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Courtney Force Rides Record Run To Rise To P1 At Wild Horse Pass

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 25 2018

Courtney Force will begin Sunday’s Funny Car eliminations from the pole position.

Courtney Force set both ends of the Funny Car track record Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park as qualifying concluded for the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals.

Force earned her first pole at the facility in Chandler, Ariz., with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.826-seconds at 335.98 mph. The lap ended a streak that had seen Force qualify No. 2 at the track outside Phoenix for three consecutive years.

“That run was pretty incredible,” said Force, driver of the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS fielded by John Force Racing. “We tested on this track just a few weeks back and had run a killer number. I knew coming into this race I was hoping we could lay it down again. I saw (co-crew chief) Brian Corradi making some changes on the car right before we got it started. It flew down there. It felt good. I’m excited to be in that top spot and I’m really proud of my guys.”

Force now has 18 career poles, including seven last season, when she drove to a career-best third- place point finish. “We had pretty good luck getting No. 1 qualifiers last year,” Force said. “Hoping to turn this into a win for sure. The most important thing was finding consistency. It’s a great start being in the top spot, but we’ve got to continue to be consistent on race day. That’s pretty much the most important thing, to continue to push our team and see if we can go rounds and get in that winners’ circle.”

Force will line-up opposite veteran Del Worsham, the 2015 Funny Car world champ and driver of the Lucas Oil Toyota Camry, in Round One on Sunday. Force _ whose most recent victory was scored at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, in 2016 _ is 9-10 overall against Worsham.

Ron Capps, the 2016 world champion from Don Schumacher Racing, sits second after a pass in 3.844-seconds at 330.80 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. Two-time/reigning world champ Robert Hight of JFR qualified 11th at 3.927-seconds and 329.26 in his Auto Club of Southern California Camaro SS.

And after failing to record a full-pass during Friday’s two sessions, 16-time world champion John Force ran 3.864-seconds at 332.51 mph during Q3 to land the No. 4 spot.

“We just struggled and blew up stuff,” said Force, driver of the Peak Coolant and Motor Oil Camaro SS. “It was a combination of so many things. Then, my car wouldn’t go down the racetrack yesterday. It wouldn’t go a hundred feet. I met with the crew chiefs (Saturday) morning and to see them start talking about how to figure out what we should do was exciting. Jon Schaffer, Brian Corradi, Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham, Jason McCulloch, Dan Hood _ everybody got on board and when they came out (of the meeting), they changed it.”

In other professional qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) secured poles in their respective categories at the second of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Fox Sports 1 will air three hours of live coverage of Sunday’s finals beginning at 6:30 p.m. (EST).

Friday’s provisional No. 1 qualifier, Schumacher held serve to bag his 85th career No. 1 in Top Fuel with a 1,000-foot run of 3.649-seconds at 334.65 mph posted during Friday’s first session. Schumacher also set the Top Fuel national speed record at 336.57 mph with an elapsed time of 3.667-seconds during his second pass on Friday.

“It’s been an excellent weekend for the U.S. Army Racing team,” said “The Sarge,” a five-time winner at Wild Horse Pass. “The car is extremely good and really consistent. (Crew chief) Mike Neff is comfortable. He’s calm and cool. He knows what the car is doing and he’s enjoying it.”

Schumacher collected an impressive seven bonus points en route to his sixth Wild Horse Pass pole, including closing-out qualifying with another session-best effort.

“Mike backed it down on that (last) run and it did what it was supposed to do,” Schumacher said. “The conditions for the last round should have produced a better run than we put up (Friday) night, but the track is just extremely good and it’s eating the cars up. They’re blowing through the clutch. You hit the gas and it just chews that clutch up. Teams were trying, but they weren’t getting it done.

“We didn’t make the run we wanted, but we made a run quicker than everyone else did. We earned the three points, kept the No. 1 spot and it was a great couple of days of qualifying. Now we turn our focus to winning the race. I think (Sunday) is going to be a great day. I think the fans are going to be the biggest winners. I think they are going to see an awesome race.”

Schumacher will go head-to-head against Greg Carrillo in Round One. Steve Torrence, an eight-time winner last season, qualified second after running 3.665-seconds at 331.45 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster.

