HIGHT GRABS TOP SPOT, JOHN FORCE MISSES SHOW -Ashley Force and Mike Neff Land in Top Half of Field- On his last run qualifying run Robert Hight took a page from John Force's playbook and drove his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the top of...
HIGHT GRABS TOP SPOT, JOHN FORCE MISSES SHOW
-Ashley Force and Mike Neff Land in Top Half of Field-
On his last run qualifying run Robert Hight took a page from John Force's playbook and drove his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the top of the field securing his first No.1 qualifying spot as well as the Full Throttle Award --presented to the team that was most consistent during the two days of qualifying- in the process.
"To go down the track here all four runs is unbelievable. I knew that last run as going to be a good run," said the former Funny Car points leader. "It was really revving at the finish line. That is the best run of the year for us so far this year. The motor seemed happy all the way to the finish line."
This was Hight's fourth No. 1 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and it was an impressive rebound for the championship caliber team coming on the heels of a DNQ two weeks ago in Houston. Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock spent a full day testing a new clutch set-up and they saw the reward for their hard work today in the desert.
"We took a big step backwards after Houston and we just regrouped. We don't need a clutch in here to run mid 4.60s, said the track record holder. "With the heavier cars we just aren't as quick but we are a lot safer and that is the most important thing."
While Hight was celebrating team leader John Force struggled and failed to make the sixteen car field. This was the first time in Force's thirty year history that he DNQed at the same event two years in a row.
"You have to perform. You get the same shots as everybody else and we didn't do it. We didn't deliver. Thank God I have three other Ford Mustangs."
Even though Force was disappointed with the performance of his Castrol GTX High Mileage team he knew that the future looked bright for his young driver including his daughter Brittany Force who was making her rookie debut behind the wheel of the BrandSource Top Alcohol Dragster.
"My daughter Brittany is driving for BrandSource in Jerry Darien's car and she outran me this weekend. Here I was worried about this little girl and she made the show," said the proud father.
"Ashley is driving great for Castrol. Robert (driving for Auto Club) and Old Spice is with Mike Neff and they are both looking good. They are in the show," said the 14-time champion. "I've got no complaints we'll take our team, take out whippin' and we'll get ready to race tomorrow. That is what they pay us for and that is what we are going to do. John Force is out I'll join the fans in the stands and we'll have a great Sunday tomorrow."
Force was the first Funny Car competitor to fall victim to the new professional qualifying format. His run on Friday of 4.971 seconds which was the 15th quickest of the day would have been quick enough to make the field but only the twelve quickest passes on the first day of qualifying carry over to Saturday. He was unable to duplicate that effort today.
2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force who made history the last time she raced in Las Vegas roaring to the final round -- first for a female competitor in the Funny Car class -- is positioned to try and make more history at a track she has achieved a number of firsts.
"We have had a lot of first here in Vegas. This is where I first raced in Super Comp," said the winner of AOL's Hottest Athlete contest. "This is where I got my A/Fuel and Funny Car licenses. I made it to my first final in Funny Car here. We are hoping to get the big first which would be a Funny Car win."
The Old Spice Ford Mustang piloted by 2008 Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff had a few ups and downs this event including a broken throttle linkage in the first session that aborted his first effort today. In the second run he dropped a cylinder and didn't reach the full potential the team was hoping for.
"We were disappointed with that last run. We wanted to run better. We wanted to be able to run a mid 4.80 and move up in the field. It put a cylinder out," said the former off-road racer. "We are making progress. It hurt us that first run today we had a throttle linkage break. We made it down there and it feels good to qualify in the top half. We can't complain about it. We are excited to be racing tomorrow."
The former crew chief is looking to not just make it to the second round for the first time but go all the way to the winner's circle.
"We want to win badly. It doesn't matter who is in that other lane they are all tough you just have to have your act together and everyone has to do their job. Bob Bode (Neff's first round opponent) can be as tough as anybody," said Neff. "I'd like to get this Old Spice Ford Mustang in the winner's circle. We are looking forward to a good day tomorrow."
JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 17th quickest pass at 5.020 seconds, 277.72.05 mph
First Round Opponent: DNQ
Notable: This is the first time John Force as failed to qualify for the same event two years in a row.
Quotable: "I've got no complaints we'll take our team, take out whippin' and we'll get ready to race tomorrow. That is what they pay us for and that is what we are going to do. John Force is out I'll join the fans in the stands and we'll have a great Sunday tomorrow."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 4th at 4.867 seconds, 320.97 mph.
First Round Opponent: Tommy Johnson Jr.
Quotable: "My toughest part about tomorrow is I am going to have to race against my teammates at some point. I know how good they are. That is just part of it. We have been getting from A to B."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 1st at 4.849 seconds, 321.27 mph.
First Round Opponent: Jack Beckman
Quotable: "That is the best run of the year for us so far this year. The motor seemed happy all the way to the finish line."
MIKE NEFF, 40, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 8th at 4.894 seconds, 320.51 mph
First Round Opponent: Bob Bode
Quotable: "I'd like to get this Old Spice Ford Mustang in the winner's circle. We are looking forward to a good day tomorrow."
BRITTANY FORCE, 21, BrandSource A/Fuel Dragster
Saturday Qualifying: 15th at 5.597 seconds, 237.21 mph.
First Round: Lost to Jim Whiteley
Quotable: "My first national event was fun and you can't win them all. I was so overwhelmed with getting qualified and making my first elimination run. I will definitely be ready for my next race."
Sunday, April 13
Final Eliminations 11:00 AM