Charlotte: John Force Racing Saturday notes

FORCE MISSES FIELD, CHAMPIONSHIP FOCUS ON YOUNG JFR DRIVERS (CHARLOTTE) --- An emotional John Force addressed the media in the palatial zMax Dragway at Concord media center following his dramatic fourth qualifying attempt which came up just...

FORCE MISSES FIELD, CHAMPIONSHIP FOCUS ON YOUNG JFR DRIVERS

(CHARLOTTE) --- An emotional John Force addressed the media in the palatial zMax Dragway at Concord media center following his dramatic fourth qualifying attempt which came up just short of landing the 14-time champion in the qualified field at the inaugural NHRA Carolinas Nationals. This was the second time in Force's career that he has failed to qualify in back-to-back NHRA National events covering a span of nearly three decades considering the last time it happened was 1979. Recording his fourth DNQ of the 2008 season had the winningest and loquacious driver in NHRA history almost speechless.

"This is hard for me. I didn't qualify at Indy. We put a new chassis into play. We have been struggling all year and we just made it into the Countdown. This doesn't help at all because the Countdown starts here. We had the same opportunities as everybody else. We just didn't get the job done. Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly) gave it every effort that they had," said one of the biggest names in Drag Racing. "I'd like to say I am sorry and I apologize to Bruton Smith and the NHRA fans because when they give you an arena like this, which is the greatest facility in the history of our sport, that brings in what I was told over 50,000 fans and I don't get to be a part of it."

The today's struggles did not dampen Force's enthusiasm for the race tomorrow. The team owner will be support three title contending teams as the first round of eliminations begin for the Countdown to 1. Missing this race will hurt but not end the championship hopes of Force however.

"My baby is out there, Ashley, and Robert Hight and Mike Neff also so I got three Ford Mustangs in. But me, John Force, personally I am not in the race and that is what John Force does. This is more painful to me, in my life I have lost Eric Medlen that put me to my knees," said Force. "That and the pain of breaking my arms and legs (in a crash in Dallas last year) even Indy I walked out of it and said that was part of the game but this hurt. In a town like Charlotte where I have fought my whole life to catch up to NASCAR I sure ain't helping or doing my part of the job. They are going to have a great race."

The first round match-up between Castrol GTX driver Ashley Force and points leader Tim Wilkerson will be the epic tilt of the day. With championship implications in the offing Force is looking forward to going head to head with a strong contender.

"We get Wilkerson first round which I am actually excited about because it doesn't matter how many rounds we go if he is going rounds too we'll never catch up to him. We need to match up with him to beat him so that we can gain points on him and get around him. I'm happy to race against him because he is a great competitor," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "He never does anything weird or tries to mess with you. I can just run my car and not worry about games on the starting line. No one has done that with me but once the points start getting down to it that is a way of racing that we will all probably get caught up in. If you can get that little bit of advantage you are going to try for it no matter what. With Tim I feel that we can go up there and let the best car and better driver win first round tomorrow."

Automobile Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight is focused on keeping his momentum moving forward and chipping away at the points lead of the two drivers in front of him in the Countdown to 1. A strong qualifying effort helped him cut into that lead and a win for Ashley Force tomorrow over Wilkerson would also help him immensely.

"We aren't changing a million things. We are going to be more consistent. I'm excited. I want to come out swinging on the first two or three races of this Countdown. I want to really go deep, win some races hopefully or at least go late rounds," said the two-time POWERade championship runner-up. "I want to put pressure on these other guys early not have to stay with them or make something up at the end. We know what we need to do, we know how to run good and we just have to do it."

Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff is looking to make a strong move up the point standing as well when eliminations begin. Squaring off against Gary Densham for the first time in his career, the rookie driver is hoping to end of the day of the former school teacher and No. 7 driver in the Countdown to 1.

"Now is the time of year when you really have to bring your "A" game. You have to be at your best every run and every race from here on out. We are racing Gary Densham and he is in the Countdown so it is a big one," said the crew chief turned driver. "Every round is just going to be huge from here to the end. I am excited to be in it. I feel good about how John Medlen has our Old Spice Ford Mustang running. I'm just excited about starting the Countdown tomorrow."

Neff is experiencing the Countdown from behind the steering wheel for the first time. He knows that his responsibilities are similar but there will be different pressure points when his Old Spice Ford Mustang pulls up to the starting line.

"Everybody has to bring their "A" game. It is exciting to be in the Countdown as a driver but it is also exciting for the crew chiefs. As far as I go I just have to make sure I'm at my best tomorrow. I just have to do my job and what I am supposed to do. I have all the confidence in (crew chief) John Medlen and my Old Spice crew that they are going to be doing their best. I just have to make sure I carry my part of the deal."

* * * *

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 18th quickest run at 4.157 seconds, 299.33 mph

Notable: First time since 1979 John Force has failed to qualify at back-to-back NHRA national events--This Force's 4th DNQ of the season which is the most DNQs in one season in his career.

Quotable: "This is hard for me. I didn't qualify at Indy. We have been struggling all year and we just made it into the Countdown. This doesn't help at all because the Countdown starts here. We had the same opportunities as everybody else. We just didn't get the job done. (Crew Chiefs) Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly) gave it every effort that they had. I'd like to say I am sorry and I apologize to Bruton Smith and the NHRA fans because when they give you an arena like this, which is the greatest facility in the history of our sport, that brings in what I was told over 50,000 fans and I don't get to be a part of it."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 4th at 4.075 seconds, 307.02 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Tim Wilkerson (1-3)

Quotes: "Our car has been the most consistent that we have had in a long time. With this heat and humidity it just really likes this track. Everything has gone good so far. If we can have four runs tomorrow like we have had this weekend we'll be in really, really good shape."

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 4.072 seconds, 300.33 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Jeff Arend (7-0)

Quotes: "We are the highest qualified countdown car. There are two pair the first round that are all Countdown cars so two guys will be gone first round for sure. I think we picked up six points on Tony Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson. We are counting every single point. My car went down the track all four runs which was just what we needed."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 8th at 4.104 seconds, 304.46 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Gary Densham (0-0)

Quotes: "Now is the time of year when you really have to bring your "A" game. You have to be at your best every run and every race from here on out. We are racing Gary Densham and he is in the Countdown so it is a big one. Every round is just going to be huge from here to the end. I am excited to be in it. I feel good about how John Medlen has our Old Spice Ford Mustang running."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Jeff Arend , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , John Medlen , Mike Neff