JOHN FORCE MAKES BIG 2ND DAY MOVE AT NHRA FINALS (POMONA) --- John Force moved to almost the top of the Funny Car field at the 44th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals posting a 4.108 second run in the Friday session. The...
JOHN FORCE MAKES BIG 2ND DAY MOVE AT NHRA FINALS
(POMONA) --- John Force moved to almost the top of the Funny Car field at the 44th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals posting a 4.108 second run in the Friday session. The unseasonably hot weather wrecked havoc with many championship contending team but the crew chief tandem of Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly were able to muscle Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang down the historic Fairplex race track.
Rookie of the Year stand-out Mike Neff is just three thousandths of a second in front of his boss after failing to improve on his impressive Thursday run. He slipped to second place in qualifying after Melanie Troxel posted an equally quick elapsed time but with a faster mile per hour giving her the edge for the provisional top qualifying spot. Neff did make a solid run of 4.121 second to put him in position for the Full Throttle Award but a burnt cylinder head kept him from holding onto the top spot.
"We were trying to run a little bit better than we did yesterday but it burned up a couple of cylinders and slowed down a little. It was another solid run and that is what is important. We were up at the top of the pack both sessions and that is what we want to do. It was good to see John Force get up there and make a good run. Now we just need Robert and Ashley to jump up there. So far that is what our game plan is. We have half of the Ford Mustangs up there we just need the other two up there for tomorrow," said Neff.
While Force and Neff were holding their own at the top of the field Robert Hight and Ashley Force were done in by the California heat. Neff was encouraged by everyone's chances tomorrow especially with the more traditional set-up of two qualifying sessions on Saturday.
"I think we will be able to get into a nice groove tomorrow going into Sunday. The track is holding up really good even though the first run tomorrow will be the warmest of the weekend. That will be important for set up for Sunday morning. Tomorrow evening should be the best conditions we have had all weekend so I think you will see the ladder change all over the place," added Neff.
Championship contender Robert Hight managed to hold onto his positional lead over Tim Wilkerson and Cruz Pedregon but the two time runner-up was looking for a bigger performance improvement during Friday's session. The ever optimistic Hight was as he described it "depressed" with his car's performance but also encouraged that he had two more shots on Saturday to move up to the top part of the Funny Car standings.
"It would have been nice to run one of those 4.10s and be up near the top. I don't like being down near the bottom or middle of the pack. If we would have run a ten that would have really forced those other guys (Wilkerson and Cruz Pedregon) to push a little bit. They are in trouble anyway. Cruz isn't even in and Wilkerson's sixteen I don't think is safe. They both have to step up. We do too. I wanted to do better," said Hight.
During his run Hight's Auto Club/LA Dodgers Ford Mustang lost traction at about three hundred feet and Tony Pedregon crossed the center line in front of him setting off the timing cones and voiding the timers for both lanes. Hight was philosophical about the lost session.
"If we would have been ahead of Tony it wouldn't have mattered that he crossed the center line. He red-lit and that screwed me up a little. He left an hour early and I hit the gas. It just wasn't a good run. We are still ahead of the guys we need to be so two (qualifying sessions) down and two to go."
The 2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force was flying her specialty themed Ford Mustang for the second event of the year and as it turned out the pink Mustang will face an early retirement. Disappointing performances on Thursday and Friday will have the sophomore driver pulling out her tradition Castrol GTX body for the final two qualifying sessions.
Finally, in the Top Alcohol ranks the BrandSource sponsored A/Fuel dragsters had a banner two days of qualifying as both Brittany and Courtney Force will head into eliminations with legitimate shots of going rounds. Courtney Force's Thursday time was strong enough to keep her in the number three qualified position a minor slip from the number one spot she had on Thursday. Force will face Del Cox Jr. in the first round tomorrow.
"It was really nice being number one while it lasted. I'm thrilled to be in the number three spot. I don't think I have ever been qualified that high. It gives me a lot more confidence for race day tomorrow. I have to stay calm and cool because you could be the number one qualifier and go out first round. You have to be careful and see how it goes," said the Santiago Canyon College sophomore.
Brittany Force once again proved she has the Force driving gene as she handled a potentially scary top end situation like a veteran when her front wheel collapsed and tried to pull her dragster into her neighbor's lane. The rookie was shaken by the incident but also pleased with her reaction. She will head into eliminations in the number eleven spot and will square-off against number six qualifier Cody Perkins.
"After I crossed the finish line I went to pull my chutes. My car was pulling really hard to the other lane. I looked over the nose of the dragster and the tire is completely turned against the side of the car. My chutes came out which slowed me down but I have never seen anything like that. My first reaction was 'This thing is going to rollover or I am definitely going to be in the sand pit.' I drove it down as straight as I could. I kind of got in the other guys lane but he pulled over as far as he could. It worked out. Hopefully we will get it fixed by tomorrow," said the junior at Cal State Fullerton.
"I have had a lot of weird things happen in my car; chutes that didn't come out, going into the sand, splitting my fuel tank it is nice to look back and see that I did do the right thing in those situations. That is good to know. In a freak accident so far I have done the right thing. That is surprising to me because as a new driver you don't know how you will react."
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 3rd at 4.108 seconds, 303.78
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 13th quickest pass at 4.207 seconds, 302.62 mph
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club/Los Angeles Dodgers Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 7th at 4.122 seconds, 298.14 mph.
Quotes: "It would have been nice to run one of those 4.10s and be up near the top. I don't like being down near the bottom or middle of the pack. If we would have run a ten that would have really forced those other guys to push a little bit. They are in trouble anyway. Cruz isn't even in and Wilkerson's sixteen I don't think is safe. They both have to step up. We do too. I wanted to do better."
MIKE NEFF, 42, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 4.105 seconds, 299.13 mph
Quotes: "I think we will be able to get into a nice groove tomorrow going into Sunday. The track is holding up really good even though the first run tomorrow will be the warmest of the weekend. That will be important for set up for Sunday morning. Tomorrow evening should be the best conditions we have had all weekend so I think you will see the ladder change all over the place."