Birthday girl Brittany Force roars to 4th quickest run in NHRA history; Kalitta hits 330.55 mph

(Photos courtesy NHRA)

JOLIET, Illinois — During Thursday’s pre-race media day, several NHRA drivers promised that speeds would be record-setting high and elapsed times also record-setting low in this weekend’s K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

They weren’t kidding, based upon Friday’s two rounds of qualifying. A total of five Route 66 track records fell, with the promise that some new national records may be in the offing during Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying or during Sunday’s four rounds of final eliminations.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force gave herself a very memorable 30th birthday present, annihilating the track mark with a run of 3.692 seconds — the fourth-quickest pass in Top Fuel history — at 325.69 mph.

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“I was shocked that we ran that just because it was such a big jump from our first run,” Force said. “Absolutely the best birthday present ever. It couldn’t have made this day any better.”

MORE: 15-time champ Alan Johnson paying quick dividends for Brittany Force

MORE: Is 2016 finally going to be Doug Kalitta’s year?

The third of four daughters of 16-time Funny Car champion John Force now owns two of the four quickest runs in Top Fuel history: She ran a national record 3.676 second effort in May at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas.

This has definitely been a breakout season for the birthday girl, who has already been tuned to two wins — and potentially a third on Sunday — by legendary tuner and 15-time champion team owner Alan Johnson.

Meanwhile, reigning points leader Doug Kalitta set a Top Fuel track speed record with a pass of 330.55 mph.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps set a track ET mark (3.888 seconds), while Tim Wilkerson roared to a track speed record of 330.23 mph. In addition, there were four other drivers that ran 3.95 seconds or under, while former Funny Car champ Matt Hagan also exceeded 330 mph (330.07 mph), followed by Courtney Force (328.06).

“Man I am loving this right now, it is so much fun,” said Capps, the series points leader. “I am so proud of [crew chief] Rahn Tobler and what we’ve done. When we left Topeka we were close, but Rahn and the guys worked so hard between races to give us what we’ve needed and in New Hampshire it just showed and we’ve been able to keep it going from there.”

In Pro Stock, there were no track records set, but ET’s and MPH’s were stout nonetheless. Shane Gray took the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot with a 6.578 second ET at 209.43 mph. Bo Butner qualified No. 2 (6.596 seconds) with a field best speed of 210.21 mph, the only driver to break the 210 mph mark.

“I think we are catching up, we just need to find the consistency to go and repeat what we did tonight (on Saturday),” Gray said. “It showed tonight that we’ve got it. We’re capable. … Everything is starting to come around and it’s actually fun to be at the race track.”

And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith set a new ET track record (6.842 seconds) at 195.51 mph. Chip Ellis had the fastest speed at 196.39 mph, with Hector Arana right behind at 196.36 mph, and three other drivers over 195 mph: LE Tonglet (195.82 mph), Steve Johnson (195.76 mph) and Michael Phillips (195.22).

“We’ve had a lot of gremlins and bugs that have bit us this year,” Smith said. “When we qualify, we are fast. We’ve been very, very good when we’ve gone down the track and hopefully it will stand up and be No. 1 (Saturday).”

Qualifying resumes Saturday at 4:15 p.m. ET with two final rounds scheduled for all four pro classes.

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”