Team Force Has Mixed Results in Winternationals First Round POMONA --- It took three days to get one round of qualifying completed for the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals and unfortunately the weather halted racing action on...
Team Force Has Mixed Results in Winternationals First Round
POMONA --- It took three days to get one round of qualifying completed for the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals and unfortunately the weather halted racing action on race day after only one round of competition in Top Fuel and Funny Car. It took nearly seven hours to get that one round completed and continuing wet and cold weather forced NHRA officials to postpone eliminations until tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Two John Force Racing Ford Mustangs were able to advance to round number two as Robert Hight and Ashley Force both survived the extended race day. The up and down, will they or won't they, tedium had an effect on sophomore driver Mike Neff and team leader John Force was simply outrun by Ron Capps in the best side by side race of the round.
Neff suffered his first career red-light start versus fellow Ford racer Bob Tasca III and he felt that the long delays had an impact on his level of concentration.
"I was surprised that I did it (red-lit). As I left I caught the red light out of the corner of my eye. That caught me off guard. Maybe it was just that I was amped up and we'd been out there for a long time. Everybody had been shaking and maybe I was anticipating we would shake and I lost my concentration. I just didn't wait long enough," said the 2008 Rookie of the Year.
After he launched Neff's Ford Drive One Auto Club Ford Mustang was all over the track nearly making a complete ninety degree turn in the right lane before Neff wrestled the 8000 horsepower back under control. It was a tremendous effort considering the wheels were still spinning and the Mustang was fighting to accelerate.
"When I hit the throttle it just took off and started spinning the tires. When I got back on it the tires still weren't hooked back up yet. When I hit it again it was like it was on ice. It just kept spinning. The next thing you know I am looking at the guard wall. Then I am thinking just keep it off the wall. Do not hit the wall. That was the last thing that I wanted to do at that point," said Neff.
14-time Funny Car champion John Force just ran up against a tough competitor in Ron Capps in round one. Force's time of 4.141 seconds was the third quickest of the session and would have been good enough to advance the winningest driver in NHRA history past six other pairs of drivers.
The two JFR drivers that will be battling for the 49th annual Winternationals championship both had to show their considerable driving skills in their first round match-ups.
Ashley Force Hood defeated rookie Matt Hagan in a pedalfest posting a 4.334 second run and two-time championship runner-up Robert Hight overcame a strong case of tire shake to trailer Jerry Toliver. Hight knew it was going to be a tough round and that advancing felt like more than just a simple round win.
"When the track is that tight if you don't have a little wheel slippage it's very tough. The tire wants to run over itself. It needs a little slippage but the right amount of slippage is the key. That is what is so tough out here. It you give it too much it will blow the tires off. I'll tell you what the Auto Club and Ford we are by round one and that is a big one," said Hight.
Ashley Force Hood was also pleased with her effort and also welcoming to her new Funny Car competitor.
"Those are the moments we haven't had to practice with the shake and the pedaling. I have had the practice with smoking the tires but I talked to Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) beforehand, a couple of hours ago actually. He said you just have to react to what the car does. Don't put ideas in the back of your head. When it took off it let me know what was happening. I just did a quick pedal and thank goodness it was pointed straight and it went down between the two barriers that my whole life is between. It was great to race Matt Hagan. Welcome to this great sport. He is a great competitor. All of us will have a fun year in this Funny Car category," said the 2007 rookie of the year.