By Lee Elder
NORWALK, Ohio (June 23, 2018) – Funny Car driver Courtney Force captured her eighth top qualifying position of the 2018 season as the cars and stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series battled incoming weather during the qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.
Force, Clay Millican (in Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) posted the quickest times in their respective categories. There was only one session Saturday. The weather has not cooperated with the racers this weekend. Friday’s only session was not completed and the Pro Stock cars had only Saturday’s session to establish the starting field.
“I really can’t take credit (for the eight No. 1 starts this year),” Force said. “It’s my team. It’s (crew chiefs) Brian Corradi and Dan Hood and every single one of my guys working on this Advance Auto Parts car.”
Force became the first woman to start at the top of the eliminations ladder eight times in a season. She was already the winningest woman in NHRA Mello Yello series history. Her best pass this weekend came Friday, 3.935 seconds and 327.66 mph. On Saturday, Force dropped a cylinder on her only run of the session and coasted to a 4.087 second pass at 254.18 mph.
“Obviously, we were looking to improve from Friday’s (elapsed time) but unfortunately we dropped a hole down track,” Force explained. “It got a little close to the wall and I had to shut it off but we still were able to stay in the top spot. It wasn’t the run we were looking for but it got down there most of the way. If we’re able to pick up that cylinder and get it to not drop that hole, I think we’ll be okay.”
Millican’s best lap was Saturday’s pass at 3.750 seconds and 332.67 mph.
“Our goal was to be in the top five,” Millican told the media. “Once we did that, that allowed (crew chief) David Grubnic to get after it that last run. We really weren’t expecting a lot different than that. When the car does what we want it to do it makes everyone on the team pretty confident about what’s going on.”
Coughlin has been hot recently. He has won twice in the last three events. His numbers, 6.612 seconds and 208.46 mph, were remarkable, given the conditions.
“The forecast looks good for tomorrow and we’d love nothing more than to fine tune over four rounds tomorrow,” Coughlin stated. “This is our first number one of the ’18 season which feels fantastic.”
Smith was clocked at 6.866 seconds and 195.39 mph Friday and that pass was good enough to keep him at the top of the ladder for Sunday’s first round.
“We weren’t planning on running this bike this year,” Smith said. “We pulled it out at Charlotte, it’s been a top three bike ever since. We’ve even won a race. I can’t say enough to my guys since we weren’t planning on this.”
Eliminations begin Sunday morning at 11:00 Eastern Time.