With Auto Club Finals No. 1 qualifier, Monster Energy driver Brittany Force ready to battle for Top Fuel title

Courtney qualifies #3, John at #8 and Hight 15th 

POMONA, CA – Monster Energy driver Brittany Force is on the cusp of an historic achievement after speeding to the No. 1 qualifying spot for the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway.

Force could become the first woman since Shirley Muldowney to win the Top Fuel championship, and she could join her father, John, as title winners in the family.

Force cut Steve Torrence’s points lead to nine after a stellar qualifying effort, earning eight bonus points and the No. 1 spot. With 30 points awarded per round win, the title will be determined Sunday.

“I am a little overwhelmed right now. There is a lot going through my head,” Force said. “I want Sunday morning to be here. I just want to climb in my car and get ready. My team is going to throw down all day long. We want that No. 1 spot, and we are going to fight for it.”

The championship is still a three-driver battle, however, both Force and Torrence could eliminate third-place Doug Kalitta by advancing to the semifinals. If Force and Torrence fall out in the first round, Kalitta would have to win in the semifinals, and if Force and Torrence lose in the second round, Kalitta would have to win the race overall.

“We all want the same thing tomorrow,” Force said. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. But if we get there, if we accomplish that, it’ll all be worth it.”

Force earned the No. 1 spot with a track-record run of 3.667 seconds at 330.31 mph. It’s her second of the season and eighth of her career. Force was also quickest in the final round, 3.698 seconds at 327.03 mph, to pile up qualifying bonus points.

“We had two good runs, but this is a difficult track,” Force said. “Tomorrow, I’m hoping conditions will be fairly similar. I have a great team behind me, and that’s what is most important. I have Alan Johnson, Brian Husen, and I have all the confidence in them. I know we’ll figure it out, and I know we’ll be good tomorrow.”

Force squares off against No. 16 qualifier Terry Haddock in the first round, as Haddock’s best run was 3.874 at 307.51 mph. Torrence is on the same side of the ladder as Force, and they could meet in the semifinals.

Muldowney, a three-time champion, last won the Top Fuel title in 1982. The most recent female champion in an NHRA professional category was Erica Enders, who won the Pro Stock titles in 2014 and 2015.

John Force won 16 championships in Funny Car, and Brittany Force would love to join her dad as an NHRA champ.

But she’s focused on one round at a time.

“Right now, there’s so much going on, there’s so much coming at us, I’m just trying to keep my focus in one place,” Force said. “That’s in my race car.

Practice makes perfect? Auto Club driver Robert Hight ready fight for Funny Car title

POMONA, CA – If practice indeed makes perfect, Robert Hight and his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team will be good to go for the Auto Club Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway.

The famed Pomona track proved recalcitrant to the Funny Car points leader through qualifying, and Hight and his team had to sweat through a final-qualifying session pass to secure a spot in the Auto Clun Finals field.

Hight was outside the top 16 heading into Q4, but his Chevrolet Camaro SS made a pass of 4.132 seconds at 236.80 mph – with Hight pedaling – to snare the No. 15 spot.

Now, Hight turns his focus to the championship battle, as he carries an eight-point lead into race day.

“We have a car that can win this thing,” Hight said. “It’s not like we’re lost. We just have to adjust to it and drive good. The stress and everything today is kind of practice for the stress I’m going to have tomorrow, and we got through it. We’ll get through tomorrow, too.”

Hight has two victories during the Countdown to the Championship, taking over the points lead from Ron Capps in the most recent race, in Las Vegas. But Hight and his team struggled in qualifying, as many Funny Car teams did.

But Hight continues to have faith in crew chief Jimmy Prock, co-crew chief Chris Cunningham and his entire team.

“In some ways, you have to forget about where we’re qualified but learn,” Hight said. “We’re learning from each run. It’s going further down the track every run. For whatever reason, the combination we have is very tricky here.”

Hight and Capps should be the drivers battling for the title, and they could meet for a winner-take-all round in the semifinals. Whichever driver goes further Sunday will win the title. If they both fall in the first round, that opens the door for John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force, who would then need to win the race to win the title.

“We live to see another day, man,” Hight said. “We’re in the show; anything can happen. I don’t think lane choice matters. We just have to get our act together tomorrow and race.”

Hight squares off against No. 2 qualifier Tim Wilkerson in the first round. Wilkerson’s best pass was 3.863 seconds at 331.69 mph.

Final eliminations are slated for 11 a.m. Pacific Sunday. Fox Sports 1 will be live for three hours, beginning at 1 p.m. Pacific.

Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force takes Taylor Swift to No. 3 qualifying spot at Pomona

POMONA, CA – Courtney Force secured the No. 3 qualifying position for the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season finale, the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, with two of the best Funny Car passes of the weekend.

Driving the specially-wrapped car Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS featuring musical sensation Taylor Swift and her newest album, reputation, Force will stand on her second pass from Friday’s second qualifying session, a 3.871-second run at 334.57 mph. That netted her the No. 2 position for much of the rest of qualifying, only to be bumped down a position late in the final session.

She also ran a similar pass of 3.873 seconds at 331.61 mph in the heat of the day, or the third round Saturday afternoon. With her efforts, Force will race No. 14 Jeff Diehl, whose best pass was 4.107 seconds at 296.31 mph.

“I’m really proud of my Advance Auto Parts guys,” said Force, who went to the finals in February’s NHRA Winternationals. “This is a huge weekend. It’s our final race (of the season), it’s a home track for me. I’m really excited to be here. Not only are we still going after that championship, we’re running a Taylor Swift reputation Funny Car this weekend for Big Machine Records and for Advance Auto Parts. To finish off qualifying with seven bonus points, really staying after it, and to qualify in the No. 3 spot is a great way to go into our final race weekend.”

Force is mathematically still eligible to win the title, but she’ll have to win the race, and those in front of her – including teammate and points leader Robert Hight – would have to bow out in the first round.

“We just have to go rounds and see what happens,” Force said. “Our Chevy Camaro is going after the championship.”

PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil driver John Force qualifies in top half for Auto Club NHRA Finals

POMONA, CA – John Force took the No. 8 qualifying position for Sunday’s NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season finale, the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Force’s best pass came Saturday afternoon, as he raced down his home track at 3.935 seconds at 327.51, two hundredths of a second quicker than his first-round run of 3.955 seconds at 316.60 mph. The means Force and the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS will meet J.R. Todd in the first round of eliminations. Todd’s best run was 3.946 seconds at 325.53 seconds.

“I look at the overall picture,” Force said. “The PEAK car went down the race track. My car is not where I want it to be, but in the big picture I have two cars running for titles with Brittany (Force) in Top Fuel with Monster Energy, Robert (Hight) in Funny Car with Auto Club, and that’s important to me as a car owner. And Courtney (Force) with Advance Auto Parts and Chevrolet is still in the (Funny Car) running.”

The all-time leader in Funny Car victories at Pomona with 16, Force would like to end the same way he started it – going rounds. The 16-time Funny Car champ made it to the semifinals of the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, falling just short of winning that matchup to daughter Courtney Force.

“We’re in the hunt, and I’m not guaranteeing we’re going to win, but we’re going down swinging,” Force said. “When this race is over, we’ll start getting ready for next year right away.

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