John Force (Photo Credit: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery)

NHRA: John Force sets best career ET in qualifying at Gainesville

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John Force has set a career-best elapsed time record in provisional qualifying for this weekend’s NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville.

The John Force Racing team release is below:

Sixteen-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion John Force found his pot of gold Friday at Gainesville Raceway, earning the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot for the 48th NHRA Gatornationals with a career-best elapsed time in his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.

Force’s pass of 3.832 seconds (a track record) at 333.25 mph came a week after Force and John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight swapped crews. Crew chief Mike Neff and co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch moved from Hight’s team to Force’s, while crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham switched to Hight’s team.

The result? Force was No. 1 after two qualifying sessions Friday, while Hight – the reigning Gatornationals winner in Funny Car – was No. 2 with a pass of 3.844 seconds at 331.61 mph with the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet. And for good measure, Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force was No. 4 with a run of 3.860 seconds at 333.25 mph.

“It really feels good,” John Force said. “The ol’ hot rod went down the race track. We made a lot of changes in the last few weeks, from working on the chassis on the Top Fuel dragster, and Robert Hight and I decided to swap teams.

“We made changes, and people said, ‘Why?’ I was walking through my shop and got all emotional because it’s the 10th anniversary of Eric Medlen’s (death). We know how much we all loved him.

“I was looking at all these pictures and all these things that mattered, and all of a sudden my brain popped, and it said, ‘You’ve got to change.’ You’ve got to put Robert back with Jimmy Prock, where he won the championship with Auto Club. You’ve got to put me back with Neff, where I won the championship, back with Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch, where I won four races last year. It all just made sense.”

If John Force holds on to the No. 1 spot through the final two qualifying sessions Saturday, it would be the 155th of his brilliant career.

Force and Hight were quick out of the box in Q1, with Force sitting No. 2 and Hight No. 4. But they were even quicker in the second session.

“There is no magic,” Force said. “It’s getting the minds right and hearing the music, and the boys heard the music. We’ll be humming in the morning.”

Each of the four JFR drivers were in the top four Friday, including Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster driver and defending Gatornationals winner Brittany Force, who posted a top pass of 3.719 seconds at 326.79 mph.

Qualifying continues Saturday, with elimination rounds scheduled for Sunday.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”