NO. 1 HIGHT LEADS JFR INTO MAC TOOLS US NATIONALS -JFR narrowly misses 1-2-3-4 in final qualifying- INDIANAPOLIS --- Rain delayed the final day of qualifying at the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and ultimately the pro classes only got one...
NO. 1 HIGHT LEADS JFR INTO MAC TOOLS US NATIONALS
-JFR narrowly misses 1-2-3-4 in final qualifying-
INDIANAPOLIS --- Rain delayed the final day of qualifying at the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and ultimately the pro classes only got one shot instead of two to improve their qualifying position at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Robert Hight held onto the top spot for the third day in a row and continued to dominate qualifying making the quickest run of the lone session a 4.095 second run that narrowly outdistanced Cruz Pedregon's 4.098 second run. Pedregon's run was quick enough to edge past 4-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner John Force and break up the John Force Racing Ford Mustang's stranglehold on the top four qualifying spots.
"Going into tomorrow we have a big day ahead of us. We are No. 12 in the Full Throttle points. We did what we needed to do in qualifying. We out qualified Cruz (Pedregon) and (Matt) Hagan. We have to go two rounds further than Cruz and a round further than Hagan. (Teammate) Ashley (Force Hood) has Hagan first round. That is good for us. I looked at the ladder and if we win the race tomorrow we are in the Countdown. That is huge.
"(Cruz) is running well too. If you look what he did in qualifying he had a great car. I am guessing that he is second to me on ET averages. He was stout. He will be tough to beat tomorrow. He is a great driver. He is not a world champ for nothing."
"(Tomorrow) will be just another race day for us. You can't focus on (the pressure). You can't focus on what (other teams) are doing. If we mess up Grant Downing will have us first round. He is capable of beating you. We have to go out there and do just like we did in qualifying. We have to race the race track and try and be near the top with low ET every round. That should get us where we need to be."
The four Ford Mustangs of John Force Racing closed out the funny car session with Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One Mustang making a 4.141 second run at 304.25 mph while team leader John Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang overpowered the track at about 400 feet, slowing to a 4.601 seconds. Still for Force the day was a success based on where his teammates were positioned in the ladder and how they had performed in qualifying. At the top of his mind was his missing partner Austin Coil, who was released from an Indianapolis area hospital today.
"I'm going into tomorrow with Austin Coil with me. They moved him from the hospital to the hotel today. He has refused to go home until this race is over. I just love the man to death. We are excited Auto Club got low ET. That means JFR got low ET. Cruz stepped her up and he'll be tough tomorrow. We are going after him. We'll see what happens," said Force.
In the final pair Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang pulled up beside Ashley Force Hood and the Castrol GTX Mustang. Fans were hoping for another side by side display of speed and power but unfortunately Force Hood's Mustang shook loose near the finish line and crossed the finish line in 4.992 seconds.
She will be paired up with rookie Matt Hagan in the first round and she could elimination one of the chief competitors for her brother-in-law Hight.
"We need to run the people that we need to take out. It will do us no good for Robert to run good all weekend and then see Matt or Cruz get to the final. We want to match up against those guys. That is what teammates are for. You want your teammates to be strong and take out the people you need to take out while you are busy going rounds as well," said Force Hood.
"We want to stay busy until late in the afternoon. I was pumped when they told me we are going to run Hagan. It will be a tough race. I think we have a really good car. We struggled that last run. I know the crew chiefs were wanting to try and push it. The track seemed to be holding some good numbers. I am sure they were trying to see what it would take and see if we could improve on our times. Tomorrow will be a whole different day."
Hight on the other hand showed that he and crew chief Jimmy Prock are serious about making a performance statement. They covered the 1000 ft. course in a session best 4.095 seconds. In his four qualifying sessions Hight has had the quickest time on three occasions and the second quickest time once. That kind of consistency is a welcome turn of events for the Auto Club team.
"That was four pretty impressive qualifying runs for the Auto Club Ford Mustang. That was just stout. It is hard to run one of these cars, especially a funny car, that many times down the track that well. If we go back to the last race in Reading, when John (Force) was in the car that is nine runs in a row without dropping cylinders or having all the little things that can go wrong bite you," said Hight.
"It is better late than never. We have struggled all year long. We went back to basics. We are not trying to over think things. We are just going out there and racing these cars. When things are going good it is so easy. Other times you struggle. All four of our Ford Mustangs came in here thundering and running really well. It shows how good a team John Force has put together that we can come out here and do that. We are dealing with the absence of (Castrol GTX High Mileage crew chief) Austin Coil too."
"He has been on the phone with us. He is being released from the hospital today but he has to go to the hotel in Brownsburg. That is all good news. They said stay put in that hotel even tomorrow. It is going to be tough for him. He said he hasn't missed a national event since the early 1980s. Who else can you say that about?"