(05/21/12) We are eight races into the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Season! Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas hosted the Dollar General Summernationals this weekend. In addition to the lively Nitro Alley and Traxxas display, fans were treated to a terrific nighttime qualifying session, record quick runs, and exciting competition that lasted all the way until the final pair of cars went down the track! Kansas weather conditions and a tricky Heartland Park track surface made the trip to the winner circle especially treacherous!
Friday’s qualifying sessions were run later in the day to accommodate a night session. A strong head wind and hot temperatures weren’t enough to slow down the Traxxas John Force Racing drivers. Courtney Force was the first of the JFR drivers to make her run at Heartland Park Topeka. Her Traxxas Funny Car ran straight as an arrow at 4.198 at 281.19 mph. She was followed by her father John who ran a 4.215. When Mike Neff made his run it appeared that he may have hit something on the track surface. Whatever it was it knocked a fuel line off causing his Funny Car to ignite just before the finish line. He still managed a 4.205, but his engine and body needed to be replaced before the night session just a few hours away. Robert Hight finished off Funny Car qualifying running a 4.175, quickest of the John Force Racing drivers.
Just as promised, the second qualifying session of the fuel cars was run just as the sun dipped below the horizon. Fans got to see some electrifying passes not only by the JFR drivers but by almost the all the Funny Car teams! John Force made his run first running a 4.136 at 306.60. Mike Neff was next and got a gasp from the crowd when he laid down a 4.063 at 311.05. Courtney followed up by running a 4.116 at 308.64. Her Traxxas Mustang looked perfect as it went down the track like a bullet. Afterward it was apparent that Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock had their car set on kill. He managed to run a 4.110, but seemed disappointed in the run. He said the engine sounded off tune at the beginning of the race and that the car was set-up to run much faster than what it did. After a strong Friday showing at the 2012 Dollar General Summernationals, the Traxxas John Force Racing drivers were qualified as follows: John Force 11th, Courtney Force 9th, Robert Hight 8th, and Mike Neff 3rd.
The NHRA switched back over to the traditional day-time schedule for both of Saturdays qualifying sessions. The track was still just as hot and windy as it was yesterday. John again led the John Force racing drivers out running a 4.187, but a cloud of smoke came from his engine around the 900’ mark. He and the car were ok, but surely he would have run a quicker time had it not been for his mechanical issue. Courtney Force faced off against Alexis DeJoria. They treated the fans to a great run and Courtney ran a 4.135 at 304.67mph. Robert Hight was soon to follow but had problems around the 400’ mark. His Funny Car went up in smoke, a rare sight to for most fans. Mike Neff finished off the Traxxas John Force Racing Qualifying with a 4.150 at 301.87.
Going into the final qualifying session at Topeka, all the JFR drivers were theoretically locked into the show, which allowed each crew chief to see what the track could handle in hot conditions. John had first crack at the track and ran an average 4.190. Ron Douglas made a great call and set the Traxxas Funny Car up perfectly for the final qualifying session. Courtney ran a 4.109 at 310.13, a run that had fans, and the competition in awe. The track was the hottest of the weekend, 120 degrees, and for her to run that number was phenomenal. That was the quickest Funny Car pass of the session and Courtney will receive bonus points toward her Rookie of the Year standings. Robert Hight ended his Topeka qualifying with a 4.198 and Mike Neff had some problems only managing a 4.784. Unfortunately for Robert and Courtney, they finished off qualifying 8th and 9th, which meant they would square off in round one on Sunday. John Force slotted himself 12th and Mike Neff qualified 3rd because of his strong 4.063 in the second qualifying session!
A wind of change blew into Topeka Kansas Saturday night. Upon arrival, the temperature was much lower and the wind had shifted from a strong head wind to a strong tail wind. Many of the driver said that these conditions were actually better than Friday’s night session, which is where we saw some monster runs in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. This wasn’t what Ron Douglas or Courtney Force wanted to see. The Traxxas Funny Car is great on hot slippery tracks, and there is one John Force Racing car that runs great on a cold sticky track, the Auto Club Traxxas Funny Car of Robert Hight. In Round one, Courtney had lane choice. She chose the left lane, which proved later on to be problematic for most of the Funny Car teams. Robert and Courtney had a great run but Robert took home the win. Courtney ran a 4.124 against Robert’s 4.050. John Force also had a great run, but his 4.142 wasn’t enough against Johnny Gray’s 4.108. Mike Neff struggled to take home a win over Tony Pedregon in round one. Both drivers had traction issues going down the track, but Mike managed to get control over his Funny Car before Tony did.
Robert Hight and Mike Neff were the only remaining Traxxas John Force Racing drivers left in Funny Car after round one. Mike Neff lost lane choice to Jack Beckman and was forced into left lane. Sure enough he smoked the tires around the 330’ marker as Jack Beckman, having some problems of his own, ran a 4.386 to take the win. Robert Hight also ran the left lane in his race against Cruze Pedregon. Robert Hight lost traction around the 200’ mark and shut the car down early. Cruze was on a lightning quick run, but smashed the 1000’ cone at the end of his run, destroying his body, and handing Robert Hight the win by disqualification! In one of the oddest circumstances, Robert Hight advanced to the semi-final round and kept the hopes alive for Traxxas and John Force Racing.
In his semi-final round, Robert Hight paired up against Ron Capps. Ron, who defeated Hight in the final round in Atlanta, was again on a roll in Topeka. Both drivers left the line together and stayed side-by-side for most of the track. It was around half-track when Robert Hight again lost traction handing the win over to Ron Capps’ 4.120. This would be the first funny car race in 2012 where a Traxxas John Force Racing Driver was not in the final round. Jack Beckman went on to win Funny Car and Dave Grubnic Top Fuel. Both drivers were first time winners in 2012 and are both entered into the Traxxas Nitro Shootout!
As always, Traxxas was in town with their full line of RC vehicles on display. Our support staff was on location to answer any questions and direct fans to our mobile hobby store! Fans were able to drive the Traxxas Slash on our dirt Try-Me track or take the wheel of a Traxxas Rally Car on our on-road Try-Me track. Finally, Traxxas had high-flying Brushless E-Revo, 1/16 E-Revo, and Slash 4X4 demo’s going all weekend. With so much to do, the Traxxas display is always a fan favorite at every NHRA event!
Traxxas and the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series head to Englishtown New Jersey two weeks from now for the Toyota Supernationals. Make sure if you are in the area to grab tickets to come out and watch Courtney Force continue her run towards Rookie of the Year honors in her Traxxas Funny Car. If you can’t make it to the races, check out our Traxxas Racing Facebook page for news, pictures, and round-by-round updates!
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