John Force Racing sweeps qual­i­fy­ing

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

MORRISON» For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year at Bandimere Speed­way, John Force Racing’s funny car fam­ily af­fair qual­i­fied first and sec­ond at the Mopar Mile-high Na­tion­als. Court­ney Force on Satur­day se­cured her sec­ond con­sec­u­tive pole po­si­tion, with her fa­ther, John Force, a close sec­ond.

A year ago, No. 2 qual­i­fier John Force de­feated Court­ney in the all-jfr fi­nal at Colorado’s 37th an­nual na­tional event.

This year, sweep­ing the top two qual­i­fy­ing spots could be the kiss of death for JFR, which can’t seem to race as well as it qual­i­fies. Com­ing into Bandimere, JFR has qual­i­fied No. 1 a divi­sion-most eight times in 13 races, but won just once. The ri­val Don Schu­macher Racing has won 12 races, de­spite qual­i­fy­ing No. 1 just four times.

“We’re low E.T. al­most ev­ery week but they’re win­ning them all,” John Force, the win­ningest driver in NHRA his­tory, said of DSR. “So we’ve got a prob­lem. We have to learn how to race on race day.”

JFR’S third car, driven by Robert Hight, who is John Force’s son-in­law, qual­i­fied third Satur­day for a 1-2-3 JFR sweep. In the NHRA’S pre­vi­ous race July 9 out­side Chicago, each JFR driver lost in the first round. John Force has the team’s only win, back on March 19 in Gainesville, Fla.

“We have yet to win this sea­son, so there’s a lot on my mind,” said Court­ney Force, who set Bandimere’s funny car elapsed time and speed records with a 3.889-sec­ond pass at 328.30 mph in Fri­day’s qual­i­fy­ing. “We’d like to end the week on a high note. We got to look for a good race day, and we need to make it hap­pen. We’ve had a great race car. We’ve proven it in qual­i­fy­ing. We’re stum­bling over our­selves on race day, and we can’t do it any­more. We’re well aware of it.”

An­other nitro­meth­ane-pow­ered fe­male, Leah Pritch­ett, emerged the No. 1 qual­i­fier in top fuel, and Drew Skill­man (pro stock) and Ed­die Kraw­iec (pro stock mo­tor­cy­cle) also have the pole po­si­tions in their 16-car/bike lad­ders.

Court­ney Force will face No. 16 Jim Camp­bell in Sun­day’s first round. John Force will open against DSR ri­val Matt Ha­gan, who failed to reach 161 mph in four qual­i­fy­ing passes, and Hight will op­pose Todd Simp­son in the first round.

DSR strug­gled through much of funny car qual­i­fy­ing be­fore points leader Ron Capps ripped off a 3.965-sec­ond run (313.73 mph) in Round 4 to col­lect the No. 5 po­si­tion. Team­mate Jack Beck­man also made big strides in the fi­nal round, end­ing sixth. Like Ha­gan, DSR’S Tommy John­son Jr. couldn’t fig­ure it out and stands 12th.

Ha­gan in­tro­duced the new Mopar funny car to com­mem­o­rate the com­pany’s 80th an­niver­sary Thurs­day.

“All can I say is I’m sorry,” Ha­gan said of his four poor qual­i­fy­ing runs. “Ob­vi­ously our per­for­mance is not what we hoped and planned for up here on the moun­tain. We’ve re­ally never been in this sit­u­a­tion where we’ve been this far back. We’ll get it fig­ured out (Sun­day). I trust in (crew chief ) Dickie Ven­ables and the job he’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing, and the brains that he has, and the de­ci­sions he’s got to make.”

The John Force vs. Ha­gan race will be the most in­ter­est­ing firstround af­fair. In top fuel, the big­money teams each qual­i­fied in the top half of the field, and there are no big-name early matchups.

Foot­notes. Court­ney Force is just 5-5 on Sun­days when qual­i­fy­ing No. 1 this year. She has lost twice in the first round. … Top fuel’s Tony Schu­macher will race his backup car Sun­day af­ter bend­ing his chas­sis in Satur­day’s fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing run. The front of Schu­macher’s drag­ster went air­borne mid­way through the run and it slammed back on the track af­ter the driver lifted off the gas. … John Force has won seven funny car ti­tles at Bandimere, the most in ni­tro di­vi­sions and tied for first with pro stock’s Bob Glid­den and Allen John­son.

Mike Cham­bers: mcham­bers@den­ver­ or @mikecham­bers

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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