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Reshuffled JFR On Top In Gainesville

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 18 2017

John Force and teammate Robert Hight were 1-2 in Day One of qualifying at the Gatornationals.
(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Like magic, John Force Racing is up-and-humming at Gainesville Raceway after “Brute” Force and son-in-law Robert Hight earned the provisional 1-2 positions after two rounds of Funny Car time trials for the 48th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

Friday’s results at the historic Florida facility were an immediate return on the complete crew changes Force announced last week in Brownsburg, Ind. Force and Hight have swapped teams after only two of 24 events on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Crew chief Jimmy Prock has moved to Hight’s Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, with crew chief Mike Neff switching to Force’s PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Camaro SS.

Moving with Prock are co-crew chief Chris Cunningham and crew members who started the season with Force’s team, while co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch and Hight’s former team members moved to the PEAK Chevy.

On cue, Force ran a 1,000-foot track-record elapsed time of 3.832-seconds at 333.25 mph during Friday’s second qualifying session. Hight, the president of JFR and 2009 world champion, sits second after a pass in 3.844-seconds at 331.61 mph.

“There is no magic,” said Force, a 16-time world champion. “My heart felt good and I knew it was good because I started hearing the music, and when you lose the music you’re dead and you don’t even know it. You gotta find the music. That’s the hardest thing to do and that makes everything right. It’s getting the minds right and hearing the music, and the boys heard the music. We’ll be humming in the morning.”

Recall that Force won the title in 2013 after orchestrating a similar in-house crew chief swap prior to the annual three-race Western Swing in July. Prock joined Force’s Ford Mustang crew from Hight’s team. In turn, Neff moved from Force’s car to Hight’s.

If Force holds onto the No. 1 spot through the final two qualifying sessions Saturday, it would be the 155th pole of his iconic career.

“It really feels good,” Force said. “The ol’ hot rod went down the racetrack. We made a lot of changes in the last few weeks, from working on the chassis on the Top Fuel dragster (of Brittany Force), and Robert Hight and I decided to swap teams.

“We made changes, and people said, ‘Why?’ I was walking through my shop and got all emotional because it’s the 10th anniversary of Eric Medlen’s (death). We know how much we all loved him. I was looking at all these pictures and all these things that mattered, and all of a sudden my brain popped and it said, ‘You’ve got to change.’ You’ve got to put Robert back with Jimmy Prock, where he won the championship (in ’09) with Auto Club. You’ve got to put me back with Neff, where I won the championship (in 2010), back with Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch, where I won four races last year. It all just made sense.”

Meanwhile, two-time world champion Matt Hagan _ winner of the season’s first two national events _ ran 3.854-seconds at 328.70 mph in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T fielded by archrival Don Schumacher Racing for third. Force’s daughter, Courtney, sits fourth at 3.860-seconds and a track speed record of 333.25 mph in the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders after Friday’s sessions at the home track of NHRA Top Fuel legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.

Schumacher, an eight-time Top Fuel world champion, leads qualifying after his track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.682-seconds at 328.22 mph in the U.S. Army dragster set during the second session. “That was a good quality run,” Schumacher said. “It’ll stay in the top couple if nothing else. I’m proud of my team; they did a great job to do what it took to get down the racetrack and at least for Friday night hold that No. 1 spot.”

Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports sit second with a 3.698-second run at 328.78 mph. Three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown of DSR is third at 3.716-seconds at 325.22 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. Brittany Force, the defending event winner, sits fourth in her  Monster Energy dragster.

Three-time/reigning world champion Line drove to the Pro Stock top spot after covering the quarter-mile in 6.476-seconds at 213.87 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro during the second session.

“The class as a whole has picked up a fair amount of power over the offseason,” said Line, of Ken Black Racing. “We’re certainly much faster than we were last year at this time. It felt like we could go that fast, maybe a little bit faster. Nonetheless, saying it is one thing but doing it is another _ so we did it. It was a good day.”

Line bumped KBR teammate Bo Butner from P1 after his lap in 6.477-seconds at 213.60 mph in the Jim Butner’s Auto Camaro. Two-time world champion Erica Enders is third at 6.490-seconds and 214.01 mph in her Elite Motorsports Camaro.

The 2017 debut of Pro Stock Motorcycle saw three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec grab P1 with a quarter-mile pass in 6.791-seconds at 198.17 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

“To come off the trailer and to set the pace like that _ it kind of sets your trend for the weekend,” Krawiec said. “We knew we had fast Harleys, we just had to continue to work on the setup. Our main focus was come here, unload off the truck, get a solid run, get qualified, get in the show and then start working.”

Hector Arana Sr., the 2009 world champion, sits second after a 6.813-seconds pass at 197.02 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell. LE Tonglet, the 2010 world champion, is third aboard his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki while reigning world champion Jerry Savoie sits fifth aboard his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki. NHRA’s traditional East Coast opener also is the first of 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Hight, Brittany Force, Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Krawiec were last year’s event winners.  FOX Sports 1 will air Saturday’s final qualifying during a two-hour show beginning at 11 p.m. (EDT). FS1 also will carry three hours of live finals coverage Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. (EDT).

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Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 48th annual  NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, third of 24 events in the NHRA schedule.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.682-seconds, 328.22 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.698, 328.78; 3. Antron Brown, 3.716, 325.22; 4. Brittany Force, 3.719, 326.79; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.726, 327.51; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.747, 327.03; 7. Clay Millican, 3.765, 327.11; 8. Terry McMillen, 3.789, 321.50; 9. Scott Palmer, 3.841, 283.97; 10. Shawn Reed, 3.890, 303.03; 11. Pat Dakin, 4.405, 179.16; 12. Larry Dixon, 4.606, 163.18; 13. Leah Pritchett, 4.686, 142.09; 14. Ike Maier, 6.491, 185.95; 15. Chris Karamesines, 8.475, 86.79.

Funny Car _ 1. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.832, 333.25; 2. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.844, 331.77; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.854, 328.70; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.860, 333.25; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.865, 329.83; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.865, 329.58; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.871, 332.51; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.883, 321.27; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.920, 309.06; 10. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 325.37; 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.963, 324.75; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.053, 313.88; 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.152, 295.72; 14. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.152, 255.10; 15. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.544, 191.57; 16. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 12.657, 75.79.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.476, 213.87; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.477, 214.28; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.490, 214.01; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.491, 214.31; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.491, 214.59; 6. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.493, 214.11; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.517, 212.96; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.526, 213.20; 9. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.531, 213.37; 10. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.562, 211.56; 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.584, 211.59; 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.609, 211.03; 13. Allen Johnson, Dart, 9.838, 93.04; 14. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 18.742, 42.69; 15. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, broke.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.791, 198.17; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.813, 197.02; 3. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.819, 196.59; 4. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.828, 195.42; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.830, 197.65; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.855, 196.96; 7. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.868, 194.74; 8. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.890, 189.71; 9. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.911, 191.19; 10. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.921, 190.51; 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.941, 191.21; 12. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.950, 195.56; 13. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.001, 189.52; 14. David Hope, Buell, 7.003, 188.57; 15. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.015, 192.96; 16. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.020, 187.94.

Not Qualified _ 17. Scott Bottorff, 7.072, 189.68; 18. Mike Berry, 7.168, 168.66; 19. Melissa Surber, 7.178, 188.89; 20. James Surber, 7.307, 179.83; 21. Andie Rawlings, 8.273, 135.65; 22. John Hall, 8.496, 115.11; 23. Angelle Sampey, 9.619, 79.61; 24. Brian Pretzel, broke.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 18 2017
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