Charlotte: John Force Racing Friday notes

HIGHT CONTINUES HOT PACE AT CAROLINA NATIONALS JFR Mustangs all Top Half of Field at 1st Countdown Race CHARLOTTE, NC --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team led by crew chief Jimmy Prock picked up at zMax Dragway right where ...

JFR Mustangs all Top Half of Field at 1st Countdown Race

CHARLOTTE, NC --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team led by crew chief Jimmy Prock picked up at zMax Dragway right where they left off coming out of the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals two weeks ago.

Hight's Mustang was the second quickest funny car on the property at the 2nd annual NHRA Carolina Nationals both qualifying sessions today and for his efforts he picked up four additional points under the new NHRA qualifying bonus program. In each of the four qualifying sessions teams will be award three points for the quickest run, two points for the second quickest pass and one point for the third quickest run. Led by Hight, John Force Racing picked up nine of the available twelve points today.

"The qualifying effort we had in Indy was awesome and we are carrying it forward here. We gained four points on the real hitters. We are getting points every round. We have to keep that up. We are 110 points back," said Hight who is currently 10th in the Countdown standings.

"Something else that is important is adding in today, that is fifteen runs in a row for this Auto Club Ford Mustang. It has gone down the track under power and not dropping cylinders. That is unheard of. It is hard to do that."

"We really owe a big thanks to (Castrol GTX co-crew chiefs) Guido (Dean Antonelli) and Ron Douglas. They spent a lot of time with Jimmy (Prock) and helped him in this transition, switching over the parts. We made our car more like Ashley's. It is huge having a team like this."

Hight is right behind 2008 Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon in the provisional qualifying standings after the first day. He had nothing but praise for the two-time world champion.

"Good job to Cruz Pedregon. He did a great job today with that 4.08. They showed us what was out there early in the session. Conditions will be good tomorrow. Maybe we can press a little harder and try to run a little lower."

Hight is excited about the qualifying bonus points but he is also happy it doesn't really mean a change in how his team operates.

"The thing is (crew chief) Jimmy Prock never needed an incentive to try to run good. I think the incentive with the points is to make sure it goes. If you go up there and just try to get the three points every run and be low ET you risk smoking the tires and you risk getting messed up. To be safe and try and be in the top two or three every single run that is a big goal of ours. Jimmy is definitely doing a good job because now that is six qualifying runs where we have been number one or number two consecutively. Good job Jimmy Prock and the Auto Club team."

Hight is followed in the qualifying order by sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood who was consistent but not dominant today. The 2007 rookie of the year battled dehydration all day ultimately getting fluids intravenously at midday after she was sick overnight. Her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made two solid runs but her crew chief tandem of Ron Douglas and Dean "Guido" Antonelli knows there is more out there at zMax Dragway.

"If we are not in the quick three for each qualifying session we are always disappointed. We always shoot for sunning as good as we think the track can hold and still insuring that we go down the track. We try not to throw away any runs," said Ron Douglas. "We try to run as good as we think we can and when we and we don't screw up we usually are one of the top three ETs for that session. For us this points format doesn't really change our thinking or mindset one bit. We are going up there doing the same thing we have always done. It is not like are making any big changes to what we do in our program."

Dean "Guido" Antonelli added, "It is not like we are going to try harder for three points. The truth is like even tonight we probably didn't press enough for what the track had. We are still third quick so we got a point. We are kind of disappointed because we thought we could have run better than that. As it is we moved up the ladder even though we are not happy with how we ran. The bottom line is the qualifying points are still there for position and what we learned will help us on Sunday. We don't change our minds because they changed the format. We just try and get the most out of the track."

Mike Neff and his Ford Drive One Mustang finished the day in the No. 6 provisional spot after opening up the first qualifying session with the best run. He covered the 1000 ft track in 4.122 seconds and picked up three points for his efforts.

Team leader and 14-time champion John Force was just glad to be back racing after an eventful Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Force and former teammate Tony Pedregon exchanged verbal jabs at the top end and the resulting fall-out kept Force in the national media spotlight for the past two weeks. Force who has never shied away from the media felt that all the attention was a distraction he was glad to put behind him with the start of the Countdown to 1 today.

"My race car is my office. I wanted to get in there and just turn off all of the stuff that has been making me ill for weeks. I have one big problem. I like to be loved by everybody. You can't do that. Me and Coil were back in the groove and he was chewing my tail this morning. We are just going to move on down the road. I saw Tony (Pedregon) today. We said hi to each other. That was it and we moved on. It is good to have Austin Coil back and it shows in my race car."

Force missed having his crew chief and confidant Coil by his side after the Hall of Fame crew chief spent four days in an Indianapolis area hospital after an intestinal ailment took him out of commission. He assisted the team as best he could from the hospital but Force is glad to have him back at the track even if he is restricting his duties for the time being.

"It was great to have Austin Coil back running things. He still wants to charge out on that starting line but I won't let him. We want to make sure he is well. That is very important to this program. It is exciting to have him here I really missed him in Indy."

Force is now able to get his head back in the game and focus on winning his unprecedented fifteenth Funny Car championship.

"I think we just need to keep our focus. There have been a lot of things going on that get you mental. Ashley was sick today and she had to get a couple IVs. She is OK and she told me when she got in the car and drove it. When she got out she was well. That is because of the adrenaline you get from driving one of these 300 mph funny cars. It will make you well. I got sick myself. I think mine was a lot of stress," said Force. "We got through it. The coolest think is something I forgot all about which was my cars all picked up points in qualifying. In the first round we were 1-2-3 and in the second round we were 2-3. Cruz (Pedregon) was low and he was flying. In the big picture coming off Indy we bounced right back."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Austin Coil , Mike Neff