An Able Force Previews 2013 Goals
With a successful year of full-time Funny Car competition in the books, Courtney Force is now preparing for a follow-up shot at the series and all the excitement of being back in the driver’s seat of her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car.
This week, the 2012 Rookie of the Year will race for points in the first of 24 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the season-opener; the 53rd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
“I'm so excited to get the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season started and feel confident in my Traxxas Ford Mustang and team this upcoming season. We tested great and even picked up a career best ET and speed over the winter at Palm Beach International Raceway, so I know we've got a fast race car to battle it out this season,” said Force.
“Looking back it's crazy how far we've come and thinking back to the opening race in my rookie season, so much has changed. Last year we had high hopes of trying to qualify at most, if not every, event and we met that goal. I picked up my first win in Funny Car in Seattle and our team finished 5th in overall standings by the end of the season. I'm so proud of everything we were able to accomplish and although I am still a new driver, I look forward to pushing myself this season to do a better job and learn from any mistakes. I think we've got a great car and team and are capable of a lot this season,” said Force.
Back With Neff, 15-Time Champ Seeks Return to Form in Castrol GTX Ford
The last two seasons, he has finished no better than ninth in NHRA driver points. In pre-season testing, his Castrol GTX Mustang was the slowest of the three Fords on his own team. And, at 63, he is the oldest full-time driver in the entire Funny Car class.
One of only two drivers to have won at Pomona in three different events (including 2001's 50th anniversary NHRA Nationals), Force has won a total of 15 races and 110 racing rounds. Both are records for a single track.
As if that wasn’t enough, he also is the defending event champion and will pursue his seventh season-opening victory at the wheel of an 8,000 horsepower Castrol Mustang prepared by the man he beat in last year’s final round.
After two successful years as both driver and crew chief, years in which he finished fifth and third in points, Mike Neff successfully lobbied to return to the singular role in which he enjoyed his greatest success – and Force couldn’t be happier about the decision.
That’s because the last time Neff concentrated solely on his tuning skills, back in 2010, the result was a championship with, guess who? John Force.
“It was Mike Neff’s decision,” Force said. “He obviously proved he could do the job as a driver but he thought that to do both, drive and tune, was getting to be too much. At the end of the day, though, I’m excited to have him back tuning my hot rod.”
Hight Looking to Continue Winning Ways in Pomona
In two days the start of the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will rev up at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and for 2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight time cannot pass fast enough. Three times Hight has driven his Auto Club Ford Mustang into the winner’s circle at the kick-off event of the NHRA season. Most recently in 2011 Hight won the NHRA Winternationals and for the 27-time national event winner the first race of the year always has special meaning.
“I'm super-excited. The last time NHRA had a new sponsor in 2009, which was Full Throttle, I won the championship. To come out and be the first Mello Yello champ, that's my goal. We've all had good luck at Pomona. We've won that race quite a few years in a row, the Winternationals. No different this year,” said Hight.
Hight has had a dominant race car since his rookie season but every season the crewman turned driver has raised his expectations as a driver. When asked if he thought on-track success was more natural ability or experience the winningest Funny Car driver over the past five seasons gave a thoughtful response.
“I honestly think it's 50-50. I mean, you've got to be able to feel what the car does and have a certain reaction to the tree and stuff. But I also believe with a certain amount of willpower, hard work and determination you can accomplish anything. If you work hard and want to do something, I believe you can be successful at it. But I do believe there has to be a certain amount of natural talent.”
Brittany Charting New Ground For JFR
Although she’s driven nothing but dragsters since she began racing in Super Comp almost seven years ago, Brittany is the first driver ever to compete in a John Force Racing-prepared Top Fuel dragster – and she’s revved up about the opportunity.
“I’m excited to be out there,” she said after completing two months of vigorous pre-season testing. “I’m going to be (racing) against all these guys I grew up watching. A lot (of them came) over during testing, giving me tips and advice, asking me if I had any questions. They’ve all been really great.”
That situation may change this weekend when the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals signals the start of the NHRA’s 2013 Mello Yello Series. That’s because Brittany already has demonstrated that she plans to be much more than just window dressing for the Top Fuel class.
“I’m anxious to get out there in the other lane next to them,” she said. “I think we have a really strong team with Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane (making the tune-up decisions).”
Although her dad was not quite sure of her dedication to a racing career, Brittany now says she never doubted that she would wind up working in the sport although she never imagined it would be at the wheel of the fastest accelerating vehicle on the planet.
“My dad threw out the idea of testing in a Top Fuel car with the Ford BOSS 500 motor,” she said. “It was just a big trick because I think he knew once I got in that car, I wouldn’t want to get out of it. The moment I ran 3.96 on my first full pass in Las Vegas, I realized I was hooked. That was the ride I wanted and we just continued from there.”
The 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off this weekend at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA.