Force Races To Top Of Funny Cars At 4-Wide Nationals
John Force turned the tables on teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight today at the 2nd annual VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Force blasted to the top of the Funny Car class with a 4.056 second run at 315.19 mph shuffling Hight to the No. 2 spot. Hight was the provisional No. 1 with Friday's run of 4.062 seconds. This was Force's 136th career No. 1 and he is only two No. 1s behind the all-time record holder Pro Stock's Warren Johnson.
Warren Johnson is a veteran like myself. You always go after records.
"Warren Johnson is a veteran like myself. You always go after records. You don't think about it on race day. Just to be in the running with him is great. Any time you can put yourself in the same category with someone of that caliber you are doing your job."
Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang had been one of the most consistent Mustangs all weekend at zMAX Dragway. His four runs of 4.125, 4.106, 4.125 and 4.056 seconds garnered him five qualifying bonus points earned in three of the four rounds. The bonus points and qualifying points moved Force from 9th to 7th in the Full Throttle point standings.
At the start of the day it was questionable that any qualifying runs would be recorded as a line of thunderstorms rolled across the northern Charlotte area throughout the morning. Racing action began three hours late and NHRA officials accelerated the time between qualifying so all the teams could get at least one run in each lane. For No. 4 qualifier Mike Neff the extra runs will be critical to Sunday success.
"(Getting all four runs) was really helpful for us and I am sure for everyone else," said Neff. "This format is something the drivers are not used to nor the crew chiefs having to deal with four lanes. It was important to be able to go up there and go through the motions you'll do tomorrow. It turned out to be a nice day."
Neff tuned and piloted his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the quickest runs of the first sessions of each day. On Friday he was bested by Robert Hight for the provisional top spot when Hight made the quickest run in the second qualifying session. Today he had the quickest run of the opening session and then in the final qualifying session Force was the class of the field.
In the final session Neff's performance was off but he chalked it up to an aggressive tune-up.
"We made a good run this morning," said Neff. "I was trying to really rip one off on that last run but it put a cylinder out at 300 feet. It was running real good until then. We worked a couple of bugs out and we are getting our engine dialed-in a little better. Everything is going good."
Neff attributed his success to a team effort by track specialist Lanny Miglizzi and his Castrol GTX crew.
"(Lanny) is really important. He is running ragged this week," said Neff, the Gatornationals winner. "There is a lot to take in and try to look at. He will be worn out just like everybody else at the end of this race. I rely on him because I can't be up there looking at the track and having his help along with the help of the rest of my guys really make a difference. They have all been doing a great job covering all the bases for me."
Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang will roll into the elimination rounds tomorrow on the strength of his Friday night run. His runs on Saturday were subpar but the team was being aggressive and pressing every opportunity they had to attack the superior all concrete racing surface.
"We didn't have a great day today but I have all the confidence in (crew chief) Jimmy Prock going into tomorrow," said Hight, last year's No. 1 qualifier. "We will all get together and have the best tune ups in our Mustangs for race day. I am glad we are all in the top four in qualifying. I know Jimmy was already talking with Neff and Bernie (Fedderly) to compare notes. We will be ready for tomorrow."
In the pressroom at the end of the day Force talked about some of the idiosyncrasies of the four wide racing experience.
"With the pros running you have to run all four lanes. There were a couple lanes that were not as good as the others. They are all good just some are a little better. This is a great race track here," said the 132-time winner. "The more runs you get on the race track the better it gets. I leave that to the crew chiefs. This is an excellent race track especially when you can run these kinds of numbers. These are national record numbers."
"We had tried a different injector that (Mike) Neff and Robert Hight were running and they were really doing good with that but I couldn't get any reaction times with it and I couldn't get it to run at the other end. Guido (co-crew chief Dean Antonelli) put the old stuff back on and ran 4.05. We are pretty excited about that."
For Force getting used to the new staging lights is a work in progress. He actually had a similar experience to two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon during the final session.
"It is really tricky you are wide awake and you are watching the tree you are good. But when you get in the deep focus of cutting a good light your brain goes back to what it does out of routine and now there are blue lights," said Force.
"I caught myself saying 'What is that?' I did the same thing that Cruz did yesterday. He thought he was waiting on someone else to stage and it was really him and I did that today. I pulled up and checked the other drivers then looked at the tree. I thought I was already in but I wasn't. Then I went in and I flickered the bottom light. I got there and it ran good. I told Guido that he needs to remind me to concentrate on what lane I am in. You have to tell yourself, tell yourself and then stay in that lane and remember which light to watch. You also have to keep an eye on the other guys too."
Final eliminations will begin at noon tomorrow.