Force Sets All-Time No.1 Qual Record At Sonoma
It took over twenty-five years but today John Force added one more record to his illustrious list of personal achievements qualifying No. 1 at the 24th annual NHRA FRAM/Autolite Nationals for the 139 No. 1 qualifier of his career. Force broke a tie with Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson when his Friday night pass of 4.060 seconds held up as the quickest time all day at Infineon Raceway. Force reflected on all the people who contributed to this record and singled out one person in particular for supporting him throughout his career.
“I gave credit at the top end to all the crew chiefs. Steve Plueger was there from the beginning. Of course Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly but Austin Coil led me down this road. Now he is not with me, but he is on vacation somewhere. I wish he was with me,” said Force. “(Crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas, Jimmy Prock, Mike Neff, these kids are the future. When I see Dean look through the window. When you can be put in the record books with legends like Warren Johnson that is great. I am still chasing them. I am still chasing (Don) Prudhomme in my mind. He thinks I am always just telling stories but it is what gets me up and keeps me going.”
“You know what is really cool? I always congratulate everybody, all my crew chiefs and my sponsors like Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, Mac Tools, and BrandSource but there is only one person that has been with me for all my records, all the low qualifiers and wins. There was someone there before all of that and it was my girl’s mother: Laurie. She has been here for every low qualifier.”
During his career Force has won from the No. 1 spot 55 times and been runner-up an additional 24 times. He was reached the semi-finals 73% of the time he has been No. 1 qualifier and this is the 22nd time he has qualified No. 1 in the state of California which is the most No. 1s in one state.
In the pressroom Force recounted a conversation he had with Laurie after he set the record.
“She asked me if I remember Baton Rouge and I barely remember last week I have so much going on. If there is any one individual next to Austin Coil with all the wins and everything Laurie was the one person that was there a little but longer. Those two people I give credit to for my career otherwise it would not have been pretty.”
Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang smoked the tires for an anti-climatic end to the qualifying session but Force knew that run was an end to a means.
“We wanted to try and run 4.15. (Teammate) Robert (Hight) had done it earlier and (Matt) Hagan had done it. You have to push it over the limit to see what you can’t get away with. If he thinks it isn’t going to go he tells me so I am quick to respond. That means he is shoving it to see what he can get away with tomorrow,” said the seven time FRAM/Autolite Nationals winner. “He is really good and he was taught by Austin. I was watching Robert when my Mustang blew the tires off my eye went straight to him to see if he could run. He was trying to push it in the heat.”
“I am a race car driver and it is what I really love. I am just all about the next generation. I come out here and see guys like (Gary) Densham come out here and run good. I love to watch Cruz (Pedregon) battle and fight and putting her in the show right there.”
In the first session of the day Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang made the second quickest run of the session and picked up two more qualifying bonus points. His crew chief Jimmy Prock is still working through some issues. Going into Sunday he feels good but knows that Jimmy will still be tweaking his Funny Car right up until he races Jeff Diehl.
“The first run today it ran really good it was second quick. It still rattled though. Jimmy made some major changes and I was thinking wow this is awesome. It rattled again and you can’t keep racing like that. It is going to bite you. That is what has been biting us when we lose. We made some more changes tonight and it was smooth but slow,” said the 2008 Infineon Raceway winner. “It was slow but then it got behind. It spun out in the middle. It is a balancing game. Tomorrow we have to get it to where it is quick enough early and it can maintain. It is not easy. I have all the faith in those guys. We are racing a guy that we have to go down the track against. We are No. 2 qualifier again. I’ll take that the rest of the year. We picked up four bonus points on Beckman. “
I am still chasing (Don) Prudhomme in my mind.
Points leader Mike Neff continued to look for a strong tune-up for race day. In the last session his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made it to just about half track before it smoked the tires. The 8,000 hp BOSS 500 motor was pulling through the transition area but it could not hold on until the finish line.
Neff will head into tomorrow’s race as the No. 9 qualifier. So far this year Neff has won from the No. 1, No. 3, No.5 and No.7 qualifying positions. He will have a tough match-up versus veteran Gary Densham in the first round.
“We were trying to pick it up on that last run. It was slow this morning and we have been a little off the pace all weekend. We decided we needed to make a move to try and make it run quicker. It was running quicker it just got out there four hundred feet and spun the tires. It was running right what we were hoping it would up until that point. We definitely made some gains and now we just need to fix it the last little part,” said Neff, the Funny Car points leader.
“I have been a lot more confident than I am right now. Things really seemed to be a struggle this weekend. It is usually a lot easier for us at this point. That is part of the fight. We made some progress today even though you can’t see it. I do feel confident about tomorrow though. We’ll see how she goes.”
By: john force racing