ASHLEY FORCE, MIKE NEFF MAKE BIG JUMPS DURING FRIDAY QUALIFYING The youth movement at John Force Racing made a big jump during the second round of qualifying at the 21st annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas....
ASHLEY FORCE, MIKE NEFF MAKE BIG JUMPS DURING FRIDAY QUALIFYING
The youth movement at John Force Racing made a big jump during the second round of qualifying at the 21st annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas. Heading into the second session Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang along with second year driver Ashley Force and her Castrol GTX Mustang were both on the outside of the qualified field but at the end of the day both drivers had blasted down the Houston Raceway quarter mile and landed solidly in the top half of the field in the No. 3 and No. 6 positions, respectively.
Both drivers understand that making good runs during the night session is good but making solid runs in the heat of the day is critical to race day success.
"It will be important to make two runs tomorrow in the middle of the day. Obviously the night session gives us really good conditions but we won't see those on race day. You need to go down the track on Friday night for qualifying spot but it really won't mean that much come Sunday," said Neff, the former motocross racer from Hemet, Calif. "Ideally, we'll have the same conditions tomorrow that we'll have on race day and I'd like to get two good runs tomorrow."
Ashley Force also knows that getting more than two runs at a national event bodes well for her success on Sunday.
"Getting two more shots tomorrow would make this event way better than Phoenix and Gainesville. It seems like when we start out running well in qualifying then we build up momentum going into eliminations. When we lose runs we just seem to not have a base to work off of so it seems like we struggle more," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "(Last year) at all the races when we got four runs we tended to be consistent with all our rounds. I am hoping that tomorrow we will go out and make full passes. I am sure the weather will be different and closer to race conditions. That is good. The more similar to race day conditions the better."
Team leader John Force also improved the time of his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang from his first round run and moved up from the No. 11 spot to No. 9 at the end of the day. The day was still filled with some stress for the 14-time champion.
"I was worried more about my car and Neff's car after the first qualifying session. Ashley and Robert have been pretty consistent. We are going to be OK. We got A to B and we are learning. Hopefully here we'll get more than two runs which is the way it has been the last couple of races," said the winner of 994 rounds of eliminations and 125 NHRA national events. "If we don't it will be a crap shoot but it will be a crap shoot for everyone. I like to run my hot rods every run so we know what they will do on race day."
Points leader Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang smoked the tires both runs and continue to battle a number of issues as they search for a consistent tune-up.
"We are still testing at races. Looking back honestly I think we have been lucky to this point. We are trying a lot of new things at the races because we haven't had enough test passes. We are still trying to work some things out to get a good combination," said the current Funny Car points leader.
Even with less than stellar runs they made the 17th quickest run of the day and with the new qualifying structure they have an improved chance to getting into the sixteen car field tomorrow.
"With the new qualifying set-up if I am the quickest run tomorrow I am in good shape. That is what we are going to try and do."
Nineteen year-old Courtney Force moved from the classroom at Santiago Canyon College yesterday back behind the wheel of the Jerry Darien owned A/Fuel Dragster with mixed results in two runs today. Following the first session Ms. Force was qualified but after the second session she was two spots outside of the necessary top 16 with only one more chance to get into the show tomorrow morning.
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JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 9th at 4.913 seconds, 312.71 mph
Quotable: "We are going to be OK. We got A to B and we are learning. Hopefully we'll get more than two runs which is the way it has been the last couple of races. If we don't it, will be a crap shoot but it will be a crap shoot for everyone. I like to run my hot rods every run so we know what they will do on race day."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 6th at 4.890 seconds, 319.29 mph
Quotable: "I am hoping that tomorrow we will go out and make full passes. I am sure the weather will be different and closer to race conditions. The more similar to race day conditions the better."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: Made the 17th quickest qualifying run of the day, 6.182 seconds, 200.44 mph
Quotable: "With the new qualifying set-up if I am the quickest run tomorrow I am in good shape. That is what we are going to try and do."
MIKE NEFF, 40, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 4th at 4.875 seconds, 316.23 mph
Quotable: "It put a cylinder out at about 800, 900 feet. It was a good run overall. For the most part we are happy. Obviously, this track is pretty tricky. We feel good about ending up number three irregardless of what it ran."
COURTNEY FORCE., 19, John Force Racing A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 18th at 6.117 seconds, 225.45 mph.
Quotable: "Everything came back to me. It was nothing to worry about. After the first run I was qualified but then after the second run I knew that I wasn't qualified. I didn't get too excited either time. I am trying to just stay calm and learn."