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Courtney Force Trashes Texas Records

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 20 2014

Courtney Force on provisional pole in Ennis. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

ENNIS, Texas – Courtney Force had the blinders on at the Texas Motorplex Friday evening, and cranked out a blinding pass to back it up.

Force claimed the provisional Funny Car pole during second-round qualifying for the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals with a 1,000-foot pass in 4.039-seconds at 314.90 mph. Both numbers set Motorplex track records, and provided clear evidence that Courtney is over her first-round loss during last Sunday’s problem-plagued Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals.

“I think this team got things pulled together since last weekend,” said Force, referring to Race 1 of the six-event Countdown to the Championship playoffs at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. “Although we went out in the first round, I took it as a positive after seeing what we ran. It was our quickest pass of the weekend.”

Courtney has three poles this season and six during her 65-race career. She qualified her Traxxas Ford Mustang in the top half of the field last weekend, only to be trailered by father/16-time world champion John Force in their opening round match. Deteriorating track conditions, a wreck involving Pro Stock driver V. Gaines and finally rain prompted NHRA officials to postpone the seventh annual event outside Charlotte and move its conclusion to the all-concrete Motorplex this weekend. Out of contention for the Carolina Nationals Wally, Courtney is fully focused on the FallNats.

“I knew going into this race I was feeling confident; we had a good car,” said Force, 26, who won the 100th NHRA professional race by a woman earlier this season at Heartland Park Topeka. “But to go up there and go to the No. 1 spot for our team and run a number like that, a 4.039, it’s just a good weekend so far. I’m excited and proud of my team.

“We need consistency – to not make little mistakes, keep this car dead shallow – that’s my job going up there round after round. Luckily, not having to worry about it (Saturday) I can continue to go in shallow next to these guys because I won’t be competing in elimination rounds from Charlotte. Our Traxxas team is looking to pick up points throughout qualifying so we can continue to be consistent on Sunday.”

J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their respective categories during Round 2 of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown near Dallas.

Todd raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel with a track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.761-seconds at 317.87 mph in his Optima Batteries dragster. If the time holds, it will be Todd’s second consecutive pole during the Countdown. Todd’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate and point-leader, Doug Kalitta, set the track speed record at 326.71 mph via an ET of 3.765-seconds to qualify No. 2 in his Mac Tools dragster.

“We were a little aggressive in Q1 and Q2,” said Todd, who replaced David Grubnic prior to Race 4 of the season at Las Vegas in late March. Todd will meet Fort Worth’s Spencer Massey of Don Schumacher Racing in the quarterfinals of the delayed Carolina Nationals on Saturday.

Seeded 10th and last in points as the Countdown began, Todd now can consider the heady possibility of sweeping the Carolina and Texas events. “I definitely didn’t come here to lose,” Todd said. “So if there’s two races to win why not go out there and try to win both of them? That’s what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to make a run at the championship. We’re in attack mode.

“I felt there were a couple more cars that were going to run better than what we did, but you can never count out Connie (Kalitta, team-owner) and James (Oberhofer, crew chief). They are always loaded for bear when the conditions call for it and the track’s definitely good here this weekend.”

Gray led Pro Stock qualifying with a quarter-mile run of 6.577-seconds at 209.88 mph in his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray will meet Erica Enders-Stevens in the second round of Carolina Nationals eliminations. Other Carolina Pro Stock first-round winners Friday included Dave Connolly, Jonathan Gray and Vincent Nobile.

“We wanted to make a couple of runs and see what happens,” Shane Gray said. “I don’t think we were swinging for the fences by any means, but it all came together and it made a nice smooth run down there. It actually felt a little bit slow it was so smooth.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. led qualifying with a quarter-mile run of 6.855-seconds at 194.63 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Products Buell. Arana Jr. also won his first round of eliminations for the Carolina Nationals and will face Chaz Kennedy when eliminations continue on Saturday. Other PSM first-round winners included Eddie Krawiec, Scotty Pollacheck, Andrew Hines, Matt Smith, Steve Johnson and Angie Smith.

