John Force Racing
NEFF WINS HOUSTON FOR 6th JFR WIN IN A ROW
HOUSTON --- On a day when Robert Hight’s bid for a historic fifth win in a row ended in the semi-finals, Mike Neff extended the John Force Racing team win streak to six races with his defeat of Ron Capps in the final at Royal Purple Raceway. Neff won an improbable race against the quicker Capps when he drove around a tire smoking Capps at the 700 foot mark posting a winning time of 4.239 seconds at 301.67 mph.
“I don’t know what Capps ran in the final but we were running real close together. I was running all I wanted to run in the second and third rounds. I wasn’t pressing. My Castrol GTX Mustang looked great. I was doing what I needed to do to win the rounds. I tried to pick it up a little bit in the semis. He was running good but it wasn’t like he was way ahead of everybody else. I did try and pick it up. I don’t get intimidated by anybody that I race. We have a good race car and a good race team. We do our own thing,” said Neff who further extended his lead on the No. 3 driver in points, Jack Beckman.
“The business we are in is pressure. There are a lot of high expectations especially when you are on a top team like John Force’s team. John Force Racing is built on winning. There is pressure there but there is no pressure coming from John Force. He is our biggest cheerleader and supporter. Nobody beats anybody up if they make mistakes,” said Neff, the driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
“I think anyone will tell you there is a lot of luck involved in winning these races. Sometimes it is just your day and sometimes it is not. Sometimes little things can derail you from winning. Anything can happen and that is racing. That is what is exciting about NHRA you can’t make it up in the next turn. You get one shot at it. You either get it right or catch a break or it is over with. You have to do it four times in one day.”
Neff opened his day with a win over Jim Head but even that win did not come without issues as he nearly red-lit in the first race. In the second round he outran No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon for the win and in the semi’s he defeated Jeff Arend who he lost to in the final last year at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals.
“The whole weekend has been one of a kind. Not getting qualified until the last session was definitely a nail biter and first round racing Jim Head, my buddy, in the first round. The light it seemed was so long that my foot just went but I never let hold of the brake because I knew I hadn’t seen the yellow yet,” said Neff. “My foot just slipped it but fortunately I was staged so shallow that when it lunged a little but it didn’t go red. I hit it again and I looked down and I saw the green light so I knew I had not red-lit. I legged it on through there even when it started smoking the tires because I knew I did not red light. That was just a total mistake. I caught a break there.”
Last year at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals Neff was nearly unstoppable posting winning times of 4.132, 4.122, 4.133 before fouling out in the finals to Arend. Today he was 4.495, 4.199, 4.176 and 4.239 in the finals. He only had lane choice once today but collected the win nonetheless.
“Going down the track was definitely what we were trying to do in the second round and semis. The track was hot but in the final I caught another break there against Capps. He was out in front of me and I could see him out there. He was on a good run. Something happened to him. I don’t feel that good about winning like that. I like to be able to run quick in all the sessions. Today I definitely backed my way into it. It wasn’t the way we like to do it but we will take it. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.”
Neff was also impressed by his teammate Robert Hight’s bid for history.
“Robert put together a heck of a string. That was impressive for that AAA team. Winning four races and getting to the semis today is hard to do. It is hard in the Funny Cars or in any of the classes. I give them a lot of credit. I am just glad I could keep the streak going for John Force Racing.”
This was Neff’s seventh career win and first of 2012 after three final round appearances. Neff’s previous finals losses were to teammates John Force in Pomona and Robert Hight in Phoenix. The win locks Neff into the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Showdown and for a lucky fan they win a 55” flat screen TV compliments of BrandSource’s Win with Force contest.
“I feel good about getting into the Traxxas Shootout. That is something that everyone wants to be a part of. I am fortunate to get into that and also I am even more excited about getting the XO-1, 100 mph Radio Controlled car,” added Neff, the third qualifier after John Force and Robert Hight.
Robert Hight was about 400 feet away from racing Neff in the final and making a run at his fifth win in a row when the tires on his Auto Club Ford Mustang lost traction and Ron Capps drove around him. The loss ended at 17 rounds Hight’s win streak. He was vying to become only the fourth driver to ever win five races in a row. As it stands he is still only one of five drivers to win four in a row along with Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, John Force and Cruz Pedregon.
“When you are in a streak like this you start to get superstitious. You start thinking I have to do this because I did it last race. You get on an airplane and you think I have to sit on the right side because I did last week and the week before. The truth is none of that really matters it is all silly stuff. What really gets you here and how we won these races is hard work. If you thought superstition mattered that just takes away from the whole Auto Club team and the eight guys plus Jimmy and Eric working on this team. They made this happen. I did my share along the way,” said Hight, the run-away Full Throttle Funny Car points leader.
“It was quite a ride. If you look back it is almost May and this streak started in February. To have the kind of success we had over those months is awesome. This is just the beginning of the season. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed we didn’t tie the all-time record but it is pretty cool having Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Force and even Cruz Pedregon all those guys say the nice things they did to the media leading up to this race. Those guys gave us all a lot of credit for what we did in this era. I still look at it as if we still have a streak going since we can still win six races in a row for JFR. Mike Neff is in a final and he has a good shot of winning. We could be the only three people locked into the Traxxas Nitro Showdown. The way Mike is running and he has a good car; he could get on a win streak too,” said Hight, before the final round.
