BRISTOL, TN --- Thunder Valley was unkind to John Force Racing at the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Ford Dealers as all four Mustang Funny Cars were ousted in the first round. This was the first time all four JFR Mustangs lost in the first round at the same event.
“It wasn’t a good day for John Force Racing. We are going to watch the competition to see if we get hurt (in the points). My Elvis/Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Mustang is showing some consistency. Someday it is not your day to win. I promise all our sponsors – Castrol, Ford, AAA, BrandSource, MacTools, Traxxas, and Freightliner - we will stay after it,” said Force.
“We all got spanked today. (Rival team owner Don) Schumacher got a Father’s Day gift from me when all my hot rods went out first round. That oil down was really brutal. NHRA Safety Safari did a great job and gave us back a good race track. At the end of the day Courtney, Robert, Neff and I are going to watch some NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing.”
“It matters a lot because I like to be part of the race,” said Force in response to not advancing a Funny Car to the second round. “I am going to go up (to the starting line) right now and watch the competition. I am going to take Courtney up there and keep teaching her.” Rookie of the Year front-runner Courtney Force was in the first pair of Funny Cars racing one of the hottest drivers on the series, Ron Capps. Courtney had her Traxxas Mustang glued to the center of the groove but just past half-track she smoked the tires while Capps made the quickest run of the session, 4.060 seconds. Capps would go on to win his second race of the season in his sixth consecutive final round appearance.
Three pairs later Mike Neff was a victim of the biggest upset for John Force Racing when his Castrol GTX Mustang smoked the tires in the right lane. His opponent Alexis DeJoria picked up her second round win of the season and eventually reached her first final round after beating teammate Jeff Arend and Jack Beckman. It was a short day for Neff, the No. 2 qualifier, as a driver and crew chief but one that he can correct heading to Chicago.
“It was loose and it was just kind of slipping the tires the whole way. It got out there far enough and knocked them loose. I just couldn’t get the set up right. The track obviously pretty good but for whatever reason our set-up was too aggressive,” said Neff. “I was trying to run good and I thought it would go. I was too aggressive yesterday and I thought the track got good enough that it would be OK. I didn’t really change it and it just wasn’t quite right.”
Right behind Neff, the No. 5 qualifier, John Force, smoked the tires against former teammate Tony Pedregon. This was the 82nd meeting between these two world champions and Pedregon managed to pick up his first round win of the season against the winningest driver in NHRA history. Force was racing a commemorative Elvis 35th anniversary Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang which was the third Elvis Funny Car Force has raced in his illustrious career.
Robert Hight closed out the session versus Johnny Gray in a classic No. 9 versus No. 8 match-up. Hight and his Elvis AAA Insurance had to watch Johnny Gray pull away at about 700 feet when his Mustang struck the tires. Gray posted the third quickest time of the session, 4.091 seconds, advancing to the quarter-finals.