JFR’s day ends in second round of 4-wide
CHARLOTTE, NC --- A promising qualifying start was derailed in the second round of the VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four Wide Nationals as all three John Force Racing Mustangs were ousted at zMAX Dragway. Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang will leave with the Full Throttle points lead and Castrol GTX’s Mike Neff moved up from 3rd to 2nd place in the point standings. Team leader John Force also moved from 9th to 7th on the strength of his No. 1 qualifying position in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
Moving up in the points is a bright spot in our day.
“Moving up in the points is a bright spot in our day,” said Neff. “We didn’t get wounded that badly. We have some stuff we are working on. We ran pretty good this weekend all in all. We had some of our quickest 60 foot times and some of our best 330 foot runs. Live and learn.”
“This is a cool experience but I am ready to go back to two wide. There are a lot of moving parts and you are dealing with a lot more stuff on the starting line. I think the fans enjoy this and (track owner) Bruton (Smith) has built us a great race track.”
In the first round Neff was the second place finisher to Jack Beckman, 4.098 to 4.079 seconds over Tony Pedregon and Jeff Arend. John Force crossed the finish line with a 4.173 second run and he along with Jim Head advanced after Dale Creasy Jr. and Ron Capps smoked the tires. The leader of his quad was the veteran Head with a 4.148 second run. Finally, Robert Hight was the second best car in his quartet on a bizarre run where his Mustang banged and then deployed the parachute at 700 feet. Surprisingly Hight was able to record a time of 4.767 to advance along with Bob Tasca III.
The subpar first round times cost the JFR Mustangs valuable lane choice at the all concrete track. In the second round Hight struck the tires almost immediately in lane two and Force and Neff both struggled in lanes one and two in their quartet beside Jim Head and Jack Beckman. Preceding second round of Funny Car Antron Brown had a top end situation requiring the NHRA Safety Safari to do some track prep before the Funny Cars ran. The delay definitely had an impact on Neff’s tune up.
“When we went up there the track was at 109 or 110 and it seemed to be hanging in there pretty good,” said Neff, the crew chief turned driver. “On our first run, a 4.094 second pass, it was 108 so I thought it didn’t appear that it was going up much. Then they scraped it and it kind of went up but I thought it would cool down a little bit. Then you had those Top Fuel oil downs and pretty soon the track is 115 degrees and I was like, ‘Dang!’ I wasn’t really prepared for it to get that hot and I wasn’t able to make the changes I needed to once I was in the car. I was just hoping it would go. We sat up there for a while.”
Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang co-crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli summed up the day from the performance standpoint.
“That round (second round) was very anticlimactic. All the cars were running good this weekend. We kind of got caught especially Robert and John’s cars got caught in lane two. There is a little bit of deterioration in that lane. You have to tip toe down it and be a little cautious. We cost ourselves in the first round losing any kind of lane choice. It is bad enough when you lose it for one lane but when you lose it for three lanes that is a real problem. We didn’t back it up enough. If we would have known we could have run 4.15s and gotten to the next round we obviously would have pulled it back. We figured you needed to run 4.09 or 4.10. We were just too aggressive.”
“Mike was in lane one and his Mustang looked like it was flying out there. He just drove his tires off being a little aggressive too.”
John Force Racing’s NHRA event win streak will end at five races. The Funny Car final will feature two Fords Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III versus Don Schumacher Racing’s Jack Beckman and independent racer Jim Head.
The race for the 200th John Force Racing Funny Car win will move to Houston in two weeks at the O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown.