Norwalk: John Force Racing final report

FORCE REACHES 208th CAREER FINAL IN NORWALK NORWALK, OH --- 14-time Funny Car champion John Force almost missed qualifying for the 4th annual Summit Equipment NHRA Nationals but almost 24 hours after grabbing the last qualifying spot he was one...


NORWALK, OH --- 14-time Funny Car champion John Force almost missed qualifying for the 4th annual Summit Equipment NHRA Nationals but almost 24 hours after grabbing the last qualifying spot he was one of only two Funny Cars still standing at the Norwalk track. Force upset daughter and No. 1 qualifier Ashley Force Hood in the first round and then blasted past Paul Lee and Robert Hight before he was upended by fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson in the final.

"I came all the way from the cellar, the 16th spot, but Mike Neff, (Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) they have done a great job with this Mustang to put us up in the points lead. I guess what bothers me is when you take out Ashley who was low and she had a shot at winning. Then I got lucky against Robert when he had a problem with the Tree," said Force.

"At the end of the day you really want that win for them for it to pay off. Then you can't get it. I was happy for Ford with Wilkerson getting that win. Thank God all the sponsors are on all my cars. It is the Ford One approach too. I you look at what I said on the ESPN2 RaceDay show. I said Edwards can't be beat by anybody even though Greg Anderson is a great racer the good Lord needs to move the money around. I think that the Lord is just moving the money over to Wilkerson. I had a good hot rod and I don't know what happened and I don't care. I know my guys fought all day and that is just way it is."

In the final Force ran his slowest ET of the day, 4.272 seconds, at the worst possible time considering Wilkerson made his best pass of 4.191 seconds. With the win Wilkerson evened his final round record with the winningest driver in NHRA history at 3-3.

Force opened his race day with a startling 4.212 second pass as Force Hood smoked the tires of her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. An emotional Force practically apologized for defeating one of the fans' favorite drivers over the Summit Motorsports Park public address system.

"She's my kid. She knows I love her with all my heart. She is trying to move up in the Countdown and I thought she had me covered. She smoked the tires at the top end and I drove around here at the last second. She knows how to handle that race car. (Co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas do a great job. The fans love Ashley and nobody loves Ashley more than me and her mom," said a subdued Force.

Force overpowered the Jim Dunn owned Funny Car driven by Paul Lee in round two and he expressed his appreciation to the legendary driver and team owner afterwards. Force recorded the third quickest ET of the session as once again his opponent smoked the tires.

"You go up against big Jim Dunn and hell he is as old as me. They have a great racer in that kid Paul Lee. That is a family team and they do a great job over there. For DeWalt, Stanley and Mac Tools all the sponsors that really carry us we appreciate it. I know it is hot out here and God bless the fans but come on Jimmy Prock and that Auto Club Mustang with Robert Hight," said Force prior to Hight's second round run.

Force's triumphs over Force Hood and Lee coupled with Robert Hight's opening round wins over Jeff Diehl and Ron Capps set up an all JFR semi-final round and one of the most bizarre rounds of racing in recent memory.

As the Christmas Tree activated in the semi-final round Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang launched and flew down the track tripping the finish line sensors with a quickest of session and winning time of 4.249 seconds. Hight's Auto Club Mustang did not move initially as Force's car raced away. 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion Hight explained what was going on as he watched his chances of possibly equally Force's 2010 win total of four disappear.

"I honestly don't know what just took place. When I pull up, I don't look at the Tree. I am looking down track to make sure that my Mustang is straight. I see (Jimmy) out of the corner of my eye stop me and I stop. He does his deal and he walks away. When he walked away (this time), the bottom stage bulb flashed. I stopped in my tracks. I thought maybe he pulled me clear through the beams and (asked myself) 'am I way too far in?' I saw the flash and thought, 'how did that just happen?'

"I rolled forward and the top pre-stage bulbs lit. I blacked that out and never thought of it again until it was over with. I saw John pre-stage. I pulled my (fuel) pump on, took my foot off the clutch and started bumping in. I got staged I looked over and he was staged. I looked at the Tree and I never saw anything. He left. You can see on our video it did flash, the Tree did, but I swear I did not see it. It was a quick one," said a dejected Hight outside the Auto Club hauler.

"For some reason, something was weird and it was a quick flash. I don't know what took place. It wasn't anything more than driver malfunction. I have no idea. I did not see the Tree come down."

In the final Force smoked the tires in the preferred left lane as Wilkerson took the win light for the second time in 2010. The win by Wilkerson was the 10th for Ford Racing in 13 NHRA national events. With the runner-up finish Force increased his series lead to 73 over teammate Robert Hight.

The final round loss also kept Force winless at one of his favorite stops on the NHRA tour. Summit Motorsports Park is the only track currently on the NHRA Full Throttle schedule that Force has not visited the winner's circle.

"I won here last year at the Night of Fire match race. I love the (track owner) Bader family. They are the best promoters on the circuit. They are right up there with the Bill Doners (owner of Orange County Raceway and a number of other SoCal tracks) and the (Jim) Rockstadts (a Doner promoter) of the old days. They are the best now. They still promote. Bader was with me all over Cleveland on Thursday doing media and Robert was in Toledo. At the end of the day I really wanted to win here. I have never won this race as a national event. I have won it as a match race but never at the nationals," said Force.

In the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks both Brittany and Courtney made second round exits. The hot track was too much for their BrandSource and Ford Racing A Fuel dragsters. For Brittany who has spent most of her time recently in a middle school classroom teaching English to 7th and 8th graders her time at the track was a nice diversion.

"I really am comfortable in my BrandSource A Fuel dragster. I still feel the butterflies but the more races I get the more comfortable I get. I am feeling confident in the car and just more relaxed. I am really excited to be heading into the summer. Being able to come out here and race all summer lets the team get better prepared. That will help us get a more consistent car. The team gets more information when you can make a lot of runs," said Force.

While heat was a contributor to Courtney Force's early exit an uncharacteristically slow reaction time ended her day well before her Ford Racing A Fueler crossed the finish line. Force did not shy away from taking responsibility for her error.

"I am not sure what happened. I know it was my own fault for not leaving. It was a horrible reaction time. Sometimes something goes through your head or you blink and you just miss it. He didn't make we wait long but I was just ready to go and I just took too long. My foot just didn't want to leave," said the youngest Force driver.

"I thought we would have a little better outcome today. I can't complain. You get hard on yourself when you lose a round. The good news is we both got qualified in the top half of the field. We both won first round. The second round didn't go as well as we hoped. I think it is good that I have been out of the car for almost a month but I don't think we have slacked off too much. We did alright for ourselves."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Paul Lee , Robert Hight , Jeff Diehl , Mike Neff , Courtney Force