JOHN FORCE GRABS 132ND CAREER NO. 1, LEADS FC AT FIREBIRD PHOENIX --- 14-time Funny Car champion John Force is happy with his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. He is not over-confident by any stretch of the imagination even though he is the...
JOHN FORCE GRABS 132ND CAREER NO. 1, LEADS FC AT FIREBIRD
PHOENIX --- 14-time Funny Car champion John Force is happy with his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. He is not over-confident by any stretch of the imagination even though he is the most recent 2010 winner and has arguably the most consistent race car of the year. For the 132nd time Force is the no. 1 qualifier at an NHRA national event leading the field at the 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. It has been quite a drought for the 127-time national event winner spanning 80 races and three and a half years. His last number no. 1 was the 2006 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
Qualifying was shortened to one session today due to a strong rain storm that blew through in the morning washing out the early session. The rain did not dampen Force's spirits.
"(Being no. 1) feels great considering the last three years. It has been a little drought. We shook up our cars a little bit with (crew chief trio) Mike Neff and Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly). We got the new Eric Medlen chassis built by Ford Motor Company and John Medlen. We got the BOSS 500. I finally have an all Ford car. I am getting her down the lane so I am pretty excited. I want to stay low-key and not get stupid," said Force.
"(After the Winternationals win) we had a dinner Tuesday night with a few of the guys who were still in town and my family. Just to say thank you. Basically I said we need to focus on Phoenix. One of the young guys on the team said we can win Phoenix. I said let's don't get cocky. He said nobody knows it better than you. I thought about that today. I am not saying I am going to win but I am low qualifier and I am really at home here," said the eight time NHRA Arizona Nationals winner.
Force has dominated Firebird International Raceway. He has won here eight times and been no. 1 qualifier seven times. He attributes this success to the sacred ground that rests under the concrete and asphalt.
"When I came here 23-24 years ago... I knew it was really like sacred ground. We knew that the land was owned by the Indian reservation and their families. I'm Indian too. My mom was born in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I always felt like this was sacred ground and it is sacred to me. If I could pick a casino to gamble in it would be right here on this ground where I've won all the races. We have watched it grow out here with all the casinos it is pretty cool. I always feel good here. I love (track owner) Charlie Allen. He has given us an oasis."
Force will race nemesis Cruz Pedregon in the first round. That match-up will be the 80th between the two drag racing heavy-weights. Force has a 55-24 edge over the two-time Full Throttle champion.
In the final qualifying session Force laid down a blistering 4.063 second run at 308.78 mph to move around Matt Hagan. In the pressroom afterwards Force relayed his thought process as his Mustang pulled up to the starting line.
"I saw Neff turning on some screws when he went over the car. I didn't know what he was doing. I even said over the radio, 'Don't run me out of gas,' because it was taking some time. Neffy was looking at whatever he looks at. They don't tell me because they know I would tell you guys," Force said referring to the assembled media.
"I'll be honest they pulled it back. When Robert ran that 4.09 I said, 'Hey can you get after it?' They said the conditions weren't what they were earlier. I never thought it would run a low oh. I am packing a lot of ballast over here. I am heavy but my car is light. I have a race car that is light."
"Mike Neff looked at the car over the winter and he said Coil has switches that override switches. He's got mousetraps in here to catch rats. He has pictures of his great grandmother in boxes in there. Coil puts stuff on. He doesn't take stuff off. I guess they went after putting it and put it on a diet. They don't even want me at the scales. They say I'm too hard on the springs."
As Force drove up the return road the crowd at Firebird roared their approval to the man that has made a Herculean physical comeback. Force will tell anyone that he used to spend two hours in the local bars around the track and now he spends two hours at the local hotel weight room. The fans are what give him the energy to keep going.
"It really feels good. You want to plug your sponsors like Castrol, Auto Club, Ford, Mac Tools and BrandSource in this economy. I've been with Castrol for 25 years. At the end of the day I would really like to just thank the fans. The fans have stood by me when I've been knocked out. The fans just kept cheering. They either really love me or they are really crazy. They keep cheering and telling me I'll be back and I ask them to not put that (pressure) on me. I tell them I don't want to fail you. I just do what my old hot rod says it can do and I'll give you all I've got. It is what we are giving them," concluded Force.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang made a solid run to end his qualifying effort laying down a 4.094 second pass. That pass was the third quickest of the session and Hight picked up a valuable qualifying bonus point.
Ashley Force Hood smoked the tires in her last qualifying effort and will head into Sunday's elimination round in the no. 5 qualifying position. She will square off with fellow female Funny Car competitor Melanie Troxel. Ashley has only raced Troxel once before and came up on the losing end of the run in Bristol (2008). Troxel went on to upset Bristol no. 1 qualifier Mike Neff in that final.