Seattle: John Force Racing final report

DISAPPOINTING SECOND ROUND LOSSES END JFR BID FOR SEATTLE WIN SEATTLE, WA -- Promising first round wins for Robert Hight and rookie of the year front-runner Mike Neff were the highlight of the day as John Force Racing failed to ...

DISAPPOINTING SECOND ROUND LOSSES END JFR BID FOR SEATTLE WIN

SEATTLE, WA -- Promising first round wins for Robert Hight and rookie of the year front-runner Mike Neff were the highlight of the day as John Force Racing failed to advance at least one Ford Mustang to the semi-finals for only the second time this season at the 21st annual Schuck's Auto Parts Supply NHRA Nationals.

Hight took out points leader Tim Wilkerson with a stellar 4.13 run and was in position to close the gap on the critical number on points position. From the top end Hight's reaction was one of relief and enthusiasm to get an important win.

"I feel like it is already final round I am so worn out. The stress of having to race Tim Wilkerson first round, we have to capitalize on this. The guy is way out ahead of us and our only chance is to go and win this race," said the No. 1 qualifier. "That is what we intend to do with this Auto Club Ford. I will say this that first run was all messed up. The throttle stop came off on the burn out. I felt the thing over rev and I was on and off it and luckily I didn't blow it up. "

In the second round Hight dropped his race to reigning Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon when his blower let go.

"I said it before the day started if we don't capitalize on Wilkerson qualifying bad and beat him first round we would be in trouble. By not going past the second round we really didn't accomplish anything. We needed this. My goal is to be No. 1 when the points switch. We failed today. We had low ET first round. We made a good run against Wilkerson. We did what we had to do there but then the next round Tony Pedregon beat us," said a dejected Hight.

Hight and his team were surprised to examine his motor and see no noticeable cause for the explosion.

"Our car blew up. We don't know what caused it. It pushed a head gasket out but nothing looked wrong. The head was put on properly. Nothing was burned up or hot. It wasn't like it was eating itself up. (John Force crew chief Austin) Coil always calls that 'an event.' It blew up," said the former John Force crew member. "Tony went down the track. I thought when he beat us he was going to march through and win the race but then Tony Bartone beats him. Tony (Pedregon) went around us by a point to push us to third. We can make that up in qualifying next week. I'm glad there is another race next week rather than have to wait a couple of weeks to do this again. Friday can't come quick enough."

Another one of the most anticipated first round match-ups was a head to head race between the two most visible rookie of the year candidates and Ford backed Funny Cars, Old Spice sponsored Mike Neff and Motorcraft backed Bob Tasca III. Neff used a starting line reaction time advantage to snatch the win away from a quicker Tasca performance. The magnitude of the win was not lost on Neff.

"Tasca is a good leaver and I knew I had to be ready. I tried to get in there a little bit to not give him any advantage. That was a big race for the Old Spice Ford which is running good."

In the second round Neff was also upended by a Tony, veteran Tony Bartone. Neff uncharacteristically smoked the tires handing Bartone a pass into the semi-finals. The missed opportunity to go additional rounds and put much needed distance between himself and the rest of the drivers vying for a spot in the Countdown hurt the Hemet, Calif. native the most.

"Winning that second round would have been a good opportunity to go some rounds which would have helped our cause. We just made one little mistake. We are still adapting to the new tire with our set-up. The next time we get on a hot track we'll know what kind of changes we need to make," said Neff. "We had a good qualifying spot. We made four good runs this weekend. I felt like we had a chance. The positive is all the guys behind us went out as well so we didn't really get hurt. We are still hanging in there."

Ashley Force was also the victim of tire smoke when her Castrol GTX moved out of the groove and she was forced to pedal the 8.000 hp Mustang versus Cruz Pedregon. The young driver explained that her team is going to examine if there is possibly a balance problem that is pulling or directing her Mustang to the left.

"It got out to the left and just smoked the tires. I pedaled it but it wasn't enough. I didn't have enough track or time to catch back up. They are going to look at some things on my Castrol GTX Mustang. They noticed from qualifying and the runs today as well as some of the runs in Denver I've gone to the left regardless of what lane I am in," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "We are wondering if something has changed since we changed bodies. Possibly my visuals are different. They are going to check the balance and see if that could play a role. It is just kind of odd that no matter what lane I am in I just keep going to left."

Team leader John Force was relegated to the sidelines for the second time this season when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang failed to crack the sixteen car Funny Car field. The last time Force was not in the starting line-up in Seattle was 1979. The once unstoppable 14-time champion is not taking this development lightly.

"I'm okay with where I'm at. I've still got that fight at 59 years old. (Crew chief Austin) Coil had me running around like a schoolboy. We're re-evaluating our race car. I sat down with each crewmember individually. We're not the car we used to be but we still have the same brain-trust. They work together. We're gonna be okay. We found some gremlins in our car,"said Force.

Even with the absence of John Force there were two Forces running on Sunday. Ashley Force was joined by younger sister and Top Alcohol Dragster racer Brittany Force on the track. Brittany won her first competitive round of TAD yesterday but dropped a second round match-up with Duane Shields.

"I went past first round which was exciting. I was up against a pretty tough guy. I got him on the Christmas tree but it wasn't quite good enough. My BrandSource dragster has been running really well even in the hot weather. He was just a little bit quicker than me. I am still trying to get used to the routine. It is getting more comfortable."

***

TEAM CASTROL/TEAM JFR Details:

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying performance: 17th quickest run of the event at 4.158 seconds at 293.47 mph.

Race Results: DNQ

Quotable: "I'm okay with where I'm at. I've still got that fight at 59 years old. Coil had me running around like a schoolboy. Down to the scales. They want the true weights. We're re-evaluating our race car."

ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.095 seconds, 299.66 mph

Race Results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.

Notable: Remained in POWERade Top Five.

Quotable: "We were on a roll earlier in the year and we want to get back on that roll. We have just kind of struggled. It doesn't seem like everything is coming together like it did in the spring. We want to get anything that is not perfect worked out before Indy hits."

ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.056 seconds, 304.39 mph

Race Results: Beat Tim Wilkerson, Lost to Tony Pedregon.

Notable: Beat points leader Tim Wilkerson in round one...moved back into number one position for US Smokeless Showdown.

Quotable: "I said it before the day started if we don't capitalize on Wilkerson qualifying bad and beat him first round we would be in trouble. By not going past the second round we really didn't accomplish anything. We needed this. My goal is to be No. 1 when the points switch."

MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.089 seconds, 303.84 mph

Race results: Beat Bob Tasca III. Lost to Tony Bartone.

Notable: Defeated Rookie of the Year competitor Bob Tasca III in first round match-up... remained in POWERade Top Ten. Quotable: "That (first round race versus Tasca) was a big race for the Old Spice Ford which is running good. It is going to be an exciting day out here. This 1,000 foot has really made it interesting."

BRITTANY FORCE, 22, BrandSource Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying: 8th at 5.370 seconds, 260.06 mph

First Round Opponent (W-L): Justin Davis (1-0)

Race Results: Defeated Justin Davis, Duane Shields

Quotable: "I went past first round which was exciting. I was up against a pretty tough guy. I got him on the Christmas tree but it wasn't quite good enough. My BrandSource dragster has been running really well even in the hot weather. He was just a little bit quicker than me. I am still trying to get used to the routine. It is getting more comfortable."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Duane Shields , Bob Tasca III , Mike Neff , Brittany Force