prize for winning the Traxxas Nitro Shootout. It has been a dominant bounce-back year that has put to rest any lingering doubts about the 2015 season.
“Last year was tough but it made us a stronger team I think. I know it made me a better driver. You have to look at everything when things don’t go as planned. This season has been what I expect from top to bottom. This Traxxas team has really come together and I think we are definitely in the hunt for the championship,” explained Force.
The fifth year pro has never qualified in the bottom half of the field at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals and that kind of qualifying consistency will be key this weekend. This season Force has never given up lane choice in the first round on race day and she has started from a top four position twelve times in nineteen races.
“The key for all the Funny Cars is to get good runs on Friday in qualifying. You have to take advantage of the best conditions and start from the top of the field,” said Force. “If you are in the middle of the pack you are going to have a tough race day. There have been times this season when if you aren’t running in the 3.8s you don’t get lane choice and that is a tough situation to be in. These Funny Cars are so quick and fast now they are a blast to driver but the competition has never been tougher.”
The Traxxas backed driver will start race weekend by spending some time with her fans at a St. Louis area hobby shop. On Thursday night, September 22, Force will be at Mark Twain Hobby Center (2793 West Clay Street St Charles, MO 63301, 636-946-2816) from 6-7 pm. Traxxas will have magazines and free give-away items for fans who come to the shop.
JOHN FORCE MOTIVATED TO CONTINUE WINNING STREAK IN ST. LOUIS
ST LOUIS (September 21, 2016) --- John Force opened the 2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship with a dominating performance at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion is looking to continue to add to his legendary career with another win this weekend at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park. The three-time winner in 2016 will return to his familiar blue PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car this weekend. Force jumped from 8th to 3rd in the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings and is only 50 points out of the overall points lead.
“I have put together a team of young guys and we had a great weekend in Charlotte. It is on to St. Louis with this PEAK Chevy hot rod but the competition is going to be ready. I don’t think you ever sneak up on anybody anymore. We had a consistent race car and we got a lucky round against Wilkerson in the second round. The rounds against (Ron) Capps and (Tommy) Johnson were big wins for this team,” said Force, after his 146th career Funny Car win.
On Sunday in North Carolina Force defeated up and coming driver Dave Richards in the first round but then had to race through a gauntlet of three Countdown qualified Funny Cars that included veteran driver Tim Wilkerson, the points leader (Ron Capps) as well as the No. 1 (Tommy Johnson Jr) and No. 2 (Capps) qualifiers. Force’s Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch tuned Funny Car was the only race car at the Carolina Nationals that picked up qualifying bonus points every session and then on race day made it down the track every run. Force’s final two passes 3.957 and 3.946 at 324.05 mph were impressive for their consistency and also ability to overcome track temperatures that exceeded 125 degrees.
“I have to tell you how much these young guys motivate me. I get out in the pits and I am yelling at them about things on the race car and they just tell me to calm down. Schaffer, McCulloch and Nick Casertano have really got this race car ready to run. We stayed over one Monday and tested and it was all business. It was like the old days when we would win a race then we would go right back into test mode to get better,” said Force.
Heading into the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals Force will be looking for his fourth win at the track just across the river and within sight of the famed St. Louis Arch. Force has also raced in six final rounds at Gateway. His last win in 2013 led the way to his 16th Mello Yello Funny Car championship. The 146-time Funny Car winner started the Countdown in 8th place and has moved up to 3rd but Force knows he needs to keep the pressure on the rest of the class.
“I won here a couple of years ago but that was then. The cars have gotten quicker and I think the competition get better every year. I am not just talking about Schumacher and Kalitta. I have two Funny Cars in my pit area that can whip me,” admitted Force. “Robert Hight and that Auto Club Chevy and my daughter Courtney in the Traxxas Camaro have been running better than me. She won the Traxxas Shootout and had to beat Robert to get that win. Nobody is feeling sorry for me and I know I have to work harder than a lot of these young kids. I was in the gym this week and got some rest.”
The most recent winner will join a host of other NHRA stars at the free FanFest on Thursday night at Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis. The FanFest kicks off the weekend's AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals and will run from 6-7:30 p.m. It will include prize drawings and musical entertainment by Midwestern rockabilly/honkytonk rockers, the Rat Rod Kings (www.RatRodKings.com). Ballpark Village is located next to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.
BRITTANY FORCE EAGER TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN ST. LOUIS
ST LOUIS (September 21, 2016) --- The Monster Energy Top Fuel team and Brittany Force are continuing to make steady progress as they chase down their first NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel championship. Last weekend in Charlotte Force lost a close race in the quarterfinals but was still able to move up to the 4th spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. The closeness of the competition on the track and in the point standings has the fourth year pro focusing on success this weekend at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“There is no one hanging their heads about losing in the second round to Antron (Brown). That was a close race that just didn’t go our way. We won the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte in the spring and we outran him a couple times. This championship won’t be won on how you did last weekend. We are focused on getting round wins in St. Louis right now,” said Force, the 2013 Auto Club Road the Future award winner.
This season has been more than a breakout year for the lone JFR driver in Top Fuel. It has been a statement season with three wins and a lengthy stay at the top of the Top Fuel point standings. It took Force 75 races to get her first win but since that seal was broken at the historic Gatornationals Force has picked up two more wins over the next sixteen events. Force won the unique Four-Wide Nationals and then just weeks before the start of the Countdown picked up win No. 3 in Brainerd at the Lucas Oil Nationals.
“Those three wins this season have given this whole Monster Energy team a lot of confidence. We are all working together and I can’t thank Brian Husen, my crew chief, and Alan Johnson, our Top Fuel consultant, enough. I started all over at the beginning of the season with a whole new routine and it has paid off. We are No. 4 in the points and I am ready for St. Louis,” said Force.
In addition to Force’s three wins the teacher turned Top Fuel racer set the national elapsed time record at the Kansas Nationals in May. Force blasted down the track at a previously unheard of 3.676 seconds and etched her name in the record books along with the rest of her record setting family. The record has since been lowered by technical alliance teammate Steve Torrence but Force’s pride in setting that record also motivated her throughout the season.
“I think it is neat to be able to join my family with their list of accomplishments. The fact that we all now have set a national record at one time or another is cool,” said Force after the run. “It is still pretty unbelievable to think about that record. It is exciting to set a record like that with this Monster Energy team. That record is something we are all really proud of and we’ll always be able to hang onto that memory.”