Hight Leads JFR Into Mile High Nationals Elims
There were no major changes in the qualifying order at the 32nd annual NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals today. The three John Force Racing Mustangs all held onto their top spots qualifying in the No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 positions. Cruz Pedregon claimed his first No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere Speedway with his track record run on 4.095 at 307.51 mph seconds on Friday night.
Robert Hight (4.172 seconds, No. 2) led the trio followed by Funny Car points leader Mike Neff (4.204 seconds, No. 4) and John Force (4.207 seconds, No. 5). Hight made the second quickest run of the final qualifying session on Saturday a solid 4.259 second pass as the sun set behind the mountains.
“Today was about getting ready for race day. I am pleased with that last run. It spun the tires a little at the top end,” said Hight, the defending Mopar Mile High Nationals winner. “I am looking forward to getting this Auto Club Mustang on the track tomorrow. We won here last year and I’d like to get another Wally. It will be tough because there are no easy draws. I know that Todd Simpson and his team will give me their best shot so we have to be ready.”
“I am glad we got seven qualifying bonus points. I think that was the most in the class. Hagan also got seven but we are trying to chase down Beckman for that No. 2 spot in the points. We made up a round in qualifying this weekend which is huge,” added Hight, who is now only two round behind Beckman.
Mike Neff was racing for a Sunday tune-up. The altitude and warmer conditions kept the crew chief and driver of the Castrol GTX Mustang busy. Neff spent more time on the starting line discussing track conditions with track specialist Lanny Miglizzi than previous events. In the final run of the session Neff spun the tires and slowed to a 5.628 second pass.
“It is very tricky up here but we have been down the track two of the runs and right there I was trying to pick it up,” said Neff. “It went a little too far. I feel alright and tomorrow is a new day. You never know what is going to happen up here on this mountain that is for sure.”
In the final session of the day John Force brought the crowd to its feet when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang blew its motor and jettisoned the body at about 300 feet. Early indications are that there was a possible valve train failure which led to the supercharger blowing up. The carbon fiber body made a complete flip before landing across the center line well behind Matt Hagan who was in the opposite lane. The safety features on Force’s Funny Car operated flawlessly immediately shutting off the motor and deploying the chutes. Force rolled to a stop and climbed out unhurt.
“The NHRA rules and the work we have done at The Eric Medlen Project have really protected the driver. It is a shame we have to choke these hot rods down on the hill and we spin the blowers so hard you start the motor and it sounds like a Hudson not a Ford BOSS 500. You have to do that to go A to B. It went out there and it just wounded itself for whatever reason,” said the reigning Full Throttle Funny Car champion.
“My biggest concern is when you know that you are OK is to make sure that the race cars don’t get any more damage to them. Sometimes the guys with the wrecker throw something up on the truck and it can hurt a critical part. That is why I stayed on the racetrack and screwed up all my interviews. I wanted to make sure this Mustang was OK before I went to my interviews.”
It was a surprising outcome for Force and the Dean Antonelli Ron Douglas tuned Mustang. It did however harken back to Force’s earlier days when fires and explosions were par for the course for the up and coming driver.
“If you look at the way I have raced my whole career. I told my guys this is where I came from. This is how I used to get all the TV. That isn’t what you want. It sure gets you into fight mode at the end of the day,” said Force. “It gives you a reality check of what can happen out there. I got out of that Mustang and I checked my chest, my throat, my eyes and everything. I some ringing in both ears for a few seconds and then it went away. I am good the car is good and now I am ready to go fight.’
In the opening round of eliminations Hight will face Todd Simpson and Mike Neff will race Paul Lee. Neither Hight nor Neff has raced either of those racers. On the flip side of that equation John Force will race former teammate and protégé Tony Pedregon. Force has a career record of 55-25 versus the youngest Pedregon brother.
By: john force racing