John Force Racing ready to go four wide in Charlotte

John Force Racing press release

HIGHT WANTS WIN STREAK TO GO FOUR-WIDE IN CHARLOTTE

Robert Hight
Robert Hight

Photo by: John Force Racing

CHARLOTTE, NC (April 10, 2012) – Full Throttle NHRA Funny Car points leader Robert Hight would love to race every weekend. In fact between NHRA races he frequently takes in NASCAR races like the recent Auto Club 400 in Fontana where he spent the weekend with the No. 16 team of Greg Biffle. This weekend Hight will be back on the race track in the heart of NASCAR country, competing in the 3rd annual Four-Wide NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway. Racing four wide in his Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny car is about as close at the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion will get to swapping paint like his NASCAR counterparts.

“I enjoy going to NASCAR races but I don’t think I would ever race over there. There is nothing like the thrill of hitting the throttle on my Auto Club Mustang and feel it pull off the starting line and then you are at the finish line at over 300 mph,” said Hight.

“I have such a great team led by Jimmy Prock and Eric Lane I couldn’t be happier. We are off to a great start and I want to keep this momentum going at the Four-Wide race. We have another chance to get four wins in a row and it would be cool to get our fourth in a row at the Four-Wide Nationals.

Hight has picked up wins in Phoenix, Gainesville and two weeks ago in Las Vegas as he rolls into zMax Dragway. This is the second time he has won three races in a row. In 2010 he picked up wins in St. Louis, Atlanta, and then Topeka.

As a three in a row winner Hight has joined an illustrious list of drivers. The last Funny Car driver to win three in a row before HIght did it in 2010 and this season was Cruz Pedregon who won the last three races of the 2008 season to secure his second Full Throttle Funny Car championship. Other notables with three in a row on their racing resume include John Force (11 times), Don Prudhomme (twice), Tony Pedregon and Frank Hawley.

If Hight can extend the streak to four in a row he would become one of only three drivers win four in a row (Kenny Bernstein, 1987 and John Force, 2000). The longest consecutive Funny Car event win streak in seven by Don Prudhomme (1975-76). Prudhomme won the last five races of the 1975 season (an in-season record) and the first two of the 1976 season.

“Jimmy and I talk all the time about trying to put together a dominant season like, Force or Prudhomme. We are not thinking about records only about being consistent. That has been the key for us during this streak. My team has been together for so many years my guys know what their job is and they can support each other. It has been a great three race especially winning the Gatornationals. I want to win the Four-Wide because it is such a unique race,” said Hight.

While Hight has never reached the final quartet of the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals he has had some success at zMax Dragway in the fall. In 2009 he won the event and took that momentum on to his first NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship.

“Bruton Smith has built us the ultimate race track and you want to win here because the fans are great and you see a lot of new fans. On Thursday we are going to spend time with Freightliner so we’ll have some of those folks out all weekend and they are one of our newest sponsors.”

Hight took the Full Throttle points lead with his victory at the Bruton Smith owned Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and he continued a career long streak of leading the points at least once during every professional season. He has also won multiple races every year of his career. For HIght leading the points is great but with the Countdown leading the points in April doesn’t have the same impact as in years past.

“You like being the points leader anytime you can get into the top spot. I’ll be honest though you really can’t get too excited until you are the points leader in early November. You need to get hot in the Countdown like I did in 2009. The good thing about being hot now is we can really look at our tune up and take some chances during qualifying to figure some things out. You want to get good data at tracks like Charlotte since we’ll be back here in the fall running for our second championship,” added Hight.

Finally, Hight wants to keep giving away washer and dryers and televisions to NHRA fans. So far in 2012 John Force Racing has given a lucky fan a 55” flat screen television at the conclusion of every race as part of the “Win with Force” promotion led by BrandSource and JFR sponsors Castrol, Mac Tools, Ford, and Auto Club. In addition two lucky fans have won front loading washer and dryer set when HIght was the No. 1 qualifier in Pomona and again last race in Las Vegas.

