John Force isn't ready to talk about what he has accomplished in the past as he says that's for those who are ready to say that they are done. Force is not done yet and he made that clear on the track in Charlotte.
Force and the PEAK / BlueDEF PLATINUM Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car are set the tone Friday at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a record setting provisional No. 1 qualifying run.
The defending event winner, Force opened qualifying at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a statement pass of 3.858-seconds at 333.25 mph in his PEAK / BlueDEF Chevy that earned him three bonus points for being quickest of the session. Already in the No. 1 spot, Force and his Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi tuned Camaro solidified their position setting both ends of the track record with a 3.850-second pass at 334.24 mph. Force takes the track record elapsed time from daughter Courtney Force who went 3.851-seconds in April 2017.
“We’re always looking for consistency and we had that today. We ran that 3.85 and I went back and spoke to crew chief Daniel Hood, my son-in-law, and I said, ‘I kind of thought you were going to calm this down and see what it can do and get us in the show?’ And he said, ‘Well I did calm it down but it just ran.’ He backed it down even more in that second session but the conditions were good and it went even quicker,” said Force. “At least we’re finding something and I’m excited for him. My grandsons, Jacob and Noah, are home watching with my daughter, Ashley, and you know, as drivers, we get all the pats on the back but Danny and Tim Fabrisi, they work hard and they had this BlueDEF Chevy straight as an arrow. I was waiting, thinking it might get loose somewhere and move around, but boy, it stuck. That Chevy has really got some good aerodynamics. That Camaro is really good. It doesn’t move around much. It was like power steering. I didn’t have to do anything, I let it take me. And that’s when it’s at its best.”
After a strong showing last weekend at the NHRA SpringNationals in Houston, third year pro Justin Ashley started the weekend off on the right foot at the Circle K Four-Wide Nationals in search of his first four-wide win at the unique event. Ashley powered his Mike Green tuned Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Shot to the No. 1 provisional position in the first day of qualifying. Ashley is solidly in third place in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel point standings five races into the season.
"We obviously went to the top spot in Q1, but we felt relatively comfortable because we knew we ran that in Q1 so we can get after it in Q2. We felt like at the very least we were solidly in the show, so we felt good about that. We looked at the sheet, we knew Steve Torrence was up first pair, so we knew that No. 1 qualifier should last about a pair, and, sure enough, it did. But you know, we had our shot. And we took it and came out on top for today.
"We've been fortunate to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. But the one thing that's kind of eluded us so far is that No. 1 qualifier. It's obviously great to be able to qualify No. 1, but it's really about positioning yourself well for raceday. That was the objective to come out here today and be able to accomplish that. And Mike Green Tommy DeLago did a fantastic job. And it was a fun ride."
The 2020 Rookie of the Year collected his third career victory at the season opening Winternationals and has added an additional semifinal finish to his ledger prior to the runner-up finish in Houston. Consistent qualifying times have put the young driver in a great position to continue his success.
While the four-wide format has not been kind to Ashley he has enjoyed success at zMax Dragway including two semifinal finishes at the Fall national event. Ashley made his professional debut at the track located just 25 minutes from downtown Charlotte in 2019 qualifying No. 12 and then beating Mike Salinas and Auston Prock before losing a close semifinal race to eventual world champion Steve Torrence.
Pro Stock has the weekend off so many eyes are on the Pro Stock Motorcycles racing in their 3rd event of the season. Steve Johnson had to make the most of his first pass and did exactly that running 6.767 at 198.7 mph.
The early qualifying results in Pro Stock Motorcycle didn’t look much different than last week’s event in Houston with Steve Johnson taking the top spot. Johnson, who dominated the Houston event, currently holds the top spot over Angelle Sampey, who also ran 6.767, but at a slightly slower speed. Johnson got the top spot and the bonus points that accompany it, thanks to a 198.70 top speed to Sampey’s 196.19 effort.
After Johnson did his burnout before his Q2 pass, an unusual amount of smoke began to billow from underneath the seat. Johnson seemed unaware as he staged the bike but after his crew pointed out the smoke he quickly pulled it back to address the problem without taking a run.
"In Q2 we had a problem. The engine guy hasn't slept and forgot to tighten the bolts on top of the engine," said Johnson, who admits he's the "engine guy" he's referring to. "I can't believe we didn't oil the track. Mistakes happen. It was loose in round one but we got down the track.
"The bike was good and if I rode it better we'd have run faster. These bikes are very challenging to ride. Now, in all fairness a 7.0 bike isn't the same as a 6.7 bike but we're definitely in a new realm. A rider has to do an incredible job because there is a lot going on in six and a half seconds. You've got to ride it perfectly."
Sampey’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec made a pair of 6.7-second runs including a 6.779 on his Vance & Hines Suzuki for the third spot while Jimmy Underdahl, also found the 6.7s with a 6.793 on his Suzuki, which is tune by Matt Smith with the help of Underdahl’s father, Greg, and Gary Stoffer.
Gainesville winner Karen Stoffer ran 6.813 on her first run, but her second qualifying pass is the one everyone in Charlotte is talking about. Stoffer was well past the half-track mark when she suffered a near-disaster when the fairing on her Big St. Charles Suzuki came lose, upsetting the bike’s aerodynamics. The front of the bike became airborne, but Stoffer was able to quickly get it calmed down and got stopped without further incident.
Another noteworthy performance was turned in by Angie Smith. The North Carolina native is anxious to move past last week’s Houston event where her Denso Buell broke before he first round. Smith made a strong first impression at 6.825 seconds and also posted what promises to be the first of many 200-mph speeds with a 200.44 blast from her Denso Buell.
Qualifying at the Circle K NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway continues Saturday with sessions at sessions at 1:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Eliminations are slated to begin Sunday at noon. For television coverage, tune into FOX Sports 1 (FS1) at 11 a.m. ET for on Sunday for qualifying and, for eliminations, Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
Friday recap by NHRA National Dragster staff:
Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Friday gallery by NHRA National Dragster staff:
Saturday preview by Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor: