Closing out the three-race Western Swing, Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster team ran the quickest pass of the weekend during Sunday eliminations at the DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. Force and Top Fuel teammate Austin Prock with the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team, as well as Robert Hight in the Cornwell Tools/ AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS, had quarterfinal exits while John Force with the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS went out in the first round.
The John Force Racing teams left their mark on the 2023 NHRA Western Swing. The four-car team swept the No. 1 qualifying positions in what will be the final Western Swing of its kind. With the Denver event going away, Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac team earned the final No. 1 qualifier for the Mile-High Nationals setting the track speed record at 337.33 mph. In Seattle, John Force returned to the site of his 150th win to take the No. 1 spot at the Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals and this weekend at the Sonoma Nationals Austin Prock raced to his second career No. 1.
Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac team made it out of the first round against Clay Millican with the quickest run of the weekend at 3.703 seconds and 334.57 mph, bettering Millican’s 3.786 at 301.07. The win put her against three-time champion Antron Brown in the quarterfinals. The Flav-R-Pac dragster would run into tire smoke almost immediately to cross the finish line at only 6.321 and 132.10 to Brown’s 4.034 at 277.03.
“We closed out the final race of the Western Swing here in Sonoma. John Force Racing swept No. 1 qualifiers, which is impressive. I was No. 1 in Denver, my dad was No. 1 in Seattle, and Austin was No. 1 here in Sonoma,” Force said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done today, and we weren’t able to defend the win from last year. We got beat in the second round, but we moved up one in the points to third and we have a week off to get this car figured out before we go to the next one in Topeka, Kansas.”
Event No. 1 qualifier Austin Prock and the Montana Brand team earned themselves a bye in the first round of eliminations. With the free pass, Prock laid down a 3.724 at 330.72 mph, but it wouldn’t be enough for lane choice over his second-round opponent, Justin Ashley. Lined up in the right lane, Prock would lay down a solid 3.761 pass at 329.10 that, against anyone else in the round, would have won. Unfortunately, Ashley had the quickest pass of the quarterfinals at 3.740 and 327.03 to take the win.
“Definitely not the Sunday this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team thought we’d have. We were really confident heading into today and after a good run in the first round bye we felt good. It was another wrong place at the wrong time situation, ran into it in Seattle against Brittany in the first round and again today against Justin Ashley in the quarterfinals. Would have beat anyone else that round. That’s drag racing. It’s sucks but we’ll be back at it in a week and a half, and I’ll be chomping at the bit to get back in this hot rod. I’m proud of this team and the work they’re putting in. We’re due for another one; it’s coming.”
To open eliminations, Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools Chevy picked up a first-round victory over boss John Force. Hight would handle his Camaro to a clean 3.904-second run at 331.53 mph while Force smoked the tires for a 4.845 at 163.77. In the second round, Force would line up against reigning world champion Ron Capps. Capps would have the advantage with a 4.018 pass at 316.90 to defeat Hight and the Cornwell Tools Chevy’s 4.577 at 190.48 after experiencing tire smoke.
“It was a tough weekend. Didn’t qualify great, but the track was difficult. Glad NHRA was able to get it evened out today but disappointed we weren’t able to take advantage of it. Jimmy Prock and this Cornwell Tools team are working hard. It’ll come. We just need to keep putting the work in and get that consistency. We’ve got several races before the Countdown and a lot can happen in those races. We’ll just have to see,” Hight said. “It was a great crowd out here. This is my hometown track so it was nice to have family here; just sorry we couldn’t get the job done.”
Qualified No. 11, John Force and the PEAK Chevy had an unfortunate match-up with teammate Robert Hight in the first round. The PEAK Camaro would run into tire smoke for only a 4.845-second pass at 163.77 mph, coming up short to Hight/s 3.904 at 163.77.
“Never ideal to be racing Robert in the other lane unless it’s in the finals. It’s disappointing but at least it guaranteed one of us would be in the second round,” Force said. “Been a challenging couple of races but we’ll be okay. Just a couple of races left until the Countdown, so we’ll move on to the next one and hope for better.”
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season continues with the Menards NHRA Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas August 11-13.