JFR TURNS UP HEAT, FOUR MUSTANGS RACE INTO FIELD AT ATLANTA A day after rookie Mike Neff blew up during qualifying and team leader John Force struggled to make a solid pass during the Southern Nationals the feeling in the John Force...
JFR TURNS UP HEAT, FOUR MUSTANGS RACE INTO FIELD AT ATLANTA
A day after rookie Mike Neff blew up during qualifying and team leader John Force struggled to make a solid pass during the Southern Nationals the feeling in the John Force Racing pit area turned around 180 degrees. All four JFR Ford Mustangs made full passes under power and they all gathered much needed information under the sun of Atlanta Dragway heading into eliminations tomorrow.
Castrol GTX High Mileage driver and legend John Force was competing in his 500th NHRA national event. At the end of the day Friday's struggles were in the figurative rear view mirror of Force's Ford Mustang as he made two solid passes to race into the ninth qualifying position.
"Today was a lot better than Vegas. I am not going to jump up and down and ring my bell. My crew, Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly) put this thing together with help from Jimmy Prock and this Ford Mustang went down the race track," said the driver who has reached thirteen final rounds at the Southern Nationals. "It is hard for me to jump up and down about number 500 when you think you are not even going to qualify. I was pretty excited when I made the show and I have a shot to go after 1,000 rounds. It was a good day. All my cars are in. That is what Ford and their Drive One program ask for. They want us in the show and so does Castrol, Auto Club, BrandSource and Mac Tools."
In the first round the winner of 125 national events flew down the newly repaved Atlanta Dragway with a 4.938 second pass and in the heat of the afternoon Force improved with a 4.868 second run solidifying his spot in the field.
"When you run a big ole number and you don't know how then you say, 'Oh my god. How did we do it?' We learned a little bit this weekend and we just have to fight for some rounds. I hate that we have to race my own driver Mike Neff with Old Spice but it is what we have to do."
Auto Club driver Robert Hight is gunning for this third final round appearance in a row at the Southern Nationals and his performance on both days has him encouraged going rounds tomorrow.
"I think our performance window right now is just real small. When you look at what goes and what doesn't go and how fine the line it is. We have to put it back the way it ran this morning. We'll have to keep it on all eight cylinders and I think we'll win first round," said Hight. "I think lane choice will be big tomorrow with the bump. Hopefully we can go some rounds and do what we have done here in the past and go to the final like every time I have raced here."
His team has moved weight to the rear of his Ford Mustang in an effort to create more traction and the results this weekend have been very promising as they adjust the front end to help aid his track record holding Mustang navigate the track.
In the first round Hight will square off against championship contender Ron Capps. Hight is 9-4 against Capps and 2-2 in first round meetings. In 2005 and 2007 Hight defeated Capps in the semis of the Southern Nationals.
The most impressive performance of the event so far has to belong to Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang. In the first qualifying session Neff survived a harrowing explosion that had his team scrambling to reassemble his car for the second round. He was able to make a run but it did not improve his position. Heading into Saturday Neff was trying to hold onto his seven race qualifying streak.
As the sun heated up the track Neff ran a 4.909 second pass in Saturday's first session and in the last session he blasted down the track with a 4.867 second pass. Both runs were the quickest of each session, respectively.
"We had a really bad day yesterday and then a really good day today. That was really important. We were all pretty bummed with what happened yesterday, especially me," said the front runner for the 2008 Rookie of the Year award. "To be able to make two good runs today when the sun is out and it is similar to conditions we will see tomorrow. We feel real good about it. As bleak as it was looking yesterday today is a new day. I feel that we have as good a chance as anybody tomorrow."
Neff's reward for two solid passes on Saturday is a first round match-up with teammate and boss John Force on Sunday. He has lane choice at the higher qualified car (No. 8 vs. No. 9) and he also has a little bit of lady luck on his side considering teammate Ashley Force defeated her father John in their first match-up at the Southern Nationals and former teammate Tony Pedregon won his first race against his boss at this track.
"That is really not what we wanted to do. I guess it is going to happen. We got lane choice and it will be an exciting race. They made two good runs today and we made two good runs. It should be a great drag race."
Finally, points leader Ashley Force and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang nabbed the No. 11 qualified position and will face Houston final round partner Del Worsham in the first round. The veteran Worsham has lane choice on his side but Force feels her team will give her a decent edge.
"We just need to go rounds tomorrow. The car is doing well. The track is a little bit tricky but everybody is in the same boat. With Guido (co-crew chief Dean Antonelli) and (co-crew chief) Ron (Douglas) tuning it they will probably send me straight down there," said the 2007 rookie of the year. "Hopefully we can go up and go A to B. That is the biggest thing that I am worried about. I think if we go A to B we'll be fine. There could be a lot of tire smoke tomorrow."
JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 9th at 4.868 seconds, 313.80 mph
First Round Opponent: Mike Neff
Notable: Competing in 500th career NHRA national event... looking for record setting 1,000 round win (currently 996)...Has never raced Neff in eliminations
Quotable: "We learned a little bit this weekend and we just have to fight for some rounds. I hate that we have to race my own driver Mike Neff with Old Spice but it is what we have to do."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 11th at 4.897 seconds, 310.05 mph
First Round Opponent: Del Worsham
Notable: Entered the race No.1 in Funny Car points...she is the first female to ever hold the Funny Car points lead.
Quotable: "The best thing to do is not think about who I am running. It is really about the car and the track. It really doesn't matter who is in the lane next to you."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 7th at 4.860 seconds, 312.93 mph
First Round Opponent: Ron Capps
Notable: Two time winner and defending champion of Southern Nationals.
Quotable: "We'll have to keep it on all eight cylinders and I think we'll win first round. I think lane choice will be big tomorrow with the bump. Hopefully we can go some rounds and do what we have done here in the past and go to the final like every time I have raced here."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 8th at 4.867 seconds, 284.45 mph
First Round Opponent: John Force
Notable: Looking for first round win of career... This will be the first time he races team owner John Force.
Quotable: "We had a really bad day yesterday and then a really good day today. That was really important. We were all pretty bummed with what happened yesterday, especially me. To be able to make two good runs today when the sun is out and it is similar to conditions we will see tomorrow. As bleak as it was looking yesterday today is a new day. I feel that we have as good a chance as anybody tomorrow.""