Pomona: John Force Racing Saturday notes

HIGHT LEADS JFR CONTINGENT INTO WINTERNATIONALS ELIMINATIONS POMONA --- When you only have one shot to get into a race you better make that shot count and the quartet of John Force Racing Ford Mustangs all hit the mark during a rain delayed 49th...

HIGHT LEADS JFR CONTINGENT INTO WINTERNATIONALS ELIMINATIONS

POMONA --- When you only have one shot to get into a race you better make that shot count and the quartet of John Force Racing Ford Mustangs all hit the mark during a rain delayed 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

For two days the John Force Racing funny car contingent was on the sidelines while mother nature soaked the track at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

On Saturday led by championship contender Robert Hight who grabbed his first No. 1 qualifying spot at a track he has dominated the past three season openers John Force Racing also landed in the No. 3 (Ashley Force Hood), No. 4 (John Force) and No. 12 (Mike Neff) positions.

Hight was powered to the top spot by a tremendous tune-up put together by crew chief Jimmy Prock. After a less than stellar test session in Phoenix two weeks ago Prock went back to the JFR Indianapolis shop and began constructing a successful tune-up for the 2005 Rookie of the Year.

"After we went testing in Phoenix a lot of guys had issues over there. The track was tricky. We have a new set-up in our Auto Club Mustang this year that we tested very briefly there on the last day of testing. Jimmy Prock went back to Indy and got on our clutch dyno he just worked night and day so we came here with a new set-up. It was something we have never run before," said the two-time Winternationals champion, Hight. "That is very tough to do. There is a learning curve with any kind of change you make to these cars. To go out there and go to the top spot is unbelievable."

Before Hight took to the track his three teammates all took their best shots at the famed Pomona Raceway. 14-time champion John Force laid down a solid 4.092 second run flying the black and gold colors of Castrol Edge for the first of three races in 2009. Last weekend Force was in Tampa launching the new premium motor oil in front of fans at Super Bowl XLIII. Today he was in his own sudden death event as threatening clouds loomed over the Funny Car field during what turned out to be their only qualifying session.

"We are excited considering testing was short. We had an opportunity to come out here and put all these Fords in the show and my two A Fuelers that are sponsored by BrandSource. It is a tough economy and for all my sponsors that have stepped up like Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource, Sanyo, and the Dipinto Brothers they all stepped up. They all showed their loyalty. I had to put that Edge car in for Castrol. We took it to the Super Bowl but it would have been terrible to not put it in this race. I'm excited and to be at Auto Club's home track. We did good," said the winningest driver in NHRA history.

Ashley Force Hood narrowly drove around her father racing to the No. 3 position with a 4.061 second run. The wait to get on the track had the newlywed frustrated and anxious.

"This has been the weirdest weekend. It is hard enough to get back in the groove of things when we have been off for a few months. It really is a little frustrating for everybody. I don't quite feel prepared to go into race day tomorrow. I feel like 'Wait a minute we need some more runs.' We are all in the same boat. We made a great first lap," said Force Hood. "I was so proud of my team. We didn't do that great in testing so to come out and on the first run down the track when you don't know for sure how the track will be have a good run is great. Everything was put together right and I managed to get it down the lane. We were very happy about that. We are pretty confident going into tomorrow. If we can just continue like we did today we'll be in good shape."

2008 Rookie of the Year Mike Neff was the first JFR driver down the track and muscled his way to the 12th spot with a decent 4.286 second run. He will square off with fellow Blue Oval supporter Bob Tasca III in the first round.

In the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks both Brittany and Courtney Force will race on Sunday as first round eliminations were rained out today. It will be a full day for Team Force but one that Brittany Force is looking forward to.

"It's Pomona our home track so I am excited to be racing again. Both Courtney and I will be running first round. We'll get back out here tomorrow and all of team Force will be racing which is great."

***

THE DRIVERS

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol Edge Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 4th at 4.092 seconds, no mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Ron Capps (41-17)

Quotable: "We are excited considering testing was short. We had an opportunity to come out here and put all these Fords in the show and my two A Fuelers that are sponsored by BrandSource. It is a tough economy and for all my sponsors that have stepped up like Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource, Sanyo, and the Dipinto Brothers they all stepped up."

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 3rd at 4.061 seconds, no mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Matt Hagan (0-0)

Quotable: "I swear the last two days waiting for the rain to stop seemed longer than the whole off season. To finally pull up there was great. I was just so pumped to make that run. My Castrol GTX Ford Mustang just went right down the track. I am just proud of my guys. They did a great job."

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 1st at 4.037 seconds, no mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Jerry Toliver (2-0)

Quotable: "A lot of people would think that being the No. 1 qualifier at any race would be a jinx because there are not a lot of guys that qualify No. 1 and then go on to win the race. It didn't happen very often last year. It is a great start. There is just so much pressure on the whole team and the driver when you know you are going to have rain shortened sessions and maybe only get one shot. My crew chief Jimmy Prock, he shoots for the moon all the time and that worries me sometimes."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Drive One Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 12th at 4.286 seconds, 304.12 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Bob Tasca III (1-0)

BRITTANY FORCE, 22, BrandSource A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 5.547 seconds, 246.69 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Justin Davis (1-0)

Quotable: "It's Pomona our home track so I am excited to be racing again. Both Courtney and I will be running first round. We'll get back out here tomorrow and all of team Force will be racing which is great."

COURTNEY FORCE, 20, BrandSource A Fuel Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 15th at 5.687 seconds, 252.58 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Jim Whiteley (0-1)

Quotable: "It has been a long winter. I have been ready to get back out here for a while. It has been a bummer that it has been raining. We both got qualified so that is great. I am just ready to run first round. We are kind of used to running back and forth but we'll see how tomorrow goes."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Ashley Force , Jerry Toliver , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Bob Tasca III , Mike Neff , Courtney Force , Brittany Force