Baytown: John Force Racing Saturday notes

NEFF LEADS JFR INTO ELIMINATIONS, HIGHT MISSES CUT For the first time in since the season opener the weather cooperated allowing four qualifying sessions for all pro teams but Mother Nature still managed to throw John Force Racing a curve ball...

NEFF LEADS JFR INTO ELIMINATIONS, HIGHT MISSES CUT

For the first time in since the season opener the weather cooperated allowing four qualifying sessions for all pro teams but Mother Nature still managed to throw John Force Racing a curve ball at Houston Raceway Park.

Robert Hight, the current Funny Car points leader and favorite to win his first Funny Car championship this season, spent the weekend with Crew Chief Jimmy Prock chasing a consistent tune-up for his Auto Club Ford Mustang. After the first session today he was barely in the show holding down the No. 16 spot but when his Mustang went up in smoke at 900 feet during the final qualifying session Hight's chances of racing on Sunday also evaporated.

"We got three other John Force Ford Mustangs in the show and any one of them could win this deal. Jimmy Prock and I are going to get this Auto Club Ford Mustang ready and we are going to test on Monday and maybe even Tuesday, said the 2005 Rookie of the Year. "We need a lot of runs but we'll be back. It is good to be back in Houston this year. I see lots of Ford out there in the parking lot and I think Texas is Ford country. There are a lot of good fans and a lot of good people here."

Rookie of the Year front-runner, Mike Neff, stayed on top of his game most of the weekend holding onto the No. 3 spot and positioned his Old Spice Ford Mustang for his first round win of the season. He will match-up with reigning Funny Car Champion Tony Pedregon in the first round and it is a match-up that Neff is looking forward to.

"I might as well start at the top and we'll work our way down from there."

Neff and Crew Chief John Medlen are optimistic heading into tomorrow's eliminations and they felt that at the end of the day even a little tire smoke during their last run was a good thing.

"We are still experimenting with the clutch. We are learning. It was OK that we smoked the tires tonight we went a little bit too far. Now we got on the other side and found out what we can't do. So a lot of times for Sunday learning that can be as valuable as going down the track. I'd rather know that today than find out tomorrow in eliminations. We feel good," said the Hemet, Calif. native.

"It is nice to make four qualifying runs. This is the trickiest track that we have seen this year. It is challenging. If the sun is out tomorrow it could be anybody's ballgame. You are going to have to go down the racetrack without smoking the tires. That is going to be the key and not too many people were able to do that today when the sun was out."

2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force set the mph pace for the Funny Car class recording the fastest mile per hour of the weekend, 319.29 mph, but this class is all about the elapsed time.

"(Running a fast mph) is good. It means that we are getting down the track and that we are getting good speeds and we are not tearing up our Mustang. Getting good mphs means you just have a better chance to be successful on Sunday because you have been running good. It would be even better if we were doing that in Sunday and hopefully we will be running that fast on Sunday," said Force.

Force wound up No. 6 and will face off against Bob Gilbertson in the first round tomorrow. She will have her hands full considering Gilbertson's Funny Car made the most of the two qualifying sessions in the heat today.

"That was like a full blown cardio vascular workout getting her down there. I felt it get right over on the center line and then I was getting on the chutes. For Castrol, Ford, Brand Source I am really happy and proud of my guys. We are bummed seeing Robert not make it. That just makes the rest of us more pumped up to go out there tomorrow and try and get our Castrol team in the winner's circle," added Force.

John Force drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to the No. 9 spot. He is disappointed to not have all four of his Mustangs in the show but he is encouraged by the results he has seen from Neff and his daughter Ashley. Most of all he is glad he got a full compliment of qualifying runs in his Ford Mustang.

"I feel good heading into to tomorrow since my car had pretty good consistency. I think there was only one run I didn't go down the track. We are going into new conditions with the heat and at least we got four qualifying runs so that gives us an edge in the learning process. We are getting data on this new chassis," said the 14-time Funny Car Champion.

"It is fantastic to get four runs in at a race. It is a great feeling because it gets you in the groove. I know Robert is a little disappointed. We all know the drill and we have all been there. They will come out of this and they will test on Monday and we'll get ready for Vegas."

Force knows that Funny Car is one of the most competitive classes in the sports and all his teams need more testing time to get a handle on the myriad of changes that they have added for the 2008 campaign.

THE DRIVERS

JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 9th at 4.913 seconds, 312.71 mph
First round match-up: Jack Beckman

Quotable: "I got four runs but what I need is seat time. Coil and Bernie need time to tune but I need seat time. I'm like Ashley. I am starting all over. When she talks about coming back from the off-season and everything being different I tell her I've been out for five month so I have a had a longer off season than anybody." -- JOHN FORCE

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.890 seconds, 319.29 mph
First round match-up: Bob Gilbertson

Quotable: "We are bummed seeing Robert not make it. That just makes the rest of us more pumped up to go out there tomorrow and try and get our Castrol team in the winner's circle." -- ASHLEY FORCE

ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: DNQ, 20th at 6.182 seconds, 200.44 mph

Quotable: "We got three other John Force Ford Mustangs in the show and any one of them could win this deal. Jimmy Prock and I are going to get this Auto Club Ford Mustang ready and we are going to test on Monday and maybe even Tuesday. We need a lot of runs but we'll be back." -- ROBERT HIGHT

MIKE NEFF, 40, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.875 seconds, 316.23 mph
First round match-up: Tony Pedregon

Quotable: "It is nice to make four qualifying runs. This is the trickiest track that we have seen this year. It is challenging. If the sun is out tomorrow it could be anybody's ballgame." -- MIKE NEFF

COURTNEY FORCE., 19, John Force Racing A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: DNQ, 18th at 6.117 seconds, 225.45 mph.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , John Medlen , Mike Neff