Memphis: John Force Racing Saturday notes

HIGHT HOLDS ONTO TOP SPOT IN MEMPHIS Ashley Force Hood Amongst Quick Runners on Sunday MEMPHIS, TN --- Robert Hight has a lot of confidence and that is not a good thing for the fifteen Funny Car drivers who will face him when eliminations begin...

Ashley Force Hood Amongst Quick Runners on Sunday

MEMPHIS, TN --- Robert Hight has a lot of confidence and that is not a good thing for the fifteen Funny Car drivers who will face him when eliminations begin tomorrow at Memphis Motorsports Park. For the fourth time in five years he will start the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals from the No. 1 qualifier position and he has reached the semis every year he has raced in Memphis. His latest qualifying effort gives him 32 No. 1 qualifiers in 112 races. That is a staggering number and one that has the former trap shooting champion drawing a bulls-eye on his competition.

"There is no doubt my confidence level is way better now than it has been. I like to walk the track and if you are more aware of the groove you do better. Mike Dunn taught me that when I first started driving. He used to always walk the track with (crew chief) Ken Veney," said Hight. "You get out there and have a game plan in your mind and an idea of where on the race track you need to be at a given increment. That helps. We have been so messed up all year that I couldn't get out there and look at the track. It helps and it is really nice to be at the back of the pack so you can walk and watch some other funny cars run."

For his qualifying effort at Memphis Motorsports Park Hight picked up six qualifying bonus points on Friday where he also set the track record for elapsed time (4.074 seconds) and mph (310.70 mph). On Saturday even when his Auto Club Mustang did not perform up to their high standards they took some positives from its performance anyway.

"We smoked the tires first run today. We were trying a little too hard but I look at that as a good thing because we know where our limitations are. Qualifying is over and there are no easy ones first round. Dale Creasy the owner of the car we are racing tomorrow has been doing this for a lot of years," said the poinst leader. "We slip up a little and we can be had. This is right in the middle of the Countdown and we definitely need to do some damage tomorrow to keep this roll we are on going."

"I like what I see with a lot of first round match ups with Countdown cars so of those guys will be out of there in the first round right off the bat. Hopefully it is not the Auto Club Ford Mustang. This is a good race track. I think tomorrow from what the forecast looks like it should be great conditions -- cool and clear - for Jimmy Prock. He loves conditions like that."

"That can be good and bad. Bad because if you try and back it off a little to race a guy like we are racing in the first round it could shake the tires and smoke the tires loose. When it is cold you have to be aggressive to make it go. That is a gamble. One thing about being number one is we can sit back into the pack and see what our teammates and other teams are doing. That gives us a little time. That is one advantage of being number one."

While Hight's qualifying performance fell off slightly Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang stepped up running in the top three each session on Saturday. She picked up three qualifying bonus points and stayed within one round of points leader and teammate Hight. She will have a tough first round draw against veteran and fellow Countdown participant Del Worsham.

"We have been qualifying pretty well lately and it is weird to be running a guy as good as Del and his team in the first round. They are always ready on race day so we have to be on the top of our game. We have had some good side by side runs. We are not taking first round lightly. You are not going to win a championship being scared of who you run against," said the third year funny car driver. "They are a good team and I hope we are on our game and I can do my deal on the starting line. The conditions will let us have a good A to B race. Ron and Guido have my Mustang figured out and it is running really well. Hopefully we can beat Del and whoever else we match up with throughout the day."

During qualifying on Saturday the Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuned Mustang made the most of both sessions. They gathered valuable information that will only assist them as they navigate a tough draw with Worsham and then a possible match-up with either Bob Tasca III or Tim Wilkerson in round two.

"The Saturday runs are the same times as basically your rounds on race day. As much as Friday nights are fun to flex your muscles and see what you can do it is Saturday that you are gaining what you need for race day. I am really happy that we had strong runs today in these conditions. I am assuming we will go out there tomorrow and run numbers close to these. If you are running low teens you have a great shot at winning on race day," said Force Hood.

Mike Neff was the only John Force Racing Mustang to not carry a time over from Friday night. His final run on Friday of 4.136 was equaled by rookie Matt Hagan but Hagan had two more mph and grabbed the all important 12th spot. He made a solid run to end Saturday will start from the No. 13 spot and race Tony Pedregon in the first round.

"We made three good runs this weekend. On Friday the field just tightened up on us. We missed out being in the top twelve on mph. That was a good run for the end of the day under race conditions," said Neff. "I was getting pretty nervous though racing Arend knowing we needed a good time to get in the show. I knew Medlen and the boys would come through for me. This Ford Drive One Mustang will be ready for the first round tomorrow. Getting another Countdown car in the first round will be a good test for us. I know we are up for it."

14-time champion John Force battled a mechanical issue with the brakes in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang and he will start Sunday's elimination round from the No. 7 qualifying spot racing Jim Head. This will be the third time in the past four races Force has squared off with the veteran Head in the first round. At the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Force won on a hole shot but the next race in Charlotte Head out ran the winningest driver in NHRA history.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Mike Dunn , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Bob Tasca III , Mike Neff