Reigning world champion Brittany Force qualified 14th in her return to the cockpit after escaping serious injury in a season-opening crash during the Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., on Feb. 11.

Force wheeled last season’s Monster Energy dragster to a lap in 3.828-seconds at 253.52 mph in the third qualifying session to complete her comeback. “After just four runs coming back from Pomona, I’m perfectly happy with that 3.82,” said Force, who has advanced to three of the last four final-rounds at Wild Horse Pass. “I’m feeling good. We’ll just go out first round and go straight down there.”

Force will race veteran Clay Millican and his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster in Round One. Millican is 7-3 against Force.

In Pro Stock, Kramer secured his first career pole after covering the traditional quarter-mile in 6.522-seconds at 210.80 mph in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro SS during the fourth qualifying session. Kramer, a newcomer to Ken Black Racing, is ready to notch his first career victory.

“It feels great to get that first No. 1 qualifier,” Kramer said. “We had a great package put together this weekend and that was able to move us to the top. There were definitely some tuning adjustments from Pomona, but we went back to our old game plan with that KB power and it was a great combination.”

Kramer is matched against Alan Prusiensky and his eCarMover.com Dodge Dart in Round One. Two-time world champion Erica Enders of Elite Motorsports qualified her McLeoad Clutches Camaro SS second while provisional pole-sitter Alex Laughlin earned the third spot in his Hot Wheels Camaro.

Reigning world champion Bo Butner, Kramer’s KBR teammate, grabbed the No. 6 position at 6.532-seconds at 210.34 mph in the final session. Butner, driver of the Jim Butner’s Auto Sales Camaro SS, had lingered in the 6.57-6.58 range until that last qualifying run.

“We’re on the edge of our seats, and the whole start to the season has been like that for us,” Butner said. The Winternationals winner, Butner will race five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the Elite Motorsports/Jeg’s.com Camaro in Round One.

“Some good things have happened and we’ve improved,” Butner said. “It’s like I said before, I like to get ‘most improved,’ and I think we did that last qualifying round. We qualified No. 6 in Pomona and won the race, and we’re qualified No. 6 here. It won’t be any easy ride by any means, but it’ll be fun.

“And I have to say _ just a great job for Deric. That’s awesome, and he’s learning. It says a lot about the KB Racing team and team-owners Ken and Judy Black that their ‘rental customers’ are getting as good of stuff as (multiple world champions) Greg  Anderson and Jason Line. It’s a great team, and it’s awesome that Ken and Judy are here to see it.”

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.649-seconds, 336.57 mph vs. 16. Greg Carrillo, 4.227, 220.91; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.655, 331.85 vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.089, 281.30; 3. Clay Millican, 3.664, 335.23 vs. 14. Brittany Force, 3.828, 253.52; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.679, 334.15 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.809, 318.77; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.683, 325.30 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.788, 326.63; 6. Billy Torrence, 3.697, 331.45  vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 328.78; 7. Blake Alexander, 3.705, 332.59 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.740, 325.85; 8. Antron Brown, 3.712, 333.66 vs. 9. Mike Salinas, 3.737, 326.32.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Kebin Kinsley, 5.118, 136.79; 18. Terry Totten, 8.158, 69.73; 19. Terry Haddock, 10.095, 91.23.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.826, 335.98 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 5.089, 173.99; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.844, 330.80 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.551, 182.82; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.845, 332.43 vs. 14. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.244, 235.27; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.864, 332.51 vs. 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.120, 307.79; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.866, 317.27 vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.971, 316.75; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.879, 329.91 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 329.26; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.888, 333.25 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.927, 329.42; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.919, 324.20 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.926, 330.88.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jim Campbell, 7.402, 91.58.

Pro Stock _ 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.00 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.663, 207.94; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.527, 209.98 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.659, 208.55; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.529, 209.59 vs. 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 209.69; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.530, 211.66 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.581, 209.82; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.531, 211.03 vs. 12. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.567, 210.08; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 210.60 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.553, 210.14; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.534, 211.63 vs. 10. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.550, 210.41; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.542, 210.05 vs. 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.550, 211.39.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Joey Grose, 6.720, 206.64.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 25 2018
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