Phoenix: John Force Racing final report

HIGHT COMES UP SHORT IN THIRD CONSECUTIVE FINAL ROUND (PHOENIX) --- Funny Car points leader and media favorite for the championship Robert Hight reached his third consecutive final round driving the Auto Club Ford Mustang at the 24th annual CSK...

HIGHT COMES UP SHORT IN THIRD CONSECUTIVE FINAL ROUND

(PHOENIX) --- Funny Car points leader and media favorite for the championship Robert Hight reached his third consecutive final round driving the Auto Club Ford Mustang at the 24th annual CSK NHRA Nationals. Hight once again dominated from the bottom of the field winning three rounds of racing after qualifying No. 9.

"I have a good feeling about the way this year has started especially with as few runs as we have made. We didn't get full qualifying here so we only got two shots. The amount of runs we have had versus what we should have had is we are probably down twenty runs," said Hight.

In the first round the 2005 Rookie of the Year made the quickest Funny Car pass of the year, a strong 4.766 second run versus former John Force Racing driver Gary Densham. That run was still fresh on the mind of the Yorba Linda, Calif., resident after his final round loss to Jack Beckman.

"I still feel better right now than I did this morning. During the qualifying sessions we were hurting our Ford engine pretty bad but that 4.76 first round showed that we are making this Mustang run a little happier. It is really pulling (accelerating) in the middle of the track and that run was the quickest run in Funny Car this year. That is all good."

Hight was trying to win his third race in a row a feat that hasn't been accomplished since 14-time champion and father-in-law, John Force, accomplished it in 2005.

"Winning two races in a row is hard enough but I really wanted to get another win."

Team leader and driver of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, Force, qualified No. 3, the highest qualifying performance since his dramatic accident in Dallas, but his first round pass of 4.860 was not enough to overcome Scott Kalitta's 4.782. Force's time would have been quick enough to defeat half of the other Funny Cars that advanced to the second round had he been paired up against them in the opening round.

"We are excited about this season. We have a safer race car and a better race car. It still delivers. Once again the low ETs were by the two heavy cars; us and (Tim) Wilkerson. We are running as good as anybody so we don't have anything to complain about and we have safety so that is the icing on the cake. Right now we are focusing on trying to get another championship for John Force Racing."

2008 Rookie of the Year candidate Mike Neff and the Old Spice Ford Mustang had his most successful qualifying performance landing in the No.2 position heading into today's eliminations but unfortunately he was upended by eventual winner Jack Beckman in the first round. Neff, Crew Chief of Gary's Scelzi's 2005 Funny Car campaign, is still seeking his first professional round win as a driver.

"I wouldn't say we have a handle on our performance but we have definitely made some good strides. The performance was a lot better. We still need to get it a little more consistent. We made two good runs yesterday but then today it showed that it was a little too close to the edge and was over aggressive. We need to make sure we have a cushion there where it is not so sensitive so that it doesn't makes one good pass and then go up in smoke."

Even though his elimination round performance may be lacking the information he is gathering with every pass on the BOSS 500 nitro motor will pay dividends later in the season.

"All in all we are really excited about the performance and as quick as it was running. We still have a few more small changes but I feel like we are real close to being really good. Still getting more runs for me is the main goal. I get a little better every time."

2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang failed to qualify for an NHRA professional event for only the fourth time in her career. The Cal State Fullerton graduate continued her drag racing education during qualifying and was realistic about her less than stellar performance coming on the heels of a semi-final finish in the season opening event.

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TEAM CASTROL Details:

JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.808 seconds, 325.06 mph.

Race results: Lost to Scott Kalitta, Notable: Qualified for 24th consecutive CSK Nationals...was 9-0 versus Scott Kalitta prior to first round loss... Force is just six round wins away from his historic 1,000th round win

Quotable: "We are learning more about these new chassis. Robert is really doing a good job getting to two finals. We are getting exposure for the sponsors especially the new ones like Old Spice and Sanyo. He is doing the job for Auto Club and Ford. I think three of us are still in the Top 10 so that is a big plus."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: DNQ, best time 6.070 seconds, 306.40 mph.

Notable: Maintained position in Top 10 (tied in 8th with Gary Densham).

Quotable: "We know we have a car that can go to the semis. We just didn't have the luck here this weekend. We ran out of time ... it just wasn't a very good weekend. We just needed more laps but everyone was in the same boat. If we would have had one or two more runs we probably would have been alright especially since we tested well here."

ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 9th at 4.844 seconds, 304.74 mph.

Race results: Beat Gary Densham, Bob Bode, Tommy Johnson Jr. Lost to Jack Beckman.

Notable: Third consecutive final round...Maintained No, 1 position in Funny Car POWERade points standings.

Quotable: "We have been testing during qualifying and on race day and we are still getting to the finals. If we have a good test session tomorrow then I think heading to Gainesville we'll be looking pretty good."

MIKE NEFF, 40, Team Castrol/Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.798 seconds, 296.63 mph.

Race results: Lost to Jack Beckman. Notable: Highest qualifying position (No. 2) of career.... Continues to develop BOSS 500 Ford engine program with Crew Chief John Medlen.

Quotable: "All in all we are really excited about the performance and as quick as it was running. We still have a few more small changes but I feel like we are real close to being really good. Still getting more runs for me is the main goal. I get a little better every time."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham , Scott Kalitta , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Bob Bode , Robert Hight , Mike Neff , Tommy Johnson Jr.