Infinenon Raceway Sears Point
Force Reaches Semis At Fram/Autolite Nationals
No. 1 qualifier John Force raced into the semis at the 24th annual NHRA FRAM/Autolite Nationals today before being defeated by fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson. Force eliminated Brian Thiel and Gary Densham in the opening two rounds before being dispatched by Wilkerson. Veteran driver Ron Capps won the race for the second consecutive year.
“I can’t complain we are over 200 points ahead of the No. 11 driver in the Full Throttle point standings with three races left. Those are pretty good odds but things can go wrong. I was hoping the other Ford Wilkerson would get him (Capps). My Castrol Mustang is starting to run. I am starting to go rounds,” said Force, the NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals winner last weekend in Denver. “That is good for Ford, Castrol, Auto Club, Mac Tools, and Brandsource. My guys are working hard and we are not doing too bad. We are leaving here 1-2 in the points with (Mike) Neff and (Robert) Hight on top. I might have been knocked to seventh but I am in position to move up.”
Even though Force maintained his position in the No. 7 spot in the Full Throttle point standings he lengthened his lead on the No. 11 driver Johnny Gray. Only the top ten drivers will be eligible to race for the Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
“We are 20 points out of 4th or 5th. Our cars are good and our people are working together. The attitude is good and we don’t have any hiccups,” said Force. “Parts are holding together and I don’t think we had any parts breakage this race. We’ll just move on to Seattle, we’ll take a break for a couple of days and let our guys rest, then get back into this fight.”
Force clinched the all-time No. 1 qualifier record on Saturday breaking his tie with Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson. Force now has been the No. 1 qualifier 139 times in his career.
On Saturday Mike Neff was officially recognized as the first and only Funny Car driver to clinch his spot in the 2011 Countdown. To date half the Top Fuel field has been locked up led by Del Worsham, then Spencer Massey, Antron Brown, Larry Dixon and Tony Schumacher. In Pro Stock Jason Line, Mike Edwards, and Greg Anderson have clinched their spots and Pro Stock Motorcycle racers Karen Stoffer and Eddie Krawiec have locked up their spots.
“That (clinching a Countdown spot) was goal number one. As far as that being a relief that answer is yes and no. It is a relief to know that we are in the Countdown but I want to hang and go in there No. 1. We have been leading the points long enough that I would hate to let that slip away at this point. Those 30 points are going to be very valuable. We are just trying to hang onto that,” said Neff, a four-time 2011 winner.
“We’ll make some adjustments. Jimmy was having a hard time too. We run pretty much the same set up. We are going to go to Seattle and make some changes.”
Neff surprisingly struggled this weekend with his tune up on the Castrol GTX Mustang. My his own admission the move down from the mountain top knocked him off his crew chief game but the two time world champion tuner is confident he will have his program on track in Seattle. He lost in the first round to Gary Densham and spent the day working with Auto Club crew chief Jimmy Prock.
“It is actually weird having this much time on Sundays. We just started off on the wrong foot here. It just seemed like we were having a hard time dealing with the power here coming back down to sea level. It was really abusing our clutch,” said Neff. “We didn’t make big enough changes to try and get it back. We were also trying a few things now that we are in the Countdown. We want to try and test a few things. We want to make sure we do well because we want to hold onto the top spot. We’ll get it back on track for Seattle.”
Robert Hight will also be looking to get back to his winning ways in Seattle. The four time Seattle No. 1 qualifier knows that with three races left in the regular season kinks need to be worked out and tune ups need to be perfected.
“Three of the runs in qualifying when it went it rattled. Jimmy knew that wasn’t good. We know we have to fix that. In the first round it was smooth and in the second round it rattled again and it didn’t go through it,” said Hight. “We better start working on a set up. This is the same kind of thing we were fighting at the end of last year. We have to make changes so it is worked out before Indy. For whatever reason my Mustang is the only one that rattles like that. We know we have to do something different.”
Hight recorded the quickest pass of the first elimination round a 4.11 second run versus Jeff Diehl but he was upended by Cruz Pedregon in round two when his Auto Club Ford Mustang smoked the tires at about 300 feet.
“Seattle is a good place to turn it around. We had a major chance today to make up some ground on (Matt) Hagan and (Jack) Beckman and actually if we could have won this race it would have put us eighty points closer to Neff with three to go. We would have had a shot at the top spot. A lot of cars are starting to step up and run real good. You look at Hagan in qualifying and especially Capps in qualifying and then he wins this race. From here on out it is not getting any easier.”
“There is no time to test. We are going to Seattle trying to work things out. We’ll try and get qualifying points and win the race. It is so tough to do that. In all honesty we have to make baby steps and I can’t wait for the Indy test session. We will try and work out as many issues as we can there. Maybe we can do a little at the Norwalk match race. We really, really need some testing.”
By: john force racing