“We made a swing for the tune-up and nailed it right on the head,” Arana Jr. said. “We went right to the top in Q1. There was actually a little more we wanted to do but we had to be conservative because we were going into Round 1 of eliminations. We took away a little bit and it stayed consistent on the line. I actually got lucky. The bike didn’t want to shift, and I kept pushing the button. Finally, when it hit the rev-limiter, I was able to plug it in the next gear and stay ahead for the win.”

Qualifying for the FallNationals will continue Saturday at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (CDT). Eliminations for all pro categories from the Carolina Nationals will be completed during scheduled qualifying rounds _ quarterfinals at 11:15 a.m., semifinals at 2:15 p.m. and finals at 4:30 p.m.

Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 29th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and second of six playoff races in the Countdown to the Championship. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. J.R. Todd, 3.761-seconds, 317.87 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.765, 326.71; 3. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.770, 320.13; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.774, 320.36; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.786, 323.74; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.790, 322.11; 7. Billy Torrence, 3.813, 322.50; 8. Spencer Massey, 3.814, 320.89; 9. Richie Crampton, 3.816, 319.60; 10. Larry Dixon, 3.819, 324.20; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.823, 317.49; 12. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.829, 317.57.

Not Qualified _ 13. Antron Brown, 3.830, 314.17; 14. Terry McMillen, 3.885, 314.02; 15. Troy Buff, 3.893, 304.12; 16. Kebin Kinsley, 4.111, 261.37; 17. Brittany Force, 4.319, 186.95; 18. Clay Millican, 4.986, 141.33; 19. Morgan Lucas, 7.964, 73.99.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.039, 314.90; 2. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.041, 305.42; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.051, 311.92; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.076, 309.42; 5. John Force, Mustang, 4.081, 314.24; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.083, 312.86; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 4.084, 309.06; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.087, 312.35; 9. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.088, 312.13; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.088, 307.79; 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.096, 306.26; 12. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.106, 310.55.

Not Qualified _ 13. Tim Wilkerson, 4.119, 305.15; 14. Cruz Pedregon, 4.154, 298.27; 15. Terry Haddock, 4.240, 291.38; 16. Tony Pedregon, 4.258, 248.57; 17. Todd Simpson, 4.323, 285.83; 18. Jeff Diehl, 4.358, 285.77.

Pro Stock _ 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.577, 209.88; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.582, 210.24; 3. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.582, 209.72; 4. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.592, 209.95; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.594, 210.31; 6. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dodge Dart, 6.596, 209.59; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.597, 209.88; 8. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.607, 209.75; 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.607, 209.56; 10. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.627, 209.26; 11. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.627, 208.78; 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.629, 208.49.

Not Qualified _ 13. V. Gaines, 6.635, 209.04; 14. Matt Hartford, 6.649, 208.91; 15. Shane Tucker, 6.661, 208.88; 16. John Gaydosh Jr., 6.662, 207.53; 17. Larry Morgan, 6.676, 206.95.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.855, 194.63; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.869, 194.10; 3. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.919, 192.80; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.961, 191.00; 5. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.964, 190.62; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.975, 189.92; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.983, 190.46; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.983, 189.47; 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.992, 191.24; 10. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.993, 191.76; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.008, 193.29; 12. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.019, 189.18.

Not Qualified _ 13. Jerry Savoie, 7.020, 188.41; 14. Angelle Sampey-Drago, 7.025, 189.34; 15. Shawn Gann, 7.066, 187.13; 16. Freddie Camarena, 7.108, 190.03; 17. Michael Ray, 7.137, 186.02; 18. Mike Berry, 7.170, 181.96; 19. Redell Harris, 7.332, 158.15; 20. David Barron, 20.055, 27.45.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 20 2014
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