SEATTLE, WA --- Going into race day at Pacific Raceway John Force Racing will have some tough match-ups at the 25th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest NHRA Nationals. The team struggled in the heat today but showed signs of progress in the final qualifying session. Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will lead the team as top qualifier, No. 6, going into race day. His time from Friday’s evening session, a strong 4.161 seconds, held up today. Ron Capps in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T held onto the top qualifying spot, 4.119 seconds.
“Today was definitely warm. The track temp was 125 degrees both runs so it was a little tricky. We were pressing a little too hard the first run and smoked the tires and then slowed it down for the next run,” said Neff. “We got down the track; made a decent pass. We were trying to run a little bit better, but all in all, the track’s been in pretty good shape for as hot as it is. I believe tomorrow is going to be every bit as hot as it was today. Our Castrol GTX Ford Mustang ended up 6th and we have lane choice against Bob Tasca III. We made it down while it was hot so I feel pretty good about our chances tomorrow. We should have a pretty good set-up for whatever the conditions are.”
Neff closed out his qualifying effort with a well-tuned 4.174 second pass. For the driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Mustang today’s results were a good indicator of success for tomorrow. He will square off with Bob Tasca III in the first round. This will be the third time Neff has matched up in the first round at Seattle against his fellow Ford competitor. He defeated Tasca in 2008 but dropped his first round race last year in the opening round.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang wrapped up qualifying with a 4.242 second pass. The Full Throttle points leader will go into Sunday’s elimination round as the “lucky” No. 13 qualifier and will face Johnny Gray in the first round. Hight has a 7-3 record against the veteran driver and this is the fifth time the pair have faced each other this season. Hight defeated Gray in the Gatornationals finals and he most recently bested him in the first round in Norwalk, Ohio.
At Pacific Raceway the Auto Club Ford Mustang made some good runs and crew chief Jimmy Prock is looking forward to attacking the track on Sunday. The veteran tuner has been working with the John Force Racing brain-trust preparing for the Countdown as well as the race here in Seattle. After the final qualifying run Hight expressed his outlook for Sunday’s race as well as the team’s recent performance strategy.
“We have set a few parts aside for later in the year. It is some of the stuff we ran so well with at the start of the season. We are trying some new things. It takes a while. Any time you change things it takes time. Austin Coil (former JFR Hall of Fame tuner) used to say it takes 20 runs to evaluate a change and come to a conclusion. That is where we are at. We have a tough competitor in the first round with Johnny Gray. He has one of the best Funny Cars here. This Auto Club Ford will be ready,” said Hight.
The Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford driven by John Force has had much success in the Pacific Northwest and the seven-time O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest NHRA Nationals champion is eager for the fight on Sunday. He will race Alexis DeJoria in a No. 7 versus No. 10 match-up. Force will be in the surprise underdog role on Sunday but his record with DeJoria levels the playing field as they have met four times with a 2-2 record.
Force is holding onto the final spot in the Top Ten and going rounds tomorrow will further help the 15-time Funny Car champion stay in the hunt for a spot in the Countdown. Force has not finished outside the Top Ten in the past 27 seasons.
Courtney Force has returned to a track where she got her first ever national event win in the Top Alcohol Dragster category in 2009, but the Traxxas Ford Mustang team struggled during qualifying today in an attempt to bump into the top half of the Funny Car field.
“Being back in Seattle is a good feeling; it’s a familiar track, but it’s one of the most challenging tracks I’ve seen so far this year on the circuit. I’ve definitely been having a tough time. My Traxxas Ford Mustang keeps wanting to spin (the tires) down at the other end, you just have to try to drive through it. It wants to pull you over to the left in both lanes and the grooves are really narrow here. It definitely puts up a challenge for the driver,” said Force.
Force came into Saturday with no prior run on the board, but with her third qualifying pass posted a 4.237 ET at 262.44 mph, moving her up to the No. 12 spot. The Traxxas Ford Mustang had the third-quickest 60-ft time of the session, but slowed near the finish line when she had to fight to keep her car in the groove and straight on the race track.
“As far as qualifying goes, when we made a pass on Friday we got it down to the other end, but it didn’t get us into the field so we had to try again today. When you’re in the bottom half of the field and you only have one good pass in, it really makes you step back and appreciate all the times this year when we have qualified for the national events. We’re very lucky that we got qualified this weekend. There’s a lot of tough competition out here, and the track and the weather have been tricky. It’s hard to get these cars in. You gotta do whatever you can and have the right tune-up for the conditions and the track and you really have no room for error as far as the driver goes,” said Force.
Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang spun the tires at about the 400 ft mark on the final qualifying hit and ran a 4.761 ET at 177 mph. She did not improve her position and was bumped down two spots to No. 14.
“It’s times like these where you’re close to the bottom that make you appreciate it and work a lot harder to get to the top. I’m very thankful that we got our Traxxas Ford Mustang into the show tomorrow even if it’s not exactly where we wanted it.
“We tried something on that last qualifying pass; it was pretty much an all or nothing pass. We were going to try to get a great run in and get us into the top half of the field, but it didn’t go that way. It’s always easier said than done. We stayed 14th and we’re going into Sunday against Cruz (Pedregon) in the first round. Cruz is a tough competitor, but our Traxxas Ford Mustang is a great car and we’re going to do the best we can,” said Force.
Source: John Force Racing