JFR HEATS UP UNDER COOL CONDITIONS AT GATEWAY INT'L (ST LOUIS) --- 14-time champion John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage team used their considerable talents to blast from the outside of the field to the No. 6 position on a cool day in St.
JFR HEATS UP UNDER COOL CONDITIONS AT GATEWAY INT'L
(ST LOUIS) --- 14-time champion John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage team used their considerable talents to blast from the outside of the field to the No. 6 position on a cool day in St. Louis at the 12th annual O'Reilly Midwest NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol. When Force pulled his Ford Mustang up to the starting line the nerves were tense throughout the grandstands at Gateway International Raceway considering Force was attempting to qualify so he could make a run at history tomorrow and pick up his 1000th round win.
"(Getting qualified on the last run) ain't nothing that we plan on or that we try to look cool doing. It is just the fact that you get more data. You run the car and you make mistakes so you know what not to do," said the winningest driver in NHRA history. "A lot of good cars fell out. We stepped up and ran that 4.79. We knew how to do it we just have to find consistency in this new chassis."
Force knows that his sponsors have high expectations and he is more than willing to rise to the challenge.
"Getting four Mustangs in the top half of the field is what Ford pays us to do so we are excited for all our drivers are doing their jobs. We'll see if we can get a win here in St. Louis," said Force. "Obviously I had to get in for my 59th birthday tomorrow. If I'd have missed out that would have been a bummer. The race car doesn't know it's your birthday you just have to make it run."
Teammate and most recent JFR winner Ashley Force made a strong move up the ladder with a 4.773 second run moving her into the No. 4 slot and setting up a first round match-up with former world champion Tony Pedregon.
"We are qualified fourth and most of all our runs were good. (On the first run today) I lifted early but I had a technical problem with my visor fogging up so I got that fixed so that won't be an issue for tomorrow," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "We had no tire smoke, no shake or anything. We obviously got a handle on it with the warm kind of muggy weather and then Saturday with the cool weather. Whatever weather we have tomorrow I think we have a good base for it."
Robert Hight and Mike Neff both had trouble in the second round today and did not improve on their earlier runs.
Luckily, Hight and his Auto Club team flew down the track in the first session with a team leading 4.771 second shot and in the second session looking to move up event more they lost a blower belt.
"(The first session today) was a very good run for what we had in it. We weren't in a position to try and run low ET. It kind of actually surprised us for the way we had the clutch set-up. Considering how slow the clutch came and how good it ran," said the Auto Club driver.
"(In the second session today) the clutch did what (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) wanted it to do but the clutch pulled the engine to its knees and for that part of the run it needs more fuel and it torched a head gasket then it blew the blower off. It was going good. It was pulling. It had the front end in the air big," added Hight.
Mike Neff extended to nine the number of consecutive NHRA races he has qualified and will square off against fellow Funny Car rookie Melanie Troxel. Neff will be entering his ninth first round against his ninth different driver. Neff will have lane choice thanks to his No.7 qualifying effort. Neff is still looking for his first round win and is eager to turn his season around.
"We pulled the threads out of the front cover on the blower. We had it hopped up but that didn't cause the problem," said the former off-road racer." It didn't go very far but that was out best sixty foot of the whole weekend. It was on its way to running pretty good."
"The conditions were great and we should have been able to step it up. It is better to have that today than tomorrow," said the Rookie of the Year contender.
Two-time Funny Car championship runner-up Hight has a good feeling about getting his Auto Club Ford Mustang on the track tomorrow.
"The track is awesome. The track will hold everything you put into it."
JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 6th at 4.797seconds, 320.36 mph
First Round Opponent: Ron Capps
Quotable: "Getting four Mustangs in the top half of the field is what Ford pays us to do so we are excited for all our drivers doing their jobs."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 4th at 4.773 seconds, 325.45 mph
First Round Opponent: Tony Pedregon
Quotable: "We obviously got a handle on it with the warm kind of muggy weather and then Saturday with the cool weather. Whatever weather we have tomorrow I think we have a good base for it."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 3rd at 4.771 seconds, 317.94 mph
First Round Opponent: Jerry Toliver
Quotable: "The track is awesome. The track will hold everything you put into it."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 7th at 4.796 seconds, 316.30 mph
First Round Opponent: Melanie Troxel
Quotable: "It didn't go very far but that was out best sixty foot of the whole weekend. It was on its way to running pretty good."