Denver: John Force Racing final report

HIGHT MOVES UP TO NO. 2 WITH DENVER SEMI-FINAL APPEARANCE DENVER, CO -- At the 29th running of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals there were a handful of NHRA mandated changes that could have wrecked havoc on John Force Racing. The...

HIGHT MOVES UP TO NO. 2 WITH DENVER SEMI-FINAL APPEARANCE

DENVER, CO -- At the 29th running of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals there were a handful of NHRA mandated changes that could have wrecked havoc on John Force Racing. The racing distance was reduced to 1,000 feet for the first time in the over fifty year history of the sport. The new chassis was mandatory for all Funny Car teams, there was the new Goodyear tire and all the teams were racing over a mile above sea level but none of these new changes tripped up the JFR drivers. Instead it was the familiar face of Tim Wilkerson that derailed not one, not two but three different drivers from reaching the winners circle.

"Tim Wilkerson and his team have been running great. They have been on a roll. I've been on rolls like that too. I am excited that our Ford Mustangs are coming around. Robert has moved up to No. 2 and Neff has moved up a little in points. We all start from scratch when you come to the hill (Bandimere Speedway)," said John Force.

The last driver to fall to points leader Wilkerson was Auto Club driver Robert Hight in the semi-final round. Hight moved from fourth to second in points but was unable to get around the streaking driver from Springfield, Ill. Hight dispatched veteran Del Worsham in the first round and former Funny Car champ Gary Scelzi in the second round before lining up against Wilkerson. Hight ever the optimist felt that even with the loss today his program made significant strides on the performance side all weekend.

"In the heat yesterday it ran well. We were low ET first round today. We dropped a cylinder in the second round it kind of hurt itself but we were able to get the win. It is going down the track. Our application is good. We went down the track all the runs at Norwalk, too," said Hight.

"(Crew Chief) Jimmy (Prock) has figured some things out. There was one run yesterday when it tried to put a cylinder out at the hit. It kind of bobbled it but it stayed lit. We did some work to some of our ignition stuff and I don't think it would have come back without those changes. It would have dropped a cylinder at the hit and I would've had to shut it off or it would have gone down track and hurt itself. We are making big strides with our motor," added Hight.

Hight didn't think racing to 1,000 feet was too much of a problem but it did create something else to think about for the nitro drivers.

"It wasn't bad at all. I think the fans saw a lot of good races. It is a little harder for the driver in all honesty because you have three quarters of a second less to find the finish line. The first part of the run you are real busy and things are going on. All of a sudden the finish line comes up on you real fast," said the driver who has won 100 rounds of racing faster than any other Funny Car driver. "Seattle might be a little tougher because it doesn't go up hill past the finish line. It is all how it's marked and it is also how well you are doing when you get to that point. It you are busy and it is a handful it all depends."

In the first round for the second race in a row John Force Racing teammates squared off in eth first round with Mike Neff facing team owner John Force. This first round match-up was the first Ford motor versus Ford motor race in over 30 years as both drivers harness the power of the new BOSS 500 motor. Neff was able to get the win for the second time in a row over Force. Afterwards he was thankful to get the win.

"That was a close race against Force in the first round. The Force car has been running so good since they put that Ford BOSS 500 motor in there a race ago," said the favorite for the rookie of the year award. "I definitely felt we were a big underdog against him. We were fortunate to get that win in a race that close. They had a problem over there."

Neff moved on to the second round for the fourth time in his career. The previous three second round appearance eventually led to final round appearances but today we has stopped by Wilkerson. Neff got out in front of him with a quicker reaction time but he was passed and never regained the lead.

"We felt we had a good plan against Wilkerson. Actually to the 300 clock we were dead even and then it put a cylinder out. It just fell off from there. That was the first cylinder we have dropped all weekend. ON the positive side we tried a couple of new things here that were working for us," said Neff.

Neff was able to put a little distance between his Old Spice Ford Mustang and the 10th spot in the POWERade point standing. He was encouraged to make that positive step.

"As far as points, which are so important right now, we hung in there. We didn't hurt ourselves. We put a round on 10th place I think. We got through this race and that is important right now. You don't want to go backwards you want to go forwards. We'll go to Seattle and do it again,"said Neff.

Ashley Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang sitting in the No. 13 qualified spot drew had the unlucky fate of racing Wilkerson in the first round. The sophomore driver knew that she would have to once again put friendship aside and try and win this one for the Ford team.

"Everyone makes such a big deal out of us (Time Wilkerson) being friends, which we absolutely are, but it really doesn't change how we think when we race each other. I think fans worry that we aren't going to race as hard because we are friends. We really think of it differently. We are Ford versus Chevy. It doesn't matter who is in the seat that is who we want to take out. You want your friends to do well but not better than your own team," said the 2008 ESPY nominee.

Force powered down the track but at the top end her Mustang surprised her.

"I got so sideways. That was the most sideways I can ever remember getting. My only choice was to lift. Thankfully I could see him (Wilkerson) out in front of me so there was never that moment of needing to pedal it. If I would have tried to pedal it, it could have been a mess. It was just too sideways. It took me by surprise. There was no warning. I was going along fine and then next thing you know I'm sideways. Sometimes you feel it start to get sideways but this time it was just immediately sideways."

***

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.233 seconds, 294.84 mph

Race Results: Lost to Mike Neff.

Quotable: "I am excited that our Ford Mustangs are coming around. Robert has moved up to No. 2 and Neff has moved up a little in points."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 13th at 4.282 seconds, 290.76 mph

Race Results: Lost to Tim Wilkerson.

Notable: Nominated for ESPY Award...held onto top five position in POWERade point standings

Quotable: "I got so sideways. That was the most sideways I can ever remember getting. My only choice was to lift. Thankfully I could see him out in front of me so there was never that moment of needing to pedal it. If I would have tried to pedal it, it could have been a mess."

ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 4.243 seconds, 288.70 mph

Race Results: Beat Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi. Lost to Tim Wilkerson.

Notable: Moved up to No. 2 in POWERade points standings.

Quotable: "Jimmy has figured some things out. There was one run yesterday when it tried to put a cylinder out at the hit. It kind of bobbled it but it stayed lit. We did some work to some of our ignition stuff and I don't think it would have come back without those changes. It would have dropped a cylinder at the hit and I would've had to shut it off or it would have gone down track and hurt itself. We are making big strides with our motor."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 12th at 4.275 seconds, 292.33 mph

Race results: Beat John Force. Lost to Tim Wilkerson

Notable: Neff (2-1) joins 13 drivers who have winning records over John Force...

Quotable: "We got through this race and that is important right now. You don't want to go backwards you want to go forwards. We'll go to Seattle and do it again."

-credit: jfr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Mike Neff