John Force Racing has four Funny Cars all in the top half of the field going into Sunday’s eliminations at the 33rd annual MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
Led by points leader Robert Hight the JFR contingent was solid on Saturday as track temperatures hovered around 118 degrees at Bandimere Speedway. Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang qualified No. 2 and became the first team to clinch a spot in the Countdown. The on-track performance was what had Hight the most excited at the end of the day.
“You can never count (crew chief) Jimmy Prock out on the mountain up here. That is exactly what we needed. We needed to get this Auto Club Ford Mustang right down the track. I’ll be honest I think it had a cylinder out at the hit. It kind of drove me over to the center. This Auto Club Ford is ready for tomorrow. These things run with their tongue out up here,” said Hight.
In the opening session tomorrow Hight will face off with Jeff Diehl who he has a 3-0 career record against.
While Hight was the overall quickest JFR Ford Mustang Mike Neff grabbed qualifying bonus points in two sessions on the mountain including third quickest of the final session. His 4.316 second pass gave the driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang more confidence going into race day.
“We figured some things out. It dropped a cylinder out at the hit last night but picked it back up again that derailed that run. It would have been a pretty quick pass. Today we were just trying to go down the track and get data. I was pretty pleased with that last run,” said Neff.
Neff will try and turn a performance skid around against Johnny Gray in the first round. In his career Neff is 2-5 versus Gray and the Service Central Dodge. Neff will have lane choice over Gray.
Last year’s MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals event winner John Force started the race weekend here in Denver strong, jumping to the top half of the field early, and has managed to drive his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car right down the groove in all four passes, averaging a 4.379 ET in qualifying.
Force posted a 4.458 ET at over 278 mph today on the third qualifying hit. His Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang made a clean, smooth pass all the way down, but despite having the quickest 60-ft time of the session, did not improve in the field. In the fourth and final qualifying hit, Force posted a 4.504 ET at over 274 mph after one of his cylinders went out at the top half of the track.
“The cars ran good in qualifying. The guys are working together. We put them (all four cars) up in the top eight, which means we at least get lane choice and that matters, so that’s a positive. We seem to be a little more on our game this weekend, but it’s the hill; it’s different for a lot of people,” said Force.
Going into Sunday in the No. 5 spot, Force will have lane choice over Tony Pedregon in the opening round of eliminations.
“I was lucky enough to win it last year. We had good consistency then and we have that data to work off of so we’ll see what happens,” said the 15-time Full Throttle World Funny Car Champion.
Force currently occupies the No. 10 spot in the points, less than two rounds ahead of fellow Ford racer, Tim Wilkerson. Force’s youngest daughter and Rookie of the Year candidate, Courtney Force, will have a chance tomorrow to lengthen that short distance between Wilkerson and her father when she goes head-to-head against him in the first round of eliminations.
“It’s still a race track. You still drive your car the same. You have to address that there is less air up here and so with the motor, it’s like a guy trying to run who would have to run in an altitude like this, he would have trouble breathing because his lungs need air. But also think, your parachutes need air when they blossom so they can slow the car down. So I tell her, ‘get those parachutes out, every little bit counts,” said Force.
“She’s got a big race tomorrow with (Tim) Wilkerson; somebody will win and somebody will lose. It’s just another race and you do the best you can. I have Tony (Pedregon) and it’s kind of a toss-up on the hill. We’ll see who wins this thing.”
The Cal State- Fullerton graduate made passes today at 6.109 and 4.388 which did not improve her best time of the weekend, that from Friday night’s session when she posted a 4.212 ET at over 297 mph. With that run, Force moved up to the No. 3 spot, but by the end of qualifying today, found herself nestled in the No. 7 spot. She holds lane choice over Wilkerson tomorrow.
“It is a little bit different up here on the mountain. It is definitely a lot harder to breathe up here. We have a good race car with this Traxxas Ford Mustang. It is making some good runs out here. I think that last run was pretty good. We are going into tomorrow with a good qualifying spot which is great. Hopefully we’ll get by first round and we’ll see what happens,” said Force.