Failing to make Saturday gains, John Force Racing looking for Sunday wins

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None of the John Force Racing Ford Mustangs made major moves in the qualifying order on Saturday at the 25th annual Sonoma NHRA Nationals. Courtney Force and Mike Neff led the way for Team Force gathering qualifying bonus points and team leader John Force made significant improvements to qualify for race day. Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang posted the quickest run of the final qualifying session and the third quickest time of the first session on Saturday. Courtney Force, driving the Traxxas Ford Mustang, was the second quickest Funny Car of the opening session on the final day of qualifying.

Neff’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang started the day with a solid 4.140 second run which was third quickest behind teammate Courtney Force and rookie Alexis DeJoria. In the final session of the day Neff made a strong statement posting a 4.120 second run in the heat to earn three qualifying bonus points and give him confidence heading into his first round match-up with Alexis DeJoria. Neff is 1-1 versus the rookie of the year candidate.

Work on Mike Neff's Top Fuel Funny Car
Work on Mike Neff's Top Fuel Funny Car

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

“Today actually was a good day for us and our Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. We ended up making two good, solid runs and we were third quickest in the first session we had today. The track was hot today; hotter than it’s been all weekend,” said Neff, the driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “All-in-all we made three pretty decent runs. I would have liked to run better Friday night when conditions were ideal and qualified a little better, but really the most important thing is how you run on Saturday when sessions are in this heat because that’s what conditions are going to be like tomorrow. It was a really good day for us and I look forward to having Alexis DeJoria in the first round of eliminations tomorrow.”

Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award for “Rookie of the Year” contender Courtney Force made a strong pass in the first session today, the third qualifying shot of the weekend, when she posted a 4.126 ET at over 305 mph in the heat of the day. “We ran a 4.126 in our first run out today. We didn’t improve from Friday, but it was important that we made a good run in the heat because that’s’ most-likely what the conditions are going to be like for race day tomorrow. We wanted to get our Traxxas Ford mustang running as quick and as fast as possible in those conditions so that’s a good move for our team. They did a great job getting us down the track in our third qualifying hit today. We ran a great number getting us qualified in the top half of the field so after that it was just all about getting our car down and with some decent numbers,” said Force.

Courtney Force
Courtney Force

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Force did not improve her elapsed time from Friday night’s qualifying hit when she ran her career-best pass of 4.083 at over 307 mph, breaking her personal time of 4.099 from earlier this season in Phoenix and simultaneously jumping to the no. 1 spot in the qualifying field. Her Traxxas Ford Mustang had the quickest 60-ft time of the session overall.

The team followed up that run with a new career-best ET of 4.059 at over 312 mph and by the end of the session was sitting soundly in the no. 5 position to take on Saturday and the two qualifying hits remaining.

“That last run, (fourth session) it spun the tires. We were trying to go after a good number in the heat; just trying to push our Traxxas Ford to its limits and see how well it would respond to the things we were trying and overall we had good results, Friday and Saturday, so I’m feeling confident going into the race on Sunday,” said Force.

Force will take on Matt Hagan on Sunday in the opening round of eliminations. Force is 1-0 to Hagan after their previous match-up in Englishtown, N.J. of this year.

“We have our first round match-up against Hagan and I’m just glad I don’t have to run any of my teammates. Hopefully we can all stay out of each other’s way this race until the end. I think we all have potential to do well this weekend and keep creeping up in points so we get into that countdown,” said Force.

Full Throttle points leader Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team will have a tough first round match-up with Bob Tasca III. Hight has a 7-3 record versus the Ford Racing teammate but Tasca holds a slight qualifying edge. Tasca’s best time this weekend was 4.087 against Hight’s best 4.090 seconds.

“I love racing here. We were a little behind the eight ball on Friday but I feel really good about tomorrow. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) has a good handle on this Auto Club Ford Mustang. Tasca will be a tough first round match-up and you hate to race another Ford in the first round. The only good thing is a Ford will be moving on and I hope it is the Auto Club Ford. I won here in 2008. I have the points lead and I want to hang onto it. The best way to do that is to take care of business on Sunday,” said Hight.

John Force will try and pick up his record setting 8th title at Sonoma Raceway tomorrow but he will have to outpace a surging Jeff Arend in the first round. Force did not post one of the quickest twelve elapsed times on Friday so his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang was forced to try and grab one of the four remaining slots today. He will go into Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 13 qualifier right behind 2011 Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan.

Force’s Sunday will start with a track walk at 9:30 a.m. which is open to fans that purchased a ticket upgrade for the weekend. Courtney Force will be joining her 15-time Funny Car champion father during the event.

Source: John Force Racing

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Series NHRA
Article type Qualifying report
Tags courtney, force, ford, hight, jfr, neff, nhra, tasca