“We’ll just move onto Atlanta and start another streak.”
Hight’s winning streak started in the desert of Phoenix moved to Gainesville, Florida, then back to the mountains of Las Vegas and finally to the hills of Charlotte, North Carolina. All four races had a variety of climate conditions and track nuances.
“It is huge that we won races in every condition. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and (Asst crew chief) Eric Lane have been great. Eric Lane has stepped up to really help Jimmy. He has been giving Jimmy great support and firm answers. (Track specialist) Lanny Miglizzi has been a big part too. I have a lot of confidence since I feel we can go to any track under any conditions and go rounds.”
“I also get a lot of confidence from this streak because getting these wins like Charlotte and getting as far as we did here that is a lot of pressure. People can say they don’t think about it but you do. Every run you have to focus and do your job but it is still in the back of your mind. It adds pressure and that is the kind of pressure you will have at the end of the season in the Countdown. We all did our jobs under that pressure. That just gives you more confidence at the end. We are going to come through this. It is a long season and we are headed into the summer.”
In five days Hight and the Auto Club team will try and get a new personal streak up and running at a track in Atlanta where he has won twice and been to four finals in just seven appearances.
“For all the wins we had we had at least a week off between them but now that the streak is over we can get right back to the race track in Atlanta. John is going to go into the International Motorsports hall of Fame this week and I want to congratulate him. I’ll be at the Coca-Cola Champions banquet this week and then we will get right back on the track and try to win the next race.”
Crew chief Jimmy Prock was also disappointed to see his Auto Club Ford Mustang not go more rounds but he also knows he can get it down the track.
“It was a good run for us. We have never won that many rounds in a row before so it was good. It is disappointing to see it end. We’ll have to try and start another streak.”
In the decisive semi-final round versus Capps Hight launched his Auto Club Ford Mustang but just past half-track his Goodyears began hazing the racing surface. In the previous round he had outrun fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca III from the same lane which many considered to be an inferior lane. For Prock the right lane was not a concern.
“Our stuff looked good over there. We had just made a good run over there in the second round. I didn’t want to change it. I made a little adjustment and I didn’t make one other one that I should have. That bit us. I kind of had a feeling about what happened before I got back to the pits,” said Prock.
John Force suffered a first-round loss today against fellow Ford driver, Bob Tasca III. Tasca was 7-6 to Force in prior events at the beginning of the day, but ran his quickest and fastest pass of the weekend and pulled off a win to increase his record. Force began to smoke the tires just past half-track and clicked it off early, but as soon as he climbed out of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang he put on his hat, congratulated Tasca and went back to being team owner of John Force Racing; rooting for drivers Mike Neff and Robert Hight who were entering the semifinals.
“Mike Neff is overdue for a win. It’s exciting to see us with Castrol, Ford, Traxxas, Auto Club, BrandSource, Mac Tools and Freightliner in another final. Robert Hight, you know, sometimes a little luck will bite you. He won four straight. Not too many have ever done that, but that doesn’t mean he can’t come back and go for five straight. It happens,” said Force. “I’ve been there. It was exciting for the fans today, like this final round coming up with Neff and Robert’s search for the fifth straight win, was the two young girls going against eachother. That was exciting for me to watch. It was cool because DeJoria’s dad was out there (John Paul DeJoria) rooting his kid on just like my wife and I were rooting our kid on. There’s been some great racing here today for the fans in Houston. My car is struggling, but we’re still in the top ten.”
Courtney Force came into the day of eliminations in the top half of the field occupying the No. 7 spot. Force posted a 4.15 in the first round of qualifying on Friday which sent her to the no. 2 spot, gaining the rookie driver 2 bonus points and advancing her run at 2012 Auto Club Road to the Future “Rookie of the Year” battle.
“Today went really well. I’m proud of my team and we had a good car this weekend. Going out we ran a 4.15 in qualifying and with that gained some bonus points for jumping up to the no. 2 spot, but struggled a bit during the rest of qualifying passes, but we were trying to get some things figured out. We knew we were in the show so we tried a couple of different this just to get it going down the race track consistently,” said the youngest Force.
The youngest Force, driver of the Traxxas Mustang Ford Funny Car took on the only other female in the class today in the first round of eliminations for the first time, Alexis DeJoria. Both were quick off the tree with the majority advantage in Force’s lane, the left. Force posted a 4.126 ET at 309.98 mph to DeJoria’s 4.202 ET at 294.31 mph making the margin of victory 0.0645 seconds (approximately 28 feet).
“Going up first round we knew we had a tough competitor in Alexis. We pulled it together. We ended up running a 4.12 against her and getting that win light,” said Force.
This was the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend for the Cal State-Fullerton graduate and would send Force to face-off with Ron Capps in round two of eliminations. Capps was 1-0 against Force in prior events.
“The next thing I had to do was just to focus on second round. It was a close race. It was definitely tough going up against Ron Capps. We ran a 4.17 to a 41.6. I saw him right out my window. I was really holding on and hoping for that win light. We didn’t get it this time, but we’ll come after them again next weekend in Atlanta,” added the 23-year-old Auto Club Road to the Future “Rookie of the Year” contender.