Brainerd: John Force Racing final report

JOHN FORCE RACES TO SEMIS IN BRAINERD BRAINERD, MN -- John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang raced to the semi-finals before dropping a tire smoking pedalfest to Ron Capps at the 28th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at ...


BRAINERD, MN -- John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang raced to the semi-finals before dropping a tire smoking pedalfest to Ron Capps at the 28th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Force defeated veteran journeyman Bob Bode in the first round and then received the benefit of a single run in the second round when Jack Wyatt could not make the call to race against the winningest driver in NHRA history. While Force picked up a few rounds to hold onto his No. 8 Full Throttle points position he still had his eye on his entire team's performance and chances for the Countdown.

"We are looking at the points so I am glad we had Mike Neff's Ford Drive One as the number one qualifier. That was a positive for Neff and (crew chief John) Medlen. That got Ford up where they wanted to be. The rest of us made it except for Jimmy Prock and Robert (Hight, of the Auto Club team). I picked up a couple of rounds. I have about a 100 point lead (on No. 10 Cruz Pedregon) with two races to go. Somebody is going to really have to do some damage to catch me," said Force, an 11-time Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals winner.

In the semi-final race Force left on Capps and both funny cars lost traction at about 250 feet. They each pedaled their hot rods and Capps was able to collect his NAPA Dodge Charger while Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang never regained its control.

"Pedaling like that is what you have to do to try and win. My motor just ran out of steam. I pedaled it twice and put all the holes out and it was over. Capps got me," said Force.

While Force started the day as the No. 6 qualifier he had two of his JFR Ford Mustangs ahead of him in the qualifying order. Mike Neff was the No. 1 qualifier and Ashley Force Hood was the No. 3 qualifier. Unfortunately both of their tune-ups were too aggressive and each dropped their first round races.

In just the third pair of Funny Cars Ashley Force Hood pulled up beside Jack Wyatt for the first time in her career. Both funny cars launched and Force Hood's Mustang made a move out of the groove and the race was over at that point as her Castrol GTX Mustang lost traction. Force Hood could just watch as Wyatt pulled away.

"The track was awfully good. We tried to step on it a little bit. We maybe underestimated the starting line and stuck a tire. That got the front end up. It just got (the car) over out of the groove. She (Ashley Force Hood) was trying to steer it but when it pulled the tire it lifted the front end up so she didn't have much help. When it sticks a tire the car squats down a little bit and all the weight transfers which lifts both tires. We usually only lift one front tire. It looks like it stuck for a quarter of a second so there is no steering. It got out of position from there," said Castrol GTX Ford Mustang co-crew chief Dean Antonelli.

In Neff's case he and crew chief John Medlen were trying to improve on or at least equal their No. 1 qualifying effort in their first round race with Jack Beckman. The track conditions just did not cooperate with the Ford Drive One driver and crew chief tandem as their Mustang lost traction at half track while Beckman took the win.

"It is a double edge sword (being overly aggressive or not aggressive enough) right there. In hindsight we didn't need to try to run as hard as we were. We felt that we could run a little better and our Ford Drive One Mustang did everything we wanted it to do. It was just too much for the track to take. Then after it is over you look and the other guy runs a 4.19 and we are up there trying to run a 4.09 or a 4.10. That is just the way it goes. We try to run as hard as we can every run. That time we just pressed a little too hard and shot ourselves in the foot. The positive is the Mustang is running good. The crew is doing a great job. Everything is working really good we just made a little error in our call that time," said Neff who leaves Brainerd in the No. 9 position in the Full Throttle point standings.

While Neff's position is somewhat precarious the second year driver draws on a wealth of experience as a world championship crew chief. Neff directed Gary Scelzi to the 2005 Funny Car championship holding off a huge charge from John Force and Ron Capps.

"I do think about (2005) when I start getting stressed and feeling the pressure. I know that I have been through it before actually more pressure, about as much pressure as anybody can image that experience of going to the last day of the season racing two other teams for the world championship where every round and every run counting like it was. I have been through this before and it is tough. I don't let that bother me too much. I just try and stay relaxed. I want to go up there and be ready and whatever happens happens," said Neff, the 2008 Rookie of the Year.

A huge points deficit for Robert Hight and his Auto Club Mustang team was avoided thanks to an unlikely turn of events. Hight was not able to qualify his Jimmy Prock tuned Mustang and he had to sit idly by as Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon, the two drivers in front of Hight battled in the first round. Pedregon defeated Hagan and set up and all Pedregon second round match-up as brothers Cruz and Tony were slated to race each other. Tony defeated his brother freezing Cruz only 60 points ahead of Hight or the equivalent of three rounds of racing.

"We caught a break when Tony beat Cruz. That was big for us. We are only three rounds behind Cruz from the 10th spot. We have two races and I am up for the challenge. I have been in pressure situations before and I am confident in my abilities. Not qualifying was tough. Trust me. I want to be out there racing for Auto Club, Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools and the rest of our sponsors. We are not out of this Countdown by a long shot," said Hight.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Jack Wyatt , Bob Bode , Robert Hight , John Medlen , Mike Neff