DISAPPOINTING DAY AT GATORS FOR JFR GAINESVILLE --- On race day at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals the three Ford Mustangs of John Force Racing were primed to make a run at getting three Funny Cars to the semi-finals. They ...
DISAPPOINTING DAY AT GATORS FOR JFR
GAINESVILLE --- On race day at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals the three Ford Mustangs of John Force Racing were primed to make a run at getting three Funny Cars to the semi-finals. They held down three of the top six qualifying times but races are won and lost on the race track not the ladder sheet and qualifying results.
In the first round Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang were upended by Melanie Troxel. This was the third time these two drivers have met on the track and Troxel took a 2-1 edge after both Funny Cars smoked the tires. Troxel was able to regain control a few seconds quicker than Force Hood and get to the finish line first.
While both Funny Cars appeared to wildly sashay down the track, bellowing a trail of smoke behind them the experience inside Force Hood's Castrol GTX Mustang did not seem out of control to the 2007 Rookie of the Year.
"That run was not as crazy of a ride as everyone that is coming up to me thinks. A ton of people have been asking me about it and I have had pedal fests before where you feel like you are getting sideways. I don't remember it being that bad. I think I am either getting used to that or since it was down on power it wasn't as violent as the times before. I felt like I was coasting even though I was on and off the throttle. It didn't feel that crazy inside my Mustang," said Force Hood.
"On my run I still don't know what I would have done differently. I am not beating myself up about it. Usually it is the runs where you wish you would have done something differently that bug you. That run was just a collection of things that happened that made my car upset. It didn't want to get down the track. Melanie's car didn't want to get down there either. She was able to recover hers quicker so we'll just go on to Charlotte," said Force Hood.
2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion Robert Hight passionately wanted to race his Auto Club Ford Mustang into the winner's circle but a second round loss to eventual finalist Bob Tasca III ended his quest for victory. The 14-time event winner was disappointed but also hopeful that his Jimmy Prock tuned Mustang would turn around in time for the Inaugural Four Wide Nationals in Charlotte.
"We had to switch motor this weekend and they were just a little different. We scuffed a few pistons. We'll figure it out. If we would have had our stuff together we could have run 4.04 or 4.03 easily. We haven't hurt this much stuff in a long time. In the second round we just smoked the tires. It was just one of those deals. We'll move on to the next one. We'll learn from it and get better. I am excited to go to the next race and race four wide in Charlotte. It doesn't matter if you are racing one, two or three cars you just have to get there first. We haven't been doing that yet but we'll get her back," said Hight.
Hight is ready to get back to zMaz Dragway. Last year his win at the Fall event propelled him to his first Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
"(Charlotte) is where my season turned around. It will be awesome. There were fans here this weekend that were at that race. That is what is cool about the Charlotte race. Guys go to a lot of races on the East Coast this race, Atlanta and Charlotte and so many people brought me pictures from last year," said Hight. "I signed a ton (of pictures) and we'll get to see a lot of those same people in a couple of weeks. It looks like NHRA had a great turnout here. I think the Four Wide race will bring even more people out to the track. I am really looking forward to all that."
Hight got the his first round win over veteran Jim Head running a solid 4.122 seconds at 303.84 mph against Head's 4.223 second pass at 301.94 mph. In round two Hight smoked the tires against Tasca and that was the end of his day. The one major positive Hight it taking with him from the Gatornationals is his reaction time improvement. For an already stellar leaver Hight really mowed down the Christmas Tree this weekend.
On race day his reaction times were .072 to Head's .076 and against Tasca he left on the back-to-back Gatornationals finalist .096 to .153. Hight was sub .100 all weekend on his reaction times.
"I was doing a pretty good job of that (reacting to the Christmas Tree) this weekend. I am actually looking forward to getting back on the track. A few racers came over and wanted to know what we had done to my Auto Club Ford Mustang to get it to react so well. I am really just focusing and getting aggressive. We are getting them thinking which is good," said a confident Hight.
Seven-time Gatornationals winner John Force powered his 25th anniversary Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to the second round before he was outrun by Ron Capps. Capps dramatically stepped up in performance covering the 1000 ft. race track in 4.066 seconds against Force's 4.135 second pass. Force's Mustang was just a little off and the drop in power cost him a chance to advance to his third semi-final of the young season.
Force will still head into the Inaugural Four Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway with the Full Throttle Funny Car points lead and the confidence of knowing that his brain-trust of crew chiefs Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly and Mike Neff has a very good handle on his Mustang.
On Saturday Force summed up his feeling about his team's new attitude and he carried the same sentiment throughout the day today.
"This car wants to run hungry every round. I am hungry too. We have always been about consistency getting us wins. The competition is too tight now. You can't just be consistent you have to beat them. You have to out run them. We came out aggressive in the first round and ran the third quickest ET. We wanted to get another win. I know Austin, Bernie and Neff are throwing everything at it," said Force.