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Force family stays on top, but the Houston fields get a lot closer

Brittany and John Force earn a pair of green hats as the top qualifiers at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals in Houston,
13 Apr 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
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Brittany Force's track record 3.661 from Friday night held up for the top spot in Top Fuel while father, John's 3.888 also survived an onslaught in the Funny Car class. However, that doesn't mean there weren't a lot of great runs on Saturday in Houston.

Brittany will start No. 1 for the second time in five events this season and the 12th time in her career. On Saturday, the 2017 world champ drove to a best of 3.716 to prepare for Sunday's eliminations. Steve Torrence and Leah Pritchett made the best runs of the day at 3.705 and 3.709, respectively.

John Force sits atop the qualifying order in Funny Car for the first time since the 2017 Gatornationals after no one could touch his 3.888 run from Friday night. Again, there were several challengers including Ron Capps, who powered to a 3.893 and Tim Wilkerson, who was a tick behind with a 3.895. Force has now been the low qualifier 156 times in his career.

TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER BRITTANY FORCE: “We are coming in strong this weekend. We had a good weekend in Las Vegas with a runner-up We won this [Houston race] last year. We set both ends of the track record. That was a pretty incredible run by David Grubnic, Mac Savage and the entire Advance Auto Parts team."

"We struggled in Q3 but overall we've had some good runs and we're looking for a long day tomorrow. You'll see some fast numbers on the board tomorrow. Courtney and I have been No. 1 qualifier, and I've won with Robert [Hight] before but I haven't done anything with my dad yet. This is a father-daughter year and we keep saying we want to get a Top Fuel car and a Funny Car in the winner's circle. That's our goal."

FUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER JOHN FORCE: “In my career I've done a lot of things and won a lot of specialty racing but anytime this sport brings me together with my family, it's special. To have a moment that her and I can share with each other is great.

As I've raced with Ashley and Courtney, and now Brittany we've become closer. This will give me a moment of mostly being proud of her. There wont be a party tonight. We've got a race to win tomorow. I've earned a lot of these hats; not so many lately, but these guys are really doing a great job to give me a hot rod that runs like that. Tomorrow we've got to get after this thing."

TOP FUEL

Q3 recap: Fifteen of the 17 Top Fuel dragsters in Houston have run 3.83 or quicker, making the Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals one of the most competitive fields in this or any other year. as expected, Brittany Force held on to the top spot with Friday's record-setting 3.661 run in her Advance Auto Parts dragster and it takes a 3.746 just to make the top half of the field.

During Saturday's third session, Steve Torrence made the best run of the round with a 3.735 to earn three bonus points and Antron Brown was close behind with a 3.753 while Clay Millican was third-quickest with a 3.756. Even though Brown and Millican improved, their runs were not enough to land a coveted top-half starting spot.

Q4 recap: There were a half-dozen drivers in Top Fuel who made their best run in the final qualifying session including Steve Torrence, but none of them could touch Brittany Force's 3.661 best.

Torrence drove to a 3.705 to claim three bonus points and the reigning champ was followed by Leah Pritchett with a 3.709 and Force, who continued her string of solid runs with a 3.716. Clay Millican, Billy Torrence, Jordan Vandergriff, Austin Prock, and Las Vegas winner Mike Salinas also improved.

The top half of the field is as competitive as any in the sport's history with the top eight qualifiers all running 3.727 or quicker.

The shuffling of the ladder produced some interesting Sunday match-ups but none more intriguing than the looming round one battle between rookie of the year contenders Vandergriff and Prock, who will take their ongoing war of words from the internet to the race track for the first time.

FUNNY CAR

Q3 recap: Robert Hight breathed a sigh of relief after powering to a 3.920 to put his Auto Club Camaro into the Houston Funny Car field. Hight had a lot to think about on Friday night when he left Houston Raceway Park and was not one of the 16 qualifiers. With a threat of rain looming on Saturday, he was faced with the very real possibility of his first DNQ since the fall Las Vegas race in 2010. Hight moved into the top half of the field and also secured ?? bonus points.

John Force's 3.888 run from Friday afternoon remained the gold standard in Funny Car but a handful of drivers were able to come close in spite of Saturday's conditions, which were much more warm and humid than Friday. World champ and Las Vegas champion J.R. Todd was quickest with a confidence-inspiring 3.916, Hight finished second, while Ron Capps also made a solid run with a 3.924 in his NAPA Dodge.

Q4 recap: Ron Capps made the best run of the final Funny Car session with a 3.893, but it wasn't enough to unseat John Force from the top spot. Following an hour-long rain delay, Capps earned three bonus points for his NAPA Dodge while Robert Hight also improved with a 3.908 and J.R. Todd also posted a top three qualifying time with a 3.914.

After the run, Capps was quick to credit the NHRA Safety Safari for thier quick work in drying and prepping the track which allowed for ten runs in the three-second zone.

After all four runs, there are 11 cars in the threes and it takes a 3.932 to get into the top half of the field and earn lane choice for tomorrow's opening round of eliminations.