DOUBLE DUTY FOR NEFF; DOUBLE TROUBLE FOR RIVALS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Mike Neff has been driving competitively only since 2007, but the former surfer, motocross rider and off-road truck mechanic already has done something in professional drag racing that no one else has.

The 45-year-old with the Hollywood good looks has won in the unique four-wide configuration featured only at Bruton Smith’s zMax Dragway as both a driver (in the inaugural exhibition in 2009) and a crew chief (to race winner John Force in 2010).

In this week’s third running of the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, he tries to add a victory as driver AND crew chief on the same car: the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in which he has set a torrid performance pace thus far this season.

Of the 12 runs he has made on race day in events at Pomona, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., Gainesville, Fla., and Las Vegas, Nev., the worst was 4.264 seconds and that was in a second round race that he won. His race day average of 4.105 seconds is far and away the best in the category.

By comparison teammate Robert Hight, who has driven the Auto Club Ford to three consecutive victories, has averaged 4.362 seconds on 13 competitive laps; 4.230 seconds even if you toss out a season-opening 5.941 that resulted in an upset loss.

Ironically, even though nine of his 12 competitive runs have been completed in less than 4.10 seconds, Neff has been shut out of the winners’ circle, losing in final rounds to both Hight and Force. His losing times in four races this year: 4.036 seconds, 4.168, 4.083 and 4.163.

Nevertheless, last year’s regular season champion remains optimistic.

“We stayed in Vegas and tested the Monday after (the SummitRacing.com Nationals),” he said. “We figured out a few things that we have been working on and we’re looking forward to Charlotte. It’s a great track and, depending on how the weather is, it should be a good weekend for us.

“Four-wide always adds a little bit more of the unknown with four lanes rather than two,” said the man who has won two NHRA world championships as a crew chief (2005 with Gary Scelzi and 2010 with Force). “You have to do more negotiating with the other drivers to keep track of what’s going on.

“Plus, it’s just so much more fast-paced. The time goes by quicker. Running four cars at a time, it just seems like things are happening faster,” he said.

“From a driver’s standpoint, it’s something you’re not used to, waiting for two more guys to stage and things like that,” explained the 2008 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, “but we’re anxious to get there.

“We won the first four-wide race with John in 2010 and we’ve had some pretty good luck in Charlotte so we’re ready to roll.”

His “pretty good luck in Charlotte” also included a victory over Force in the first race ever contested at zMax – when both were driving dump trucks on the dirt site of what would become the world’s first four-wide track.

Trying to become the first Funny Car racer in 38 years to win the championship as both driver and crew chief, Neff also is trying to earn a spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, a Funny Car bonus race that will be contested Sept. 2 in conjunction with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

“That’s been frustrating,” Neff said. “We want to be a part of that (event), racing for $100,000, and we feel like we’ve let three good opportunities kind of get away from us. The first seven spots are for race winners so we’re hoping to get in there along with John and Robert.”

FORCE TRIES TO RE-CAPTURE HIS FOUR-PLAY MASTERY

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – John Force is more than just the 15-time NHRA Funny Car Champion; the winner of more races (134) and more rounds (1,100) than anyone else in the history of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Quite simply, he is the master of four-play – at least the kind that will be practiced this week at zMax Dragway.

That’s where the 62-year-old icon will roll his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang onto the most unique track surface in the series as the Funny Car favorite in the most unique event in the sport: the third annual NHRA 4-Wide Nationals

From the moment Bruton Smith proposed a national event utilizing all four of the lanes constructed for his all-concrete supertrack, Force not only was installed as the favorite, he became one of the concept’s biggest proponents.

Before the first four-wide exhibition during the fall race in 2009, Force asked fellow Funny Car driver Del Worsham (both of them first round losers in the race itself) about his burnout. Worsham replied that he planned to follow his normal routine.

“Are you kidding?” Force asked, albeit in language somewhat more colorful. “I’m gonna do a burnout to the lights and then I’m gonna turn around and burnout back to the line. We’ve gotta give these people a show. They’ve never seen four-wide racing.”

