ASHLEY FORCE, HIGHT LEAD JFR AT ATLANTA During the first qualifying session of the Southern Nationals all four John Force Racing Ford Mustangs struggled, none more than Old Spice driver Mike Neff who survived the first major...
ASHLEY FORCE, HIGHT LEAD JFR AT ATLANTA
During the first qualifying session of the Southern Nationals all four John Force Racing Ford Mustangs struggled, none more than Old Spice driver Mike Neff who survived the first major explosion of his young career, but at the end of the day it was Ashley Force and Robert Hight who landed in the top twelve.
Neff is still in the learning curve of his rookie season and today's experience was one that he does not want to repeat.
"First there was the concussion. Then the boom and then fire everywhere, at that point I knew I just had to get this Old Spice Ford Mustang stopped. I was thinking, this is a good sized fire. I got the chutes out and my next thought was to get it stopped so I pushed on the brake and hit the fire bottles. When I put the brake on the oil coming out underneath it just skidded the rear tires and made it just slip (all over the track)."
Heading into the second session Ashley Force was in the unenviable position of being the first car to run down the track leading off the session and her blistering 4.897 second pass launched her to the top of the field for a few minutes.
"I know that Guido -- crew chief Dean Antonelli - and the team were bummed we were first pair and we weren't able to push as much. Tomorrow we can push a little more. I'd rather be safe than sorry tonight than be in the stress of tomorrow trying to get in. You could still get bumped tomorrow but at least we are in a way better position where we can push ourselves and not worry about it."
The Funny Car points leader was able to stay focused throughout the day even as fans and media vied for her attention away from the track.
"When we were in the staging lanes my guys and I were listening on the radio and they had down time so they were announcing the Top Ten. We turned up the radio and they announced our team as No. 1 and that is neat (to hear)," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "It puts a little bit more pressure on you when you think if we screw up and don't qualify it will be gone. The best thing to think about it keeping this Ford Mustang in the show and keep going rounds then the No. 1 spot will go with that.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang added weight to the rear end of their Ford Mustang in an effort to increase traction and after the second run today they felt they have made strides in the right direction. His Mustang launched straight and Hight was able to keep his foot in it to record a 4.860 second pass.
"We needed weight on the rear end and the first run today based off of Vegas for the same drive shaft the G meter was higher and the front wheel was going better. It did have better application. It is a little light on the front end. These new three rail cars go straighter," said the quickest driver to win 100 rounds in Funny Car history. "If you can get it going straight and keep it going straight then let the aero start in and push the nose back down, then you have the best of everything. The trick is you have to be going straight. If it isn't going straight the driver isn't going to be able to get it back.
Hight was encouraged by the outlook for tomorrow of moving up the qualifying fields.
"I was just glad to get this Auto Club Ford Mustang qualified. We weren't trying real hard on that run. We weren't going up there trying to be No. 1 qualifier. We wanted to make a nice safe run. There is a chance of rain. If there is a chance of rain that means that the conditions will be good tomorrow and trust me now that we are in we'll try and run mid 70s too. We'll go back to how we ran that 4.76 in Phoenix. You might be able to run better here.
Neff and his team were able to get their Ford Mustang back together and made the second session. They were unable to step up the performance to land in the top twelve but with the new NHRA qualifying structure his is confident they can land in the top sixteen on Saturday.
"That is our only option. Unfortunately, we didn't make it down there tonight. Just for whatever reason it didn't go. It wasn't our day today," said the former crew chief. "We had a bad day. Fortunately we are not out of it. This is why the NHRA structured the qualifying like they did. You can have a bad day and still have a shot to get into the show. I feel real good about that. We should have as good a shot as anyone to get in the show if we do then great."
John Force competing in his 500th NHRA national event struggled on both his runs. On his second run today Force endured a clutch malfunction that ended his run in spoke as soon has he hit the throttle. The winningest driver in NHRA history will have two opportunities tomorrow to qualify his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: Ran 21st quickest pass at 7.988 seconds, 95.75 mph
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 9th at 4.897 seconds, 310.05 mph
Quotable: "I was just hoping to get A to B (in the second session). I know that Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) and the team are bummed we were first pair and we weren't able to push as much. As long as we made it in (today) tomorrow we can push a little more. I'd rather be safe than sorry tonight than be in the stress of tomorrow trying to get in."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 7th at 4.860 seconds, 312.93 mph
Quotable: "I was just glad to get this Auto Club Ford Mustang qualified. We weren't trying real hard on that run. We weren't going up there trying to be No. 1 qualifier. We wanted to make a nice safe run."
MIKE NEFF, 40, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: Ran 20th quickest pass at 5.078 seconds, 267.75 mph
Quotable: "Unfortunately we didn't make it down there today. Just for whatever reason it didn't go. It wasn't our day today. We had a bad day. Fortunately we are not out of it. This is why the NHRA structured the qualifying liker they did. You can have a bad day and still have a shot to get into the show."