JFR FOCUSES ON RACEDAY SUCCESS AT BIR
BRAINERD, MN --- Qualifying wrapped up on Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway and all three John Force Racing teams are ready to put today behind them and get to eliminations at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Robert Hight once again had the most successful day on the track for JFR recording the third quickest run of the final session and going into eliminations as the No. 5 qualifier in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Unfortunately Hight is the only JFR Mustang in the top half of the qualifying order. Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang qualified No. 12 and Castrol GTX High Mileage’s John Force wound up No. 15.
“We made a good run in the last session but we still need to be more consistent. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) is going to go back and look at our data. I have all the confidence in him that he will get us set up for tomorrow. The downside is we have to race a teammate (Mike Neff) in the first round,” said Hight. “Normally I would give anything to race the person that is in front of me in points that early. This just hasn’t been our weekend so far but you know what, they don’t give out Wallys for qualifying. Tomorrow is when it matters and this Auto Club Mustang will be ready.”
In the last session John Force was looking to move up in the order but a broken clutch pedal eliminated any chance of Force improving his position. He was unable to make a final qualifying run and he had some tense moments as he had to watch and wait to see if Bob Bode, Tony Pedregon or Jim Head could run quicker than his time of 4.409 seconds. Bob Bode smoked the tires and did not make the show opening the door for Force to go after his 12th Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals title tomorrow. Force knew he dodged a bullet once he secured his spot in the show.
“I was trying to make the Countdown today. I needed to get this Castrol Mustang in the show. The run before this Mustang had a fit and we lost the motor. We didn’t lose any points thankfully. I was doing promotions. I couldn’t get back to warm the car and the driver does not do that. Robert warmed the car and he said it was in neutral but somehow the transmission broke and it wouldn’t go either way. We couldn’t seat the clutch and everything was kind of screwed up. We changed that, fixed it and drug it up there. We did the burnout and then it wouldn’t go into reverse. I don’t know if the clutch pedal broke. We worked on it on the starting line but finally we said enough is enough. If they spank me I ought to go home that is what I deserve. I just go lucky there and I am in the race.”
By qualifying for the race Force did clinch his spot in the 2011 Countdown guaranteeing a Top Ten finish for the 27th season in a row.
For Neff the two days of qualifying were a struggle as he tried to find a balanced tune-up for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. On Friday he was making some adjustments to improve performance but with little success he moved back to a more familiar tune-up. In the opening session today he made a solid run to put a number on the board, 4.242 seconds. In the final session he was looking to make a jump up the qualifying order and he did improve but not as much as the two-time world champion crew chief would have liked with a 4.237 second run.
Neff will face teammate Robert Hight in the first round of eliminations. These two drivers are battling for the top spot heading into the Countdown and tomorrows match-up could have a big impact on which on gets the top spot. If Neff wins three more rounds than Hight or Jack Beckman he will lock up the top spot in the Countdown.
“We just didn’t get a handle on this track. It seemed like we were behind the eight ball. I am not going to make any excuses,” said Neff. “I have confidence we’ll get this Castrol Mustang ready for tomorrow. I want to keep the No. 1 spot in the points. The thing about racing a teammate is you feel like no matter who wins you better go on and win the race.”
“I think momentum is important but more important than that is keeping a positive attitude. I told my guys we’ll get this thing turned around together and I know all three of our Mustangs will be ready for race day. I am going to go to the hotel and get some rest because I know I will have to be at my best if I want to have a chance against Robert, Jimmy and that Auto Club team.”