Mother Nature has a way of making things complicated. Today the final day of qualifying for the 58th annual Mac Tools US Nationals was washed out and rookie driver Courtney Force secured the first No. 1 qualifier of her young career at the most prestigious event of the NHRA Full Throttle Series. Force’s time of 4.049 seconds, which she ran last night before the weather turned against the world’s fastest motorsport series was certified today when the field was set.
“It’s awesome. I mean, just getting the No. 1 spot let alone with the career-best of a 4.049, it couldn’t have been at a better place. Being that it’s at Indy is the best thing possible. It’s just crazy. I’m so excited for my team. We’ve a great car and we showed that last night running the 4.04 and getting the top speed track record with a 317 mph run. It’s huge for us,” said Force. “Our Traxxas Ford Mustang has been running good all season long. We’ve just been trying to keep it consistent and keep it going and stay focused. But when we had a good run yesterday and we were in the field we thought why not go out and see what our car is capable of doing and just push it to the limits and we really showed what we could do.”
As the rain fell all morning and into the afternoon the NHRA announced the fields would be set and racing would begin at 11 a.m. on Monday.
“Tomorrow I’m sure it’s going to be completely different conditions. Hopefully it will be a lot dryer. Hopefully the rain will stop and hopefully we can get (some runs) down the track. Who knows? I don’t know if it’s supposed to be sunny out here or not, but if it’s overcast and just cool, you’ll be seeing some fast race cars. It’ll be a good race and definitely an exciting one being that it is Indy. People are going to continue to run in the 0’s I think,” added Force.
“Honestly it’s hard to say when you go out and you’re No. 1 qualifier what is going to happen on race day. Everything changes on race day. It doesn’t matter where you’re qualified. Obviously, I was in the No. 14 spot and won a race, so it’s definitely cool for today and to remember that I was No. 1 at Indy, but everything changes and I really hope I’ll be able to say I was able to sneak that Wally home from Indy.”
Courtney became just the 11th women to qualify in the top spot at an NHRA Full Throttle event. She joins Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the only No. 1 female qualifiers at the Mac Tools US Nationals in the four professional categories. The first time John Force entered the Mac Tools US Nationals he DNQed in 1979.
Going into race day the front-runner for the Automobile Club Road to the Future Award will face fellow rookie Blake Alexander for the first time. Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang picked up qualifying bonus points in all three sessions that were contested.
As high as the emotions were riding in the Traxxas Ford Mustang pit area, just two trailers over at teammate Robert Hight’s Auto Club pit area there was frustration and a hint of hopefulness. For the first time in the two-time Mac Tools US Nationals winner’s career he was on the outside of the qualified field for the biggest race of the season. Hight in his on-camera comments with ESPN2 took responsibility for his team’s position but also hoped all was not completely lost.
“This isn’t much fun. The truth is we had three shots and we didn’t get it done. I do hope that if it rains tomorrow then the NHRA should open up the field and let us qualify next Saturday. That would really help out this AAA Ford Mustang team. I am not trying to be a baby. I know they are trying to get the Traxxas Shootout in and we are excited to have a shot at that $100,000. If tomorrow is a wash out then I hope to get a chance to get back in the show next week,” said Hight, the No. 2 qualifier for the Traxxas Shootout
“We are going to get this Ford Mustang Funny Car back to where it needs to without a doubt for the Countdown. We will also be ready for the Traxxas Shootout. I still think we can win this thing and we will keep working. The bright side is this didn’t happen in the Countdown. We are going to fix this Ford Mustang. We are in the Countdown solid.”
The Funny Car Traxxas Nitro Shootout has been postponed and the NHRA will announce plans to complete the $100,000 bonus race within a race at a later date. All four John Force Racing Mustangs have qualified for the eight car field. On Saturday night Spencer Massey drove his FRAM Top Fuel dragster to the Traxxas Nitro Shootout win over Steve Torrence.
While Courtney will be trying to win her first Mac Tools US Nationals, John Force and Mike Neff will be locked in an unfortunate JFR vs. JFR first round race. Force as the No. 7 qualifier will have lane choice over tuner/driver Neff, the No. 10 qualifier. While both Ford Mustangs carry the familiar Castrol logos and each driver has won the Mac Tools US Nationals in the past, Force (1993, 1996, 1998, and 2002) and Neff last year it will be a test of wills to see who goes onto the next round.
“My mindset is you have to get up for the race tomorrow. It is ‘go for it time’ and we need to win every round. I have mixed emotions. Right now one of my main guys is out of the show, Robert Hight and the Auto Club Mustang. I have to race a teammate Mike Neff in the first round. If we rain out then maybe we can come back next weekend and get Robert in the show and we can shuffle the field a little bit. I am proud that Courtney is No. 1 at the Mac Tools US Nationals. I’ll get in the Countdown. Jimmy Prock will get that Auto Club Mustang figured out,” said John Force, a four-time Mac Tools US Nationals winner.