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Force family sweeps Friday qualifying in Houston

Brittany Force sets both ends of the Houston Raceway Park track record while father, John leads tough Funny Car field.
12 Apr 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
Brittany2

Advance Auto Parts Top Fuel driver Brittany Force led both of Friday's nitro sessions in Houston including a track record 3.661, 332.18 run under the lights on Friday night. In her first season with David Grubnic as crew chief, Force has already claimed the No. 1 spot in Gainesville.

John Force also made a trip to the media center after driving his Peak/Blu Def Camaro to a 3.888 on Friday afternoon. Surprisingly, John's run was not bettered during a robust second session that included a host of three-second runs.

In addition to the E3 Pro Mod series and Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley series, the Houston event is also the first of four exhibition races featuring 220-mph Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars. After two qualifying runs, Chris Powers leads the field with a 6.297 from his Camaro, which features an 818-cid engine. John DeFlorian is a close second with a 6.300 while Elija Morton is third-fastest with his 827-cid Ford Mustang at 6.318.

TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER BRITTANY FORCE “That's just an amazing pass for this Advance Auto Parts team. It took a while to find out stride. In Vegas we almost had it. We were runner-up but ultimately we're looking for a win.

"I've got an incredible team with David Grubnic and Mac Savage and the entire Advance crew. They are the hardest workers I know. They are an awesome team to work with and I'm ready for a win. We knew before Q2 that we could push it. David told me, 'I'm going to surprise you and I'm going to put a hell of a number on the board.' I knew it was good but I had no clue it was a 3.66 until I got out of the car."

FUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER JOHN FORCE: “You look at Houston and it's always had a good race track. Conditions were supposed to be warm but we've had cloud cover all day. Wilkerson was right there, too. I thought the 3.88 was impressive in a Funny Car but my daughter, Brittany, that 3.66 was really impressive.

"I joked coming in here. I talked to [former crew chief] Austin Coil coming in here. I told him, 'I need some help from the good Lord just to keep up with these kids.' We also need to give credit to the Angel family. The money they invested in this track and NHRA was well worth it. My old hot rod is running good. I've got no complaints."

TOP FUEL

Q1 recap: Brittany Force was the low qualifier in Gainesville, and started eliminations from the No. 3 spot last week in Gainesville. Now, the 2017 world champ is off to another solid start in Houston with a 3.738 from her David Grubnic-tuned Advance Auto Parts dragster. Force was one of eight drivers in the 3.7s including reigning champ Steve Torrence who posted a 3.745 and Terry McMillen, who wheeled his Amalie dragster to a 3.756 to score a qualifying bonus point.

Jordan Vandergriff, who sat out the Las Vegas event, was sixth quickest with a 3.769, earning a few bragging rights against his rookie of the year rival, Austin Prock, who finished the session in the No. 8 spot after a 3.796 in the Montana Brands dragster. 

Q2 recap: By the time she ran in the final pair under the lights on Friday at Houston Raceway Park, Brittany Force had been bumped from the No. 1 spot to No. 7 but she quickly regained the pole with a stunning 3.661, 332.18 to claim both ends of the track record in Houston. Force and her Advance Auto Parts team led both sessions to earn six qualifying points on the opening day of the event.

Conditions were right for Top Fuel teams to "get after it" on Friday night and almost all of them were successful with the top eight drivers qualified at 3.754 or quicker. Reigning champ Steve Torrence was second-quickest with a 3.703 while Leah Pritchett made a bit improvement with a 3.720, the third quickest run of the day. Rookie Jordan Vandergriff was also impressive with a 3.746 that is currently good for the No. 8 spot.

FUNNY CAR

Q1 recap: Seven-time Houston winner John Force leads the pack after the first round of Funny Car qualifying at Houston Raceway Park. Force wheeled his Blu Def Camaro to a 3.888 to open a nearly five-hundredths gap over second-ranked Jack Beckman, who debuted a new paint scheme honoring the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Force is coming off a solid qualifiying effort last weekend in Las Vegas where he ran in the threes on three of four runs.

Tim Wilkerson, the low qualifier in Las Vegas, picked up a qualifying bonus point after driving his Levi, Ray, & Shoup Mustang to a 3.941. Wilkerson is just a thousandth of a second in front of Ron Capps' NAPA Dodge and six-thousandths ahead of Phoenix winner Matt Hagan.

Q2 recap: Three second runs were the rule during the second round of Funny Car qualifying but no one ran quicker than John Force's 3.888 from Friday's opener. Tim Wilkerson managed the best run of the round with a 3.895 in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang while J.R. Todd and Matt Hagan also earned bonus points with runs of 3.903 and 3.916, respectively. 

A total of ten drivers have earned a three-second time slip including Cruz Pedregon, who moved to the No. 4 spot after a 3.929 and Blake Alexander, who is ninth with a 3.978.

In the day's most surprising development, two-time Funny Car champion Robert Hight is not in the field after smoking the tires in both qualifying attempts. On his second attempt, Hight smacked the gas pedal on his Auto Club Camaro three or four times in an effort to post a competitive run but his 5.34 best is short of the current 5.16-second bump spot.