Force Wins Denver For 6th Time
John Force joined his teammates, Mike Neff and Robert Hight, by adding an NHRA 60th anniversary commemorative Wally to his trophy case winning the 32nd annual NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals today. Force took win after Matt Hagan red-lit in the final round giving Force the automatic win light. It was Force’s 6th win at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in nine final round appearances and 133rd of his career. It was Force’s first final round appearance of 2011. The last time Force was in the winner’s circle he was hoisting the NHRA Auto Finals trophy and the Full Throttle Funny Car World Championship trophy at the end of 2010.
“Just like the military it is all about teamwork,” said a nearly exhausted John Force on Sunday night. “We have great guys. (Co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas have been struggling but they have all the same stuff that (crew chiefs) Jimmy Prock and Mike Neff have. Everybody was helping. Even Robert Hight, president of the company finally spoke up.”
“I said, ‘I don’t know what is wrong. My luck is bad. It could be that my race car is off and the weight is different.’ He said, ‘No it is you.’ Robert told me to get back in the game. He said my head was in Oshkosh at the air show and the Indy 500 and every place I was going. He said you are not in your race car. He said that I had taught him and he knew my head wasn’t right. He reminded me Ihave to live it and I wasn’t living it. It was an eye opener. He was right.”
“I went back to Guido (Dean Antonelli) and Ron and told them they would have everything from me this weekend. It is team work and yeah we did some damage last night but we came back with those Fords.”
“Before the semi-final race Mike Neff looked at me and said get out there and fight like you want this. He told me to kick his butt if I could. He said I was better than I had been showing.”
Force beat Tony Pedregon in the first round then out ran points leader Mike Neff in the second round. In the semi-finals Force had to outrun one of the surprises of the season in Jeff Arend before squaring off with Matt Hagan. Force held a 6-3 record going into the final and the drivers were 1-1 in finals with Hagan winning Dallas in 2010 and Force winning in their last head-to-head meeting in Las Vegas2 last year.
“I went up against that kid Hagan and I really felt good. I said in an interview I went up to Hagan right before the final. He said good luck and I said you and I were the champs last year. You and I fought it out to the wire when nobody else could and now we are in the final. I told him we are back where we belong. He had a big old grin on his face. He said you are right. We want to be there. We miss it. We miss that winners circle.”
“I thought I was dead late. I thought, ‘Oh the whipping is coming.’ You have to be really on your game against Hagan. Sometimes luck is part of it. He was outrunning me. I chased him all the way to the lights. I was hoping he would nose over. I did not know that he red lit. That is how close we were right on that tree. He is a champion. I really like the kid. He is the future.”
The crew chief tandem of Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas is the third crew chief combination Force has won with in his legendary career. This was JFR’s sixth win in a row this season and it marked the 14th time in a row a Ford Mustang was represented in the final round of an NHRA race.
Robert Hight had a chance to set up a rematch of last year’s Denver final but he was upended by Hagan in the semi-finals. Hight did move up in the Full Throttle point standings securing the No. 2 spot. He now has a slim five point lead over Jack Beckman.
“I moved up to second which was one of my goals this weekend. Now I have to hang on to it and grow that lead. Going rounds was great and it was awesome to see John get that win. He needed it and the team needed it,” said Hight a four time winner in 2011. “We have a pretty good streak going. Now all three JFR Fords have wins this season and John has a leg up on the Western Swing. He has won it before so you can never count him out. Jimmy can put his Denver tune up away for a year and we’ll be ready to get after it in Sonoma in a couple of days. I am going up to Sacramento to do some advance media and I’ll be ready to get back in this Auto Club Ford Mustang in a couple of days. Hagan outran us in the semis and it was tough to beat Wilkerson in the second round. We had our hands full today for sure.”
The hottest driver in Funny Car Mike Neff was ousted in the second round. It was just the second time Neff and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang have lost in the second round in the last eight races including today. In Bristol teammate and eventual event winner Robert Hight beat him and today Force outran him in the second round before going on to his first win.
“We had some clutch wear in the first round that made us drop some cylinders. I wanted to keep that win streak going but if you have to lose to someone no one can hang their head if you lose to Force,” said Neff, a four time 2011 winner. “It was great to see him in the winner’s circle. The fans love him. I think that was like nine wins for us in twelve races. That is pretty incredible. We’ll get off this mountain and head to Sonoma. I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”
Neff held onto the top spot in the Full Throttle point standings and secured his spot in the Countdown this weekend. Hight moved up and with Force’s win he put 194 points between himself and 11th place driver Johnny Gray.
By: john force racing