HIGHT LEADS FUNNY CAR FIELD AND JFR INTO FALL NATS ELIMINATIONS (DALLAS) --- Robert "Top Gun" Hight will lead a trifecta of John Force Racing Funny Cars into eliminations at the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at...
HIGHT LEADS FUNNY CAR FIELD AND JFR INTO FALL NATS ELIMINATIONS
(DALLAS) --- Robert "Top Gun" Hight will lead a trifecta of John Force Racing Funny Cars into eliminations at the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. The weather cooperated with Hight keeping track temperatures high and rebuffing the advances of his Funny Car competitors allowing the 2006 NHRA Fall Nationals champion to hold onto the top spot.
Hight dodged a number of bullets today that had they hit him tomorrow would have had him "dead in the water" according to the two-time POWERade championship runner-up.
"Tonight we had a pretty decent run. It was going to run better than 4.19 but the throttle cable broke right before the finish line. I look at that as how lucky can I be? That could have been tomorrow. That will kill you. What is weird about that is it should have broken on the starting line not clear down there (at the finish). If I would have made it through that run (then) tomorrow morning I would have hit the gas and it probably would have broken and we'd have been done."
Hight also had luck on his side in the first qualifying session today when a clutch malfunction popped up. He smoked the tires but was able to correct the problem for tomorrow's critical Countdown race.
"We had a little too much (clutch in the first session). You could call it a clutch malfunction. It had a lever in too early. It (the track) just wouldn't take it out there. Then again that is the same thing as the throttle cable. I look at that as that was a good time for that to happen today not tomorrow. We won't let that happen tomorrow," said Hight.
Ashley Force and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will be nipping at Hight's heels from the No. 2 position. Four solid runs this weekend have given the sophomore driver some confidence heading into Sunday's eliminations. Last year Force was headed to a semi-final match against Cruz Pedregon. She had lane choice and ultimately had made the quickest run of the event but chose to withdraw to head to Baylor Medical Center to monitor her father's condition handing Pedregon a round win.
"We do have some confident (heading into tomorrow) especially since we ran well this weekend. We know we can run well and win here so it is just the matter of will it all come together for us tomorrow. Last year was just such a strange weekend and how it all ended up and we were on such a roll it is nice to come back a step back into where we left off. Maybe we can make up for last year and win this race tomorrow," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year.
In the first round she will have to face 2005 Funny Car world champion Gary Scelzi who recently announced he will be stepping away from the NHRA POWERade Series to tend to his family business at the end of the season.
The biggest roar of the day arose from the stands when John Force locked up his qualifying position. Force will race from the No. 7 position and for the 75th time in his career he will pull up beside veteran and nemesis Cruz Pedregon. Tomorrow's first round match-up will only be the third head-to-head race at the Motorplex for these two heavy-weights with Pedregon holding a 2-0 advantage.
"We proved that our brain trust works as a team and a family. My car like Coil says make s a lot of power we just couldn't get that power to the track," said the winningest driver in NHRA history. "Jimmy Prock came over with some ideas Coil and Bernie listened and we changed some stuff. Jimmy got us back on track so God bless him. That is what we do as a team; we work together."
As far as getting back to race mode after last year's crash Force knows that he has a lot of memories behind himself and the fans are helping move him forward.
"Missing Indy and the biggest race at the Bellagio of race tracks in Charlotte was bad. I like to be a part of racing. I have been left out the last two races but my teams have held their own for Castrol, AAA and Ford. To come back here to Dallas after my crash a lot of that is mental and the fans are mental. The fact that I am in the show they believe I am OK and I believe I am OK is important. It is just a positive factor. A win would be the icing on the cake and we are sure going to try."
The biggest negative this weekend in the Countdown picture for John Force Racing were the struggles of Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang team. For two days they seemed to have bad luck and gremlins pop up at the most inopportune times. The frustration was evident in Neff's voice at the top end when he smoked the tires on his last chance qualifying pass today.
"I wasn't expecting that. We should have been fine. It is tough out here. Last night we lost a blower belt. You can't make mistakes and expect to qualify," summed up Neff.
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JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 7th quickest run at 4.109 seconds, 301.33 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Cruz Pedregon (51-23)
Quotes: "We proved that our brain trust works as a team and a family. My car like (crew chief Austin) Coil says make s a lot of power we just couldn't get that power to the track. (Hight's crew chief) Jimmy Prock came over with some ideas Coil and (crew chief) Bernie (Fedderly) listened and we changed some stuff. Jimmy got us back on track so God bless him. That is what we do as a team; we work together."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 4.092 seconds, 304.67 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Gary Scelzi (2-0)
Quotes: "Every run is important in this Countdown. I am glad to be back here in Dallas. We are all running really good. It should be a great race for the fans this weekend. We have more qualifying to go but my Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will be just fine."
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.063 seconds, 301.81 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jim Head (4-5)
Quotes: "It's (qualifying) huge. I think it has been a total success for my team in qualifying at the two Countdown races because he have out qualified all the other Countdown cars in both races. Those few points at the end if you can do that through all six races that could lead to being a round."
MIKE NEFF, 42, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: DNQ, 18th quickest run of the day, 4.270 seconds, 244.12 mph
Quotes: "I wasn't expecting that. We should have been fine. It is tough out here. Last night we lost a blower belt. You can't make mistakes and expect to qualify."
BRITTANY FORCE, 22, BrandSource A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: DNQ, 18th at 5.510 seconds, 266.64 mph
COURTNEY FORCE, 20, BrandSource A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 8th at 5.348 seconds, 269.56 mph First Round Opponent: Beat Brandon Lewis Second Round Opponent: No. 1 qualifier Jim Whiteley