Birthday Girl Brittany Force Leads Route 66 Qualifying
By Stan Creekmore

Imagine telling the world the best birthday present you have ever experienced had just been earned.

You, being the daughter of a 16-time Funny Car champion. who just set a new track record in the Top Fuel division of the NHRA running 3.692 seconds at 325.69 mph in your Monster Energy dragster.

Brittany Force celebrated her 30th birthday making the stellar run in the second round of qualifying in the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL.

Joining Force atop the Pro divisions are Ron Capps, Shane Gray and Matt Smith.

“I was shocked that we ran that because it was such a big jump from what we ran earlier,” said Force, who improved from third to first in the qualifying order with the effort. “It felt good. I got out and thanked my team, crew chief [Brian Husen] and Alan Johnson [consultant]. They are the ones who make it happen and it really is a team effort. To run a number like that and be No. 1 is exactly where we want to be and it is the absolute best birthday present ever.”

Capps understands Force's excitement. He is excited to have set a new track record in the Funny Car division with a 3.888 second run, also in the second round of qualifying.

“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.”

Capps, quick to admit he has worked with a variety of amazing crew chiefs, also admits he and Tobler sat down before the beginning of the season to ensure Capps could get what he wanted out of his race cars – excitement.

One look at the smile on Capps face is all the evidence needed to know Tobler clearly understands Capps needs.

In the Pro Stock division, Shane Gray is showing the effects of his, and his team's efforts, to understand how to be competitive against KB Racing and drivers Jason Line and Greg Anderson.

“I think we are catching up … we just need to find the consistency to go and repeat what we did tonight, tomorrow,” Gray said. “It showed tonight that we’ve got it. We’re capable. I’ve got a wonderful group of guys from [crew chief] Dave Connolly on down and great guys in the engine shop. My dad [retired Funny Car driver Johnny Gray] has supported this deal for seven years and we couldn’t do it without him for sure. Everything is starting to come around and it’s actually fun to be at the race track.”

Just 45 days ago, Gray and his group skipped a race in their efforts to fully understand the demands of all the Pro Stock changes from 2015 to 2016.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, two-time world champ Smith was quickest on his Victory Gunner setting a track record time of 6.842 seconds at 195.51 mph.

Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Matt Smith was quite confident in his run to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifiers.

“Our Victory Gunner is running strong,” Smith said. “We’ve done a lot of work and did a lot of testing. We’ve had a lot of gremlins and bugs that have bit us this year. 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 tomorrow. I know it is supposed to be cooler, but we are going to swap motors tomorrow. We have a good piece here and we will put it back in on Sunday if we need to.”

All divisions have two more qualifying sessions on Saturday and cooling weather conditions might just provide the opportunity to run just as fast.

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