Norwalk: John Force Racing final report

ROBERT HIGHT RUNNER-UP AT NORWALK -Tough first round hurts JFR- NORWALK, OHIO -- 2007 POWERade Funny Car Championship runner-up Robert Hight came up just short against Tony Pedregon -- again. Last year Hight, the 2005...

ROBERT HIGHT RUNNER-UP AT NORWALK
-Tough first round hurts JFR-

NORWALK, OHIO -- 2007 POWERade Funny Car Championship runner-up Robert Hight came up just short against Tony Pedregon -- again.

Last year Hight, the 2005 Road to the Future award winner, came within 19 points of winning his first POWERade championship only to finish second to Pedregon by less than one round of racing. Today in the final of the 2nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, Hight was consistent all day and it took Pedregon's best run of the weekend to defeat him.

"In the final it (Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang) put some cylinders out but it was way on down the track. Tony (Pedregon) took a shot at us and he ran two hundredths quicker and he killed me on the starting line. I would have needed a .10 light to beat him because he out ran us," said a disappointed Hight.

Hight was No. 1 qualifier for the second year in a row and for his efforts he moved up to the No. 1 position for the US Smokeless Showdown. The Showdown will award $100,000 in a special race-within-a-race at the Mac Tools US Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind. over Labor Day weekend.

In the first round Hight had to race teammate and rookie of the year favorite Mike Neff, before he beat Gary Densham and Cruz Pedregon to reach his third final of the season. This was also the tenth time in twelve races that a John Force Racing Funny Car has reached the final this season.

"We ran the same motor in the semis and the final. It is going to be our motor in Denver. That is a plus. Now it is putting cylinders out when it is spinning so it is not dropping cylinders for no reason. We aren't chasing our tail anymore. I am just mad at myself. Getting outrun is one thing getting left on like that is ridiculous," said Hight.

Mike Neff and the Old Spice Ford Mustang team had defeated Hight in the semi-final round in their two previous meetings but in the first round today they were unable to grab three wins in a row from his teammate.

"You always hate having to race your teammate that early. You know somebody will have a bad day since they are going to lose the first round. The one positive is you are guaranteed getting a car to the second round," said Neff.

"They are a great team. They have been having a tough go of it like us some times. That car has been the best performing car in my opinion over the last few years and they are competitive even when they are having problems. I know they are going to hit their stride here any day now and today might be it. They could really start hurting everybody's feelings out here."

Neff and the Old Spice team were bitten by a computer glitch on Saturday. During the first run on Saturday they dropped a cylinder but did not get any info from the onboard computer. They smoked the tires at the end of the day on Saturday again thwarting their efforts to diagnose the problem. As they pulled his Ford Mustang up for the first round versus Hight the team was still not 100% sure they had found the problem.

"This morning we go up there and run it. It puts a cylinder out just like it did the very first run. Now we see that it had a lot more fuel in it at that point than it should have. We troubleshoot it and we find a jet that was backed out causing it to do that. Had we been able to get some computer data that first run be probably would have caught it there," said Neff.

Racing from the No. 10 qualifying spot the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang piloted by John Force pulled up beside veteran Del Worsham. Worsham knew he needed to bring his "A" game against Force and he made his quickest pass of the weekend, 4.920 seconds, for the win. Force had to watch Worsham drive away from him as he lost power in his Ford Mustang running 5.082 seconds.

As the team owner he was pleased to see another driver reach the final and have improved performance. He was also glad to keep all four Ford Mustangs in the Top Ten with another race out of the way before the Countdown to One.

"By the end of the day it was good to see Robert's AAA Ford Mustang starting to talk to us again. It was low ET and it got to the final. You can't always win but that team did their job. They would have liked to have had that win for AAA, Ford, Castrol, BrandSource, and Mac Tools. I am excited that all the Mustangs are in the Top Ten," said the winner of 126 NHRA national events. "I got bumped down a little but at the end of the day making the Countdown is what is important. Our cars are starting to race. I was happy getting a car to the final last week and I am happy again."

2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force and her Castrol GTX team lost for the first time in four races to Gary Densham in the opening round of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals. Racing in the left lane Force lost traction just past half track and was unable to reel in Densham at the top end.

"I wasn't feeling that good heading into the first round because we only got the two runs and one of them was all screwed up. The second one was fine. It just didn't feel like we usually feel. Everyone is in the same boat but then the weather seemed different and that changes everything," said Force.

The on again off again schedule was tough on the 2007 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Rookie of Year but she also recognized it was tough on the fans.

"The fans were being really good sports. It is frustrating for the teams and it is equally frustrating for the fans to come and not see all the racing they were assuming they would see. It is no ones fault. We can't race if the track is not right. Nobody argues that. It makes for long days."

TEAM CASTROL/TEAM JFR Details:

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 4.988 seconds, 274.11 mph

Race Results: Lost to Del Worsham,

Notable: Dropped to 5th in POWERade point standings.

Quotable: "By the end of the day it was good to see Robert's AAA Ford Mustang starting to talk to us again. It was low ET and it got to the final. You can't always win but that team did their job. They would have liked to have had that win for AAA, Ford, Castrol, BrandSource, and Mac Tools. I am excited that all the Mustangs are in the Top Ten."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 4.980 seconds, 290.07 mph

Race Results: Lost to Gary Densham,

Quotable: "I wasn't feeling that good heading into the first round because we only got the two runs and one of them was all screwed up and the second one was fine. It just didn't feel like we usually feel."

ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.882 seconds, 309.77 mph

Race Results: Beat Mike Neff, Gary Densham, Cruz Pedregon. Lost to Tony Pedregon.

Notable: Moved to No. 1 in US Smokeless Showdown points... second year in a row that Hight has been No. 1 qualifier here...reached third final of the season.

Quotable: "We are starting to see some improvement and now we can tweak the motor here and there with nozzles and see a change. We are to the point now where we can fine tune. We are going to go back to how we ran it in 2005 with what we have now for a blower and with any luck we can dominate there (in Denver in two weeks)."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 16th at 5.200 seconds, 224.43 mph

Race results: Lost to Robert Hight.

Notable: This is the first time Neff has lost to Hight in three meetings

Quotable: "We had a good race last weekend and it didn't work out too well this weekend. We're OK. I am as confident as ever."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Mike Neff