HIGHT CLINCHES COUNTDOWN SPOT AT SONOMA SONOMA, CA --- The highlight for John Force Racing at Infineon Raceway today transpired at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies when Robert Hight affixed his name to the Countdown to 1 marquee.
HIGHT CLINCHES COUNTDOWN SPOT AT SONOMA
SONOMA, CA --- The highlight for John Force Racing at Infineon Raceway today transpired at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies when Robert Hight affixed his name to the Countdown to 1 marquee. Unfortunately from there it was a frustrating and uneventful day for the most dominant organization in drag racing.
Hight was forced to square off with teammate and Countdown hopeful Ashley Force Hood in the first round. The pair opened up the first round of Funny Car eliminations for the 23rd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals both making solid runs. Hight's opening salvo was the quickest of the round a 4.123 to Force Hood's 4.206. It was a bittersweet pill for Force Hood and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang team to swallow as they watched four other drivers advance with slower elapsed times. Melanie Troxel advanced to the second round with a 5.35, Jack Beckman move on with a 4.25, John Force with a 4.25, and Cruz Pedregon with a 4.54 second run.
"I am ready to get to Denver because it is totally different than any of the events on the schedule. Hopefully that will be a good thing for us. We just haven't been doing really well this summer. None of our teams did that great today except we are all running good. Dad ran a really good time. We ran a really good time in the first round," said Force Hood. "We just aren't having any luck. Everyone else just happens to run a little better than us or all the other pairs don't run that well. If we would have run Jack Beckman in the first round I think we would have beaten him. That is just how it goes. We will just go to Denver and try it again. If that doesn't work then we will just go to Brainerd."
Force Hood will head to Denver with 905 points and a realistically insurmountable 237 point lead over Jeff Arend who is currently in 11th place.
For Hight the win was a performance boost but the momentum was short lived. His Auto Club Mustang is proving to be tricky to tame for crew chief Jimmy Prock. In the second round Hight struck the tires at about 200 feet and had to watch as Jack Beckman advanced to the semi-finals with a 4.252 second run.
"We just have no wiggle room with this tune-up. It just has to be perfect and you can't race like that. We made a great run in the first round and in the second round it should have gone. It was just a little off and that killed us. We are working through this new clutch set-up and trying to get it back to what we had earlier in the year," said Hight.
While Hight was not satisfied with today's outcome and he and Prock are frustrated with the progress of their new clutch system he knows that they are in a much better position now. They have a number of options as well as races to make improvements.
"We still have all that stuff (clutch inventory from earlier in the season) and we are saving that for the Countdown. That is our ace in the hole. Jimmy and Eric (Lane) are working on fixing the problem. It is frustrating because we want that top spot and we have had a couple of chances to make a move. We are in a much better place this year compared to last year for sure. We didn't need to make a killer run against Beckman we just needed to get down there and it just didn't happen."
John Force is also looking ahead to the Countdown but also not losing focus on the remaining two events of the regular season. For the 14-time champion holding onto the top spot is his number one priority event if to some outside observers he looks to be focusing on other areas.
"I want to make it clear that people have talked about my focus with Ashley and Robert getting me sidetracked. Maybe a little bit over the course of the year but I am not sidetracked now. If anything working with Ashley, Robert and even Courtney (Force) is motivating me. It is helping me keep my energy up," said the four time winner and six time finalist in 2010.
"We'll naturally take a breather and get a little bit of a rest. You want to try and keep your people as fresh as possible. We have adrenaline because we are in the lead. All three of my cars will make the Countdown. Sonoma wasn't good for us. At the end of the day we left with the points lead and Robert is No. 2. Robert clinched for the Countdown. I am a Castrol guy and an Auto Club guy and there is still a Ford in the semi-finals that Tasca is running. At the end of the day one of my sponsors will win hopefully. Go get 'em Tasca."
Unfortunately Bob Tasca III was eliminated in the semi-final round but Fords occupy five of the top eight spots in the Top Ten with Force and Hight at the top of the list. The series will move to Denver for the final race of the Western Swing. When Seattle winner Tim Wilkerson was eliminated in the opening round it guaranteed that there would not be a Funny Car Western Swing three race winner and Force would hold onto record as the lone Funny Car driver to have won the increasingly grueling mini-series.