(07/09/12) The NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals marked the halfway point of the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Season. Fresh off a final round appearance last week in Chicago, Traxxas and John Force Racing headed to Norwalk Ohio this past weekend, July 5th-8th, and picked up right where they left off! Not only did a Traxxas John Force Racing Funny Car end up in the final round, it took home the win and kept momentum rolling just before the “Western Swing” kicks off in just a few weeks!
The weather and track conditions in Norwalk were absolutely horrid on Friday. It got so bad that teams were perfectly content with simply getting their car to make a full 1000’ pass let alone run a quick number. John Force began the first qualifying session for the JFR team by running a 4.312 at 265.53 mph. Courtney Force took to the track next, but only ran a 5.190 at 130.45 mph after her Traxxas Funny Car lost its handle on the track around 500’ mark. Mike Neff launched his Funny Car into the number two position when he ran a 4.281 at 284.81 mph. Robert Hight had difficulties similar to those of Courtney’s pass. He went up in smoke right around the 1/8th mile marker, but still ran a 4.337 at 253.85 mph.
Despite the sun setting in the Ohio area, the weather conditions were still less than desirable for race fans and teams alike going into the second qualifying session. Fans were, however, treated to a father daughter match up between Courtney and John Force, both of which made great side-by-side runs! Courtney had the better of the two times lighting up the scoreboard with a 4.140 at 301.81 mph. John was just behind her with his 4.196 at 300.40 mph. This moved both John and Courtney up in the qualifying chart and secured them a spot going into Saturday. Robert Hight struggled down the track in his Funny Car, losing grip early on, and only running a 5.208 at 146.85 mph. Mike Neff hit the setup with his Funny Car and ran a 4.112 at 309.42 mph, stealing the number one spot in Funny Car Friday night!
Unfortunately, performance would fall back off on Saturday as the heat wave that the Ohio area experienced the day before lingered on. Robert Hight failed to make it past the 660’ mark again when his second stage of clutches blew the tires off his Funny Car. He did lay down a time of 4.668 at 191.97 mph, which would keep him in the show for the time being. John Force dropped a cylinder during his first pass of the day, limping through the traps at 277.15 mph clocking an E.T. of 4.428. Courtney Force was on a great run until her Traxxas Mustang got to be a bit too much to handle at the top end of the track. She jumped of the throttle, saved the car, and ran a 4.373 at 239.61 mph. Mike Neff finished off the round of Funny Car by running a 4.344 at 285.53 mph.
The stakes were high for the final session of qualifying in Funny Car. Although Robert Hight was currently qualified in the show, he was sitting uncomfortably close to being bumped out in the last session. After just the second pair of cars went down the track, he found himself on the outside looking in. During his pass he dropped a few cylinders, but managed to qualify back into the race running a 4.445 at 271.24 mph. He sat on the bump for the remainder of the session, but when all was said and done, Robert Hight would race on Sunday. John Force followed a few pairs later running a 4.342 at 283.49 mph. Courtney Force’s run was plagued by a mechanical malfunction. Her parachutes deployed at 700’ for no apparent reason, but she still ran a 4.940 at 138.71 mph. Mike Neff laid down yet another solid pass on a hot slippery track. He clocked a 4.349 at 284.87 mph. Although none of the Traxxas John Force Racing drivers improved their overall qualifying standing after the final session, all four made it into the race on Sunday. Neff would start 2nd, C. Force 6th, J. Force 9th, and Robert Hight 16th.
The temperatures dropped a bit for Sunday’s race, throwing yet another wrench into each crew chief’s setup. They had spent all weekend trying to get down a track with bad air and a hot surface. Now they had good conditions to work with for round one of eliminations. Robert Hight caught a lucky break in round one when the number one qualifier Johnny Gray’s parachutes fell out during his burnout. This automatically handed the win to Hight, who struggled to run a 5.431 at 144.86 mph. Mike Neff also caught a lucky break against Bob Bode. Neff appeared to blow his supercharger around the 800’ mark. Bode had problems early on in his run coming up just short at the stripe. The scoreboards read Mike Neff 4.289 at 223.39 mph for the win against Bob Bode’s 5.206 at 234.45 mph. Third up to bat for Traxxas and JFR was Courtney Force. Courtney fell way behind Todd Lesenko early on in the run; luckily Todd had problems around the 330’ mark allowing Courtney to slip by for the win. She ran a 4.166 at 304.80 mph to Todd’s 5.023 at 166.64 mph. That left only John Force, who ended up being the only Traxxas JFR car to suffer a loss in the first round. John went up in smoke almost instantly allowing Tim Wilkerson to snake past him for the win. John’s 7.154 was no match for Wilkerson’s 4.564.
Track conditions during the second round remained fairly close to those of the first round of competition. During his run, Robert Hight got a huge advantage off the starting line, but again had problems getting down the track. Jimmy Prock told reporters that they were having serious clutch issues and couldn’t find the problem before that run. His Funny Car didn’t make it 200’ before it lost grip and fell to Tim Wilkerson’s 4.191 at 297.09 mph. Courtney Force faced off against Cruz Pedregon. Courtney’s Traxxas Funny Car ran a 4.220 to Cruz’s 4.229 but she suffered a holeshot loss as Cruz had a .068 advantage off the stripe. The only remaining hope for Traxxas and John Force Racing fell into the hands of Mike Neff. Neff was given the task of taking down last week’s winner, Jeff Arend, who beat teammate Courtney Force in the final just one week before. Mike had a great handle of the track all weekend and round two was no different. He ran a 4.229 at 286.50 mph. Arend spun around the 330’ marker and had no chance running a 5.452 at 145.16 mph.
In the semi-final round Neff was set to race Cruze Pedregon. Even though temperatures were creeping back up to the levels that they were at the previous two days, they were no sweat for Mike Neff. He laid down a 4.281 at 287.90 mph versus Cruze’s 5.645 at 131.45 mph. That win put not only Traxxas and John Force Racing in a final for the second week in a row, but it also stuck Mike Neff in the final at Norwalk for the second consecutive year in a row! It wouldn’t be easy, as Mike would have to take down another driver/crew chief, Tim Wilkerson. Wilkerson, the 2010 Norwalk winner, got a slight advantage at the start, but Neff walked away from him after that. He took home the win by .021 at the stripe running a 4.217 to Tim’s 4.244. Mike's win in Norwalk marked his second of the 2012 season, fourth final of the season, and second Norwalk Funny Car win in a row!
As with every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Event, Traxxas was on-site with our full line of RC vehicles, support staff, and mobile hobby store. Fans were able to drive a Traxxas Slash and watch our professional RC drivers demonstrate the agility, power, and strength of our Traxxas vehicles. Remember that since both Top Fuel and Funny Car had repeat winners, the Traxxas Nitro Shootout standings stay the same for another race. Moving forward into the western swing, Traxxas will keep you updated on Traxxas.com, Facebook.com/TraxxasRacing, and on the Traxxas Racing Twitter page. We look forward to seeing you at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver Colorado, July 20th-22nd!
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