John Force Racing
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ --- It may be just the first day of June but the summer time fireworks got an early start at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park on Friday night of the 43rd annual Toyota NHRA SuperNationals. Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang posted a strong 4.013 second run at 318.02 mph but were only the Funny Car qualifying bridesmaid as Ron Capps and his NAPA Funny Car continued to be Hight’s nemesis racing to the top qualifying spot with a historic 3.964 second pass at 320.89 mph. Capps’ pass was the quickest ever in Funny Car and the second fastest ever.
“There is nothing to complain about at the end of the day. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) just said when you get stomped on that bad you think we might have left a lot on the table but I honestly thought Neff would be the one to throw down like that,” said Hight. “We collected bonus points both runs today and we are headed in the right direction. If we get some more good conditions, which I think we are, we’ll put some new cylinder heads on this thing and we’ll get after it. If those guys can run that good we can run better.”
In the first qualifying session only one other Funny Car was quicker than Hight’s Auto Club Mustang and that was teammate Mike Neff. Hight secured four qualifying bonus points for his efforts today and maintains a huge lead in the Funny Car point standings.
As the sun went down clouds and cooler temperatures rolled in and conditions turned into some the best the teams have seen all season. For Hight who has run some of the quickest and fastest times in NHRA history it was an exciting session.
“It is exciting to run in conditions like this. It is huge. This is always a good place to run quick numbers. I ran 4.02 a couple of years ago here. Cruz (Pedregon) ran good in the heat here last year. This is a great race track. (JFR track specialist) Lanny (Miglizzi) says this is the flattest race track in the country but I’ll be honest when it runs that fast, that quick and that smooth,” said Hight.
“It was almost the smoothest run I have ever made. It almost feels slow. It is like time just stands still and you are not doing anything. You are just driving down there and making sure it doesn’t move. I don’t think I moved a foot either direction tonight. It was so nice and smooth. The coolest thing was to hear my guys yelling we ran a 4.01 but unfortunately in this sport you don’t have a long time to celebrate. You get more time when you run like that and win in the final round.”
In the Castrol GTX pit area at the end of the day there were no hanging heads but for crew chief and driver Mike Neff he was a bit puzzled by the performance of his Ford Mustang Funny Car. In the last session his Funny Car struck the tires almost immediately and he had to watch Capps pull away from him in the other lane.
“We weren’t trying to do anything stupid or take any risks. The track was better and we made our normal moves. We were trying to keep up with the track but it just was way too much for some reason. It just blew ‘em (the tires) off. It kind of surprised me and I didn’t expect it. I wasn’t trying to do it all in the first 60 feet. We had a really good 60 foot time in the first run and we were just trying to keep up and maintain. For whatever reason it just went way over center,” said Neff.
“We made a good run the first run (a class quickest 4.052). It could be worse. You hate to let those kind of conditions get away. You only get to run in conditions like that maybe a handful of times in a season. It is disappointing to have the run get aborted so early. That’s racing. We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” said Neff who eventually settled into the No. 7 provisional qualifying spot.
Team leader John Force continued his turnaround in the Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang. For the past two races crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Danny DeGennaro have been migrating to a tune-up that is closer to the set-up Prock and Neff have been dominating the competition with all season. In the final session Force stepped up mightily with a 4.066 second run. Ironically, that run has him provisionally in the No. 11 spot because conditions improved for everyone. The 15-time champion was excited about his performance but also the results for the rest of his team.
“For one, our cars are doing ok. Courtney’s not in the top twelve and we’ve heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but I doubt it. Jimmy Prock running that 4.01, that was big. You’ve got to give credit to (Don) Schumacher and (Rahn) Tobler running that 3.96. That was bigger. I saw the smile on Jimmy Prock’s face when those numbers went on the boards because he knows what’s out there. Neff is in there with a 4.05, I’m in there with a 4.06. My guys, Guido [Dean Antonelli] and Danny [DeGennaro] got this thing in the show,” said Force.
“What I saw today with Courtney is her learning how to pedal a Funny Car. They’re not big numbers, but she’s learning it slowly to get that Traxxas Ford to the other end. We have two runs tomorrow so I think she’ll be alright with the help of her crew chief Ron Douglas and Dan Hood. For all of our sponsors, Ford, Auto Club, Castrol, Mac Tools, BrandSource, we’re doing okay.”
Courtney Force gained experience in her Traxxas Mustang Funny Car today when she had to pedal the car in both rounds of qualifying. Her first pass was in the right lane beside Jeff Arend. Both drivers shook the tires around the 330 ft. cone. Force pedaled it and the chutes came out, leaving her with a 6.177 ET at 135.86 mph and in the No. 14 spot after her first run of the day.
Alternating lanes, Force lined up beside Jack Beckman for her second qualifying pass. Both cars launched, both shook the tires at the 330 ft. cone and both drivers backed off the throttle. Force pedaled the Traxxas Ford Mustang for the second time today and eventually clicked it off, running 5.300 seconds at 152.33 mph. Since only the top 12 times are taken into Saturday’s qualifying sessions, the youngest of the Force clan will go into the second day of the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals with a clean slate.