Richmond: John Force Racing final report

HIGHT ADVANCES TO SECOND ROUND FOR DISAPPOINTING RICHMOND FINISH RICHMOND, VA -- The 3rd annual Virginia NHRA Nationals started with much promise for John Force Racing but in the end a tricky track and some atypical miscues derailed the Ford ...

HIGHT ADVANCES TO SECOND ROUND FOR DISAPPOINTING RICHMOND FINISH

RICHMOND, VA -- The 3rd annual Virginia NHRA Nationals started with much promise for John Force Racing but in the end a tricky track and some atypical miscues derailed the Ford Mustang contingent from dramatically improving their hopes of winning a 15th championship for JFR.

Even though they did not close the gap on the points lead the top three drivers in championship contention, Robert Hight, Ashley and John Force, did not slip too far off the pace. Team leader and 14-time champion John Force was still optimistic and almost defiant in his assessment of his team's chances with two races left in the Countdown to 1 POWERade Championship.

"We have two races left and I still think I have a chance to win this championship. I need everything to go right for me and everything to go wrong for some other guys. Robert (Hight) and Ashley (Force) are up there in the top and they still have a real good shot. They are only a race out," said Force.

"I am a very positive type of guy. I am the kind of guy that looks at the stock market and I believe it will come back. That is the way you have to look at it. This is America. So we are going to win this championship and I am going to think that until the points on the board tell me it's over. These guys can have oil downs that can hurt them. They could not qualify. We are due for a little luck. We haven't had much luck this year."

Force dropped a first round match-up with Robert Hight when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang lost traction at about 200 feet. The winningest driver in NHRA history did not give up, getting back on the throttle before his Funny Car moved too far outside the groove.

Force's efforts, while aggressive, were overly ambitious considering his teammate Robert Hight was flying down the Virginia Motorsports Park track, covering the 1000 foot track in a spectacular 4.005 seconds once again recording the quickest 1000 foot time since the NHRA truncated the racing distance.

In round two Hight paired up with Ron Capps but the tricky track ended his day as the Auto Club Ford Mustang shook just past the starting line and Hight was forced to watch Capps advance while his championship aspirations took a hit. Even with this setback Hight did not concede his chance of winning his first POWERade championship.

"It's not over. We can't give up and we can't hang our heads. We have to keep working hard. It is not over. We still have a shot. We have a good running car. This race track is a little odd. If you don't have it just fast enough leaving the starting line it wants to shake and that is what happened to us. We weren't trying too hard even though that four flat was a stout run but people will think we smoked the tires the next round because we got too aggressive. It was just the opposite. It was a little weak," said the two-time championship runner-up.

"I am encouraged though because the motor ran good all weekend. It had eight cylinders. It is responding to changes that (crew chief) Jimmy Prock is making and the fuel system is all good. We probably won't see these kind of conditions again with a starting line that is that good. The same thing won't happen in two weeks at Vegas. We just have to make sure we don't have anything else bite us."

While the Force versus Hight first round race grabbed a lot of attention the opening round tilt between Ashley Force and points leader Tim Wilkerson had everyone in the facility on the edge of their seats. In the race of the day Wilkerson edged Force 4.071 to 4.061. Wilkerson grabbed a slight starting line reaction time advantage and it was just enough to give him the win. The race might have had a different outcome had Force made a different equipment decision.

"I switched visors which you really shouldn't change anything on race day. I like looking through the darker visor but it is not an anti-fog (visor) which is the only negative about it. I like looking through it since I am the most comfortable since I wear sunglasses it is easier on my eyes. I decided to put that darker visor on and I didn't think about the fog being a problem."

"I got up there and got under the tower and I was a pair back from running and I put my visor down and when I breathed it started to fog up. At that point I should have gotten on the radio but I thought all my stuff was back at the trailer and I didn't want to frazzle everyone. We were the next pair and (co-crew chiefs) Ron (Douglas) and Guido (Dean Antonelli) were trying to tune. I should have said something and they could have easily sent someone back to trailer on a scooter," said Force.

"I was trying to do anything that might help with the fog. I put my visor down and tried to go in a little deeper on my pre-stage so I could keep my visor up longer. The shorter amount of time I have my visor clicked down the less fog that will be there. I ended up rolling in too far and lighting both sets of lights. I didn't mean to do that. By then I was just a frazzled mess at that point."

"My light wasn't really that bad. I've had worse lights than that. I feel like I could have had a better light. I was ready. I was excited. I had gotten a good night's sleep. I just know I could have been in that fight if I would have just done what I needed to do. That is a lesson learned. The next time I will be sure to check that and not keep my mouth shut."

Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff and his Old Spice team were also bitten by the tricky track bug as they uncharacteristically shook at the hit of the throttle in their first round race with Ron Capps. Neff was disappointed about the loss but also frustrated that he didn't take advantage of his strong qualifying effort.

"What's disappointing for this week is to be running as good as we were and the thing just shook. Something happened in the first round today that hardly ever happens to us. It was just bad timing. We should have made a good run there to help our own cause and move up in the points. Running good in qualifying is one thing but Sundays is when it counts. I am confident with the way the car has been running," said Neff.

TEAM CASTROL/TEAM JFR Details:

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 11th at 4.080 seconds, 298.21 mph
Race Results: Lost to Robert Hight.

Notable: Qualified for 500th career race.

Quoteable: "We have two races left and I still think I have a chance to win this championship. I need everything to go right for me and everything to go wrong for some other guys. I am a very positive type of guy. I am the kind of guy that looks at the stock market and I believe it will come back. That is the way you have to look at it. This is America. So we are going to win this championship and I am going to think that until the points on the board tell me it's over."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.048 seconds, 304.12 mph
Race Results: Lost to Tim Wilkerson.

Quotable: "My light wasn't really that bad. I've had worse lights than that. I feel like I could have had a better light. I was ready I was excited. I had gotten a good night's sleep. I just know I could have been in that fight if I would have just done what I needed to do."

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.070 seconds, 300.13 mph
Race Results: Beat John Force. Lost to Ron Capps.

Quotable: "It's not over. We can't give up and we can't hang our heads. We have to keep working hard. It is not over. We still have a shot. We have a good running car."

MIKE NEFF, 42, Old Spice Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.041 seconds, 304.80 mph
Race Results: Lost to Ron Capps.

Quotable: "We should have made a good run there (in the first round) to help our own cause and move up in the points. Running good in qualifying is one thing but Sundays is when it counts. I am confident with the way the car has been running. The next two races should be good conditions and I expect everyone here to be running really strong. We should be able to be right in the thick of it. There are two races left and anything can happen."

NEXT EVENTS:

COUNTDOWN TO 1 CHAMPIONSHIP
Oct. 30 -- Nov. 2 -- ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 13-16 -- Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Pomona. CA

-credit: -www.johnforceracing.com-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Mike Neff