Gainesville: John Force Racing final report

FORCE'S DAY ENDS IN GATORNATIONALS SEMIS GAINESVILLE --- Continually changing track conditions at the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals derailed John Force Racing throughout the day. Partly cloudy skies and the hot Florida sun kept all the...

FORCE'S DAY ENDS IN GATORNATIONALS SEMIS

GAINESVILLE --- Continually changing track conditions at the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals derailed John Force Racing throughout the day. Partly cloudy skies and the hot Florida sun kept all the crew chiefs hopping at Gainesville Raceway. Team leader John Force was the most successful racing into the semi-finals before being dispatched by fellow Ford Racing driver Bob Tasca III.

Force defeated newcomer Mike Smith, his 122nd different career funny car opponent in the first round before out running veteran Jerry Toliver in round two. The semi-final race against Tasca was over when Force got out of the groove, losing traction as his Castrol Edge sponsored Mustang bore down on the finish line.

Ashley Force Hood beat reigning Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon in her first round race which was a race for the ages as she beat Cruz 4.118 to 4.195. In the second round she was ousted by rookie of the year candidate Matt Hagan 4.171 to 4.179. For the rising star of NHRA her weekend was not a total loss as she continued improve and get much needed track time.

"That race (versus Pedregon) was really close. All the incremental numbers were almost identical. You really can't complain. The track temperature was all over the place," said Force Hood. "It was heating up and then clouds were coming in. They were saying the track was sticky. Now of course the crew chiefs will be beating themselves up since they think they should have pushed it maybe."

The first round was not kind to two of the most recently dominant John Force Racing Mustangs those piloted by Mike Neff and Robert Hight.

In the first pair of Funny Cars for round one Robert Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang came in the as the number 10 qualifier going up against the Don Schumacher backed Dodge Charger driven by Matt Hagan. Hight's Mustang had been by his admission behind the eight ball most of the weekend and his luck did not change for the first round.

"We just have to do a better job than we are doing. I honestly feel lucky to have qualified," said the eleven time tour winner. "We really didn't fix anything from the first run. We still have to fix that problem. We'll keep working hard. Next up is Houston where I won my first event and we'll try to do it again."

Later in the session the ever changing track conditions bit 2008 rookie of the year Mike Neff's John Medlen inspired tune-up. Neff pulled double-duty for the second event in-a-row as Medlen recuperates at home in Indianapolis. While Medlen has not been cleared to travel he is expected to be in the Ford Drive One trailer at the next Full Throttle Drag Racing event March 27-29 in Houston.

"The conditions were a little better and we tried to get more aggressive. It just got a little faster early and we gave it a little bit too much. It went up in smoke as it went past the tree. I am just kicking myself for that.We gave it our best shot," said Neff. "All in all it wasn't the best weekend but it certainly wasn't the worst either. We are still learning and trying to get some things figured out. We should have John Medlen back in Houston and that will be real helpful for all of us. We are really looking forward to that."J

***

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol EDGE Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.153 seconds, at 288.52 mph

Race results: Beat Mike Smith, Jerry Toliver. Lost to Bob Tasca III J

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.126 seconds, at 301.00 mph

Race results: Beat Cruz Pedregon. Lost to Matt Hagan.

Quotable: "The car has turned around so much this weekend since when we started at it was chewing up parts. We have really made a turn around."

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 4.179 seconds, at 299.20 mph

Race results: Lost to Matt Hagan.

Quotable: "We just have to do a better job than we are doing. I honestly feel lucky to have qualified. We really didn't fix anything from the first run. We still have to fix that problem. We'll keep working hard. Next up is Houston where I won my first event and we'll try to do it again."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Ford Drive One/Auto Club Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.154 seconds, at 300.93 mph

Race results: Lost to Jerry Toliver.

Quotable: "The conditions were a little better and we tried to get more aggressive. It just got a little faster early and we gave it a little bit too much. It went up in smoke as it went past the tree. I am just kicking myself for that. We gave it our best shot."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Jerry Toliver , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Bob Tasca III , John Medlen , Mike Neff , Mike Smit