Charlotte: John Force Racing Saturday notes

JOHN FORCE ROARS TO NO. 2 AT CHARLOTTE 14-time Champion Leads JFR Contingent at First Countdown Race CHARLOTTE, NC --- Last year John Force was embarrassed when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang failed to qualify at Bruton Smith's ...

14-time Champion Leads JFR Contingent at First Countdown Race

CHARLOTTE, NC --- Last year John Force was embarrassed when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang failed to qualify at Bruton Smith's "Bellagio of Dragstrips" zMax Dragway. In the heart of NASCAR country and at a facility where they named a grandstand after him Force took in the action from the sidelines. Today Force grabbed a small measure of revenge on the four lane all-concrete race track when he made the quickest run of the final session and landed in the No. 2 qualifying spot for the 2nd annual NHRA Carolina Nationals.

"Most important is that we qualified at Charlotte. I think even (track owner) Bruton Smith was starting to worry about me. At the end of the day the fans pay to see us and my name is on the grandstands. I wanted in this show," said Force. "I was hungry for it. I was watching my other cars and they all did well. I went out there today and got a number. I think we had it set up to go down the track and we have three in the top half of the field. We'll be racing tomorrow and that is what we do."

"This is NASCAR country. They are starting to see the other side and drag racing. I have to be honest I went all the way up to the suites and out into the grandstands. I sat there for a few minutes and I wanted to take a moment to see the view. It is spectacular. Bruton and Marcus Smith do it right," added Force. "I am looking forward to racing here twice next year. Tomorrow I am looking forward to the Countdown. That is our priority. I am looking forward to whoever runs that four lane drag race. I'll tell you this. If I get whooped first round I am going to be in that four lane race."

Force who grabbed three bonus points for the fourth qualifying session for his efforts moved around teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight in the qualifying order. After making two stellar runs on Friday Hight struggled in his Auto Club Ford Mustang today failing to make a pass under full power.

"We can see the problems we have here. We are basically trying too hard. Sometimes you have to smoke the tires to know where your limits are. Getting that information is a good thing. The first run today we were probably trying way too hard. On the last run we thought we had it soft enough but we may have driven through some oil," said the eventual No. 3 qualifier. "It was violent when it blew the tires off. It might have had oil under the tires. It is like baseball when you swing for the fence sometimes you don't hit a homerun. You have to make contact to hit homeruns. When you try too hard to set low ET sometimes you smoke the tires."

"To win this championship you have to go a lot of rounds every race. Losing first round will kill us being the number ten car. It would not be the end of the world but we just can't have that. We want the semi-finals at a minimum and I see all out cars on the same side of the ladder. To me that is good and bad. It is good that we ought to put one of them in the final and it would be cool if there were two JFR Mustangs in the semis. It is bad because we are not going to double up here and get the maximum number of points for all our teams. I am excited to be racing tomorrow and my Auto Club Mustang will be fine."

Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Mustang was grabbed two bonus points in the first session on Saturday making a 4.109 second run but in the final stanza her Mustang lost traction at half track and slowed to a 5.826 seconds. By not stepping up her qualifying position she will be forced to race teammate and fellow Countdown to 1 contender Mike Neff in the first round.

Neff and his Ford Drive One Mustang moved out of the groove during the final three qualifying session. They made the quickest pass of the first session on Friday and this morning it made a decent 4.13 second.

"We had a good run in the first run (on Friday afternoon) which turned out to be our best run. Friday night we were trying to step it up and unfortunately we got a piece of debris in one of the nozzles in a cylinder. It happened some time during the burnout and that cylinder wound up getting really hot and burning out," said Neff. "Basically that night run we were on seven cylinders. The first run today we were trying to step it up again and it ran 4.13. We were a little disappointed. Tonight we tried to get aggressive and it just smoked the tires. We have been on all sides of it and we'll be ready for tomorrow."

Neff's first round draw is my many people's estimation the favorite to win the Funny Car world championship -- teammate Ashley Force Hood.

"It is big for everybody that is in the Countdown. Every round, every run and every point is so important. It is especially important for us because we are at the bottom. We need to go some rounds. Ashley has one of the toughest cars out here. That is not who you want to race first round but that is the price you pay for not qualifying better. We are just going to have to really get it together. Everything will have to be perfect tomorrow."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Mike Neff