JOHN FORCE RACES TO NO. 1 AT LAS VEGAS, JFR TOPS OF FIELD
LAS VEGAS --- John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with racing to the top spot in a tough Funny Car field at the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Saturday during the final qualifying session. Force powered his Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuned Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 4.136 second at 309.27 mph pass. Jack Beckman, 4.189 seconds, was the only other driver in the teens in the final session.
Force attributed the strong run not to aggressive crew chiefing but rather knowing what the track would hold and racing to maximum effort.
“(Co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli taught by Austin Coil and Ron Douglas those two kids run my car and they remind me a lot of Coil, said Force, a 135-time No. 1 qualifier. “They weren’t going for it. Guido and Ron weren’t trying to run low. They said there were too many guys behind us to see what we did and they could step up. We just tried to run what the track would hold. We got away with it. They tried to get me on TV to say whether it would hold. I said there were too many good cars back there like (Matt) Hagan, (Robert) Hight, (Mike) Neff and Cruz (Pedregon). Let’s not forget this is Ashley Force Hood’s Mustang. More than anything I want to run well for her and for her crew guys.”
With weather conditions expected to cool off for tomorrow’s elimination rounds Force is looking forward to some tough racing. He knows he will be relying on his crew chiefs to make smart decisions and not let the weather get the best of them.
“We’ll be able to step up that (weather) will make the track better. Where people get confused is the minute all your gauges show you what the car will do then you have to play the game that what if the track isn’t there. You might think the conditions are there but the track won’t hold it,” said the defending Summitracing.com Nationals champion.
“I told Guido if we can run top ET or at least top four then we can watch what other people do and you can see what they can do. Otherwise the slowest car in the field could take me out. Who am I racing in the first round? Bob Bode. He is a good kid. He knows how to race and he is real savvy. He is a match racer so we are going to watch the cars ahead of us and then try and put a good number up to get an edge. We are not going to race for low ET. It is like when Coil was running the Chi-Town Hustler they were famous for consistency and Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas listen and they learned so much from Coil. It is showing right here.”
It was a banner performance day for John Force Racing as each team picked up qualifying bonus points today. In the first session Robert Hight was the quickest of the session and banked three points and he was followed by Mike Neff who picked up two bonus points. More importantly Neff cemented his position in the field.
We’ll be able to step up that (weather) will make the track better.
“We are definitely happy with the way the day went. Any time you go into Saturday not qualified you are not comfortable. We were thrilled with the first run and being able to get into the field solid,” said Neff the points leader and Gatornationals winner. “Something goofy happened on our second run. It hurt a piston really early in the run so that didn’t go too well. All in all I am just thrilled to be qualified in a decent spot and be racing tomorrow.”
Neff was also pleased to see all three John Force Racing Mustangs in the top four spots going into eliminations. In the previous two NHRA races that was not the case.
“(Getting all three cars in the top spots) is a good thing for the Force team. It was good to see John get up there and qualify number one,” said Neff. “You always want to have all your Mustangs running well. It is hard to do that. Usually there is one car that is struggling a little bit. This weekend we were probably struggling more than anybody.”
Neff who will continue to pull double duty and driver and crew chief of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and the weather is not something that is going to keep him up tonight.
“You can’t worry about the weather going into tomorrow. We’ll just get up and see what we have to work with.”
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang came roaring out of the box on Saturday making the quickest run of the first session missing the No. 1 spot at the time by a thousandth of a second in very hot conditions. In the second session Hight saw Force race to the top of the field and was hoping to maybe race around his boss and father-in-law.
“We were low ET of the first session and that made us feel good. We were only a thousandth of a second off of basically the number one spot at the time. We missed it a little tonight. I am sure (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) will go back and look at the data,” said Hight.
“I don’t know what the conditions will be like in the morning but I think they are supposed to be a little cooler tomorrow. We are racing Jim Head and he is tough. We are going to have to go out there and make as good a run as we have made all weekend. Otherwise you risk getting beat.”
“What I am really encouraged by is that none of the JFR Mustangs meet until later in the day if we keep winning rounds. I am one side of the ladder and John and Neff are on the other. There is potentially an all Force final and then we would be guaranteed three wins to start the season. That is what we are shooting for.”