John Force Racing press release
JFR COUNTDOWN SHOWDOWN DURING PHOENIX ELIMS
CHANDLER, AZ --- With only 58 points separating Funny Car points leader Mike Neff from No. 5 contender Jack Beckman tomorrow’s race at Firebird International Raceway could be as pivotal a race day as the Countdown has seen since John Force won the championship on the last day of the 2010 season.
Neff and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang paced the field today for Countdown contenders picking up a qualifying bonus point in the final session when he tripped the lights in 4.298 seconds. For the weekend Neff was the only Countdown Funny Car driver to pick up qualifying bonus points in three sessions. Neff understands the importance both from a performance standpoint as well as championship position of one or two points.
“It is mainly getting ready for Sunday but every point counts. Those little few points could wind up making the difference,” said Neff. “You just have to try and grab everything you can get and those points are very important. It could be the difference between being ahead by one round or not.”
Neff will go into race day as the No. 4 qualifier but will have to race teammate Robert Hight in the first round. Hight struggled under the withering heat. He did not make excuses for his Auto Club Ford Mustang and he knows that no matter what happens in the first round he and his crew chief Jimmy Prock will keep battling until the last lap of the season.
“It is tough out there. This kind of heat is tough but it is tough for everyone. We are all on a level playing field and we are all racing in the same conditions. Other guys are running good so we need to be running good too,” said Hight, the 2009 Funny Car champion.
“This is what we have been fighting for all year long. Neff and I have won the same number of races, five, which is the most in the category. Unfortunately one of us is going home early tomorrow. If he loses or we lose it doesn’t mean your chances are over for the championship. It will be a big blow however.”
Neff was excited to have three solid passes worth of data from his qualifying efforts. Going into race day Neff the tuner thinks that will give Neff the driver an advantage.
“I feel good. It definitely helps being able to go down the track three out of four runs. Conditions like this that we haven’t really seen, a track this hot with such a poor track surface, there is no rubber so there is a lack of traction which is very difficult. The only way to work on a set up is to have it go down the race track. If you are out there smoking the tires you are not learning a whole lot. It was good to go down on the last run going into tomorrow. I feel about as good as I can going into race day.”
Neff and Hight last squared off in the first round of the Mac Tools US Nationals with Neff taking the win and then going on to win the most prestigious race on the NHRA tour for the first time as a driver or crew chief. Hight has the most recent win coming two weeks ago at the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania.
John Force had the most dramatic day of the JFR Ford Mustangs. Going into the final qualifying session he was on the outside looking in at the qualified field. He was in the first pair of Funny Cars to hit the track in the final session and he posted a respectable 4.352 second run which was good enough for the No. 12 qualifying position. He did have to wait for a few cars to run before he was locked in. Fortunately for the 15-time Funny Car champion and Firebird International Raceway fan favorite he made the show.
“We struggled like a lot of teams did with the heat. NHRA gives us the playground and Charlie Allen gives us a race track and we have to go out and deliver. We got to twelfth on that last run and my other two Mustangs are in. All our sponsors are happy Castrol, Ford Racing, Auto Club, Mac Tools, and BrandSource,” said Force.
“I have been coming here for almost 30 years since the track opened. I really built a fan base right here that carried across the US. The fans here are great and that is why I really wanted to get in during that last session. Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas did everything they could do to the Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Mustang to get it down the track and give me a good race car. Ashley was in my tow vehicle with the new grandbaby Jacob to give me some luck and make sure I made the show. You look at the real reason you are here and that is family both my family and my NHRA family.”
Force will race fellow Countdown contender Jack Beckman in the first round. Force will be looking to turn around a tough stretch against the Don Schumacher Racing veteran. Force has a 6-15 record against the former driving school instructor.