John Force Racing press release
HIGHT, NEFF LEAD FCs AT AUTO CLUB FINALS
POMONA, CA --- Robert Hight and Mike Neff started the final race of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season with strong performances on Thursday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Hight led the Funny Car class with a 4.084 second, 312.13 mph pass and he picked up three qualifying bonus points for his efforts. The No. 5 driver in Full Throttle points standings is looking to close the gap on the leaders before Sunday’s race.
“Basically we did today what we have to do every single run in qualifying. We dug ourselves a big hole in Las Vegas. It would be cool to cut this thing down to less than three rounds,” said Hight, the 2011 Winternationals winner. “We don’t want to rely on the top two guys going out in the first round. They haven’t done that a lot. They are tough. It is only one day. I think I was up in the press room in Las Vegas on the first day and we know how that turned out.”
“It is great to show off in front of your home track and your sponsors at the Auto Club Raceway. We just signed an extension with AAA so we are good for four more years. We want to do a good job they are a great company. The fans need to get out here this weekend. It is going to be unbelievable. The top fuel battle and the Funny Car battle will be huge. You can go over and see the John Force Ultimate Car Show. This is going to be an exciting weekend and I am just glad to be part of it.”
With each round worth 20 points and Hight trailing the leaders by 71 coming into the event bonus points could be the key to his success. After Friday he stands 68 points back and if the driver of the Auto Club Force Mustang can pick up nine more points to reduce the leader’s points lead to 59 then that would equate to a three round versus a four round deficit.
“We came in here knowing we had to be aggressive. We have to race offensively. We have to get after it and make up some points. When you see the weather that starts scaring you (crew chief) Jimmy Prock stuck with his plan,” said the 2009 Funny Car champion. “We really need to get some of these bonus points. We need to cut this thing down to three rounds. That gives us a better chance for this championship. Every day the forecast is getting a little better. I hope it doesn’t rain I don’t want to be pushing all those Funny Cars in the car show under a tent.”
“There is nothing I can do about that (the weather). The runs we do get we have to get points. All I can say is mission accomplished on day one.”
Right behind Hight on the track but in front of him in the point standings is teammate Mike Neff. The season-long point leader has his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the provisional number two spot with a time of 4.087 seconds and a top speed of 313.44 mph. He picked up two valuable qualifying bonus points and like Hight he is looking to cut into the lead of the three drivers in front of him.
“This was absolutely a good way to start the race especially with the weather coming in. It looks like we could lose one or two runs. It was critical today to make sure you are qualified. To end up number two and get a couple bonus points is huge right now for us,” said Neff.
Neff won the 2009 Auto Club NHRA Finals and then he was crew chief for John Force’s win last year. Having that kind of back to back success is unheard of in recent memory. The level of comfort Neff might have is tempered by his California cool attitude.
“It is one day at a time. It does give you a little bit of confidence going back to places you have had success before. It is one day at a time and one run at a time. You are going to have to do the best you can and perform well enough to win it.”
Team leader John Force recorded the 12th quickest run of the day and will carry a time, 4.585 seconds, over into Saturday’s second day of qualifying.