FORCE CROWNED PROV NO. 1 AT ROYAL PURPLE RACEWAY
BAYTOWN, TX --- John Force is recognized by many fans as drag racing royalty. Today at Royal Purple Raceway he was the king of the class recording the quickest runs of both Funny Car qualifying sessions, 4.174 seconds and then 4.097 seconds. Force picked up six all important qualifying bonus points and when the final qualifying points are theoretically factored in he moved around Johnny Gray into the No. 6 position in the Full Throttle point standings.
As the leader of the team that has won three of the first four races of the season including all three contested in the traditional head to head format Force is focused on getting his first win of the season.
“I haven’t had a win this year, Robert (Hight) has gotten two in the Auto Club Mustang and (Mike) Neff has one in the Castrol GTX Mustang, but I am excited to be with the young team,” said Force, the 132-time winner. “Ashley (Force Hood) started with these guys a few years back. (Co-crew chief) Dean Antonelli was taught by Austin Coil and he is the best. He reminds me so much of this thinking like Austin. Teaming him up with Ron Douglas they just really get the job done. It is a young team but it is my daughter’s hot rod. She (Ashley) always lets me know that.”
If the provisional No.1 turns into the official No.1 it would be Force’s third No. 1 in a row and 136th of his career two behind Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson on the all-time list. The last time Force recorded three No. 1 qualifying efforts in a row was 2004 – Indianapolis, Dallas and Chicago. This year he has scored No. 1s at Las Vegas and Charlotte. The all-time record does not consume the 15-time Funny Car champion because he has so much respect for Johnson.
“I don’t drive Pro Stock so I don’t chase Warren Johnson. He is one of my heroes and I like having those records out there. I do what I do in Funny Car and that is about it.”
With Force in the top spot and Mike Neff in the provisional No. 3 spot JFR has a legitimate shot at recording its 200th Funny Car win as a team on Sunday. Force would take that in stride just like he did nine years ago when he was on the brink of winning his 100th personal Funny Car national event.
“Every time we tried to get that 100th win (NHRA President) Tom Compton came to all those races and bought those plane tickets and every week I couldn’t win. I don’t think about (winning 200th). It is like trying to set a record. You go out there and you drive your car because you love it. I really do,” said Force. “Just to see these young kids energy at the end of the track when we run good. Maybe I still take it for granted. You don’t push it to make it do nothing it just kind of does its thing. The crew chiefs push it and the driver drives it. I am fortunate but I am excited because I want to win a race. I want to get 200.”
I want to win a race. I want to get 200.
Mike Neff bounced back from a subpar opening run with a solid 4.131 second pass that landed him in the No. 3 spot and scored him a bonus qualifying point. For the driver-crew chief the effort was what he expected from his young team.
“I knew before the run it was going to be pretty good or we would have to get it right tomorrow,” said Neff. “I knew these guys would give me a great Mustang I just needed to make a good call on the tune up. Force’s run was great and I am pleased we wound up where we did. We feel good going into tomorrow.”
Robert Hight struggled in the AAA Texas Ford Mustang smoking the tires on both his qualifying efforts. He will get two more shots tomorrow to grab one of the four remaining spots in the 16-car field.