Well, as Worsham told the media following the race, “I did the longest burnout I’ve ever done and I looked up and Force is 300 feet past me.”

Of course, Force’s crew chief at the time, Hall of Famer Austin Coil, cautioned against doing an exceptionally long burnout for fear of running out of fuel. Force did one anyway. Not surprisingly, as his Ford neared the finish line in the lead, the fuel tank ran dry, the engine blew and teammate Mike Neff drove around him for the win.

That was for show; all Barnum and Bailey.

When everyone returned in 2010 to do it for real, Force put on a seminar while demonstrating exactly why he is being inducted next month into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega.

With Neff handling tune-up duties on his hot rod Mustang, the man for whom a zMax grandstand is named qualified sixth, advanced by finishing second in his first heat; then ran 4.064 and 4.036 seconds in lanes 3 and 2, respectively, the two lanes on which he struggled in qualifying (4.651 and 6.492). He got to the finish just ahead of his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, who thought she had won at 4.042 seconds.

Nevertheless, after stumbling in the second round a year ago and squandering a No. 1 qualifying effort, the Hall of Famer is determined this week to recapture the magic that carried him to that spectacular 2010 victory.

“We love running Bruton Smith tracks. We just came from Las Vegas but this is the Bellagio,” Force said. “When Bruton does something, he does it right. We’ve got four good Mustangs right now with Robert (Hight) and Neff and my youngest daughter Courtney.

“We won Pomona (and the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals) but we’ve struggled since then. We tested after Vegas and we’re ready to go back racing. I’m excited about the four-wide. Not everybody likes it but it’s something a little different for the fans.”

Although Force has won already this year, his 25th season with at least one NHRA tour victory, he has lost in the first round in 11 of the last 12 races in the Full Throttle Series. That’s a statistic he wants to put far behind him. What better place to start than in the only event in the series in which he has never lost in the initial round.

- YOUNGEST FORCE GEARS UP FOR FIRST PROFESSIONAL FOUR-WIDE APPEARANCE WITH TRAXXAS
Will attend 3rd annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 13-15

CONCORD, N.C. (April 10, 2012) – Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future rookie of the year nominee, Courtney Force will take her first shot at racing “four-wide” this week following the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas where she qualified 4th, the highest qualified spot achieved by a rookie driver this year.

Force was sitting 15th going into the fourth qualifying attempt at the track in which she licensed at the end of 2011 and has deemed her “lucky track,” but posted a 4.147 ET at over 309 mph and went to the No. 2 spot. By the end of the round, Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car were firmly positioned in the no. 4 spot for Sunday.

“The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas were a lot of fun. I was really proud of my team, led by Ron Douglas, for reaching No. 4 qualifier. From the beginning of the season, qualifying well has been a huge goal for us as a new team and we really did it that time,” Force said.

Unfortunately for Force, the Traxxas Ford Mustang was out ahead at the 60-ft mark during first round, but malfunctioned and fell victim to Johnny Gray.

“It’s always a bummer when your car leaves good and you don’t see him at first, but when something like that happens, that’s why they call it a drag race because you can’t do anything about it, just try to go after them in Charlotte,” said Force.

The NHRA Four-wide National event is just the first of two stops at the self-proclaimed “Bellagio of drag strips” throughout the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour. Force completed a full-day NHRA media tour in early March to get better-acquainted with the Charlotte area. The outing was planned around the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour and the 23-year-old Cal State-Fullerton graduate was very well-received by Charlotte’s local and national media.

“I’ve never raced four-wide before, but I’ve heard from my dad and teammates that it’s pretty cool to experience. I know the fans love it and it puts on a great show that is unlike anything else the fans can see any other time throughout the season. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but definitely excited to race at zMAX Dragway.” Force said.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Biffle , Cruz Pedregon , Don Prudhomme , Ashley Force , Johnny Gray , Robert Hight , Austin Coil , Frank Hawley , Mike Neff , Courtney Force
Tags force, ford, hight, neff