NEFF, FORCE HOOD LEAD JFR AT SONOMA - John Force also in top half, Hight winds up 10th - SONOMA, CA --- Two rookies of the year, Mike Neff and Ashley Force Hood grabbed two of the top three provisional qualifying spots at the 22nd annual FRAM ...
NEFF, FORCE HOOD LEAD JFR AT SONOMA
- John Force also in top half, Hight winds up 10th -
SONOMA, CA --- Two rookies of the year, Mike Neff and Ashley Force Hood grabbed two of the top three provisional qualifying spots at the 22nd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals during the night time qualifying session. Cool conditions gave the teams a chance to put up good numbers and the two newest JFR Mustang drivers took full advantage.
Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One Mustang made the biggest jump of the class when they moved from the 17th quickest time after the first session to the No. 2 provisional qualifying session with a blistering 4.069 second run. Neff was in the second pair of funny cars in the second qualifying session so the strength of the run was compounded even more when you consider how early he had to run.
"It is always tough being in the front of the pack since you haven't seen anyone run. We felt the track was good. Conditions were good all the way around. We just decided to go ahead and be aggressive. We ran what we thought it would take," said 2008 NHRA Rookie of the Year Neff. "It all worked out good and ended up being a really good run. It felt great the whole way down the track. It was really running good. We are pleased."
Knowing that conditions will be dramatically different during the daylight hours tomorrow Neff is looking forward to getting ready for race day.
"We won't see conditions like this tomorrow. Tonight was just for setting the qualifying order. Tomorrow whatever those conditions are is closer to what we'll see on Sunday. Tomorrow will be the real important day. We need to make two good runs tomorrow to get ready for Sunday," added Neff
One of the most consistent drivers of the season Ashley Force Hood raced to the No. 3 provisional spot with a solid Antonelli-Douglas tune-up. Force Hood had a great run in the first session, 4.205 seconds, and she backed it up with another improvement covering the 1000 ft. race track at Infineon Raceway at 4.099 seconds. The run had the 2007 NHRA Rookie of the Year's hands full as she powered her Ford Mustang across the finish line driving through some strong tire shake.
"It shook the most it has ever shaken when I didn't lift. Most of the times when it has felt like that it hasn't made a run so it was right on the edge of something. I don't know if it was weak shake or if it was too much. I haven't talked with Guido and Ron (crew chiefs Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas) yet," said Force Hood. "I know they were hoping for a quicker run. We can't complain about a 4.09. That was a solid run and especially knowing it was right there on the edge of something. Now we can go into tomorrow and be more relaxed. It seems like the last few races we haven't been qualifying as strong as we used to. It is nice to be back up at the top or close to the top of the pack."
Team leader John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang landed in the top half of the field with a stepped up 4.138 second run in the second qualifying session. The seven-time Infineon Raceway champion has his eye on getting his first win of the 2009 season this weekend.
"My Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was right on the edge. It needed more power. I am excited to watch some good old racing. There will be some good hot rods stepping up tonight. It is pretty exciting got us with Castrol, Ford to come out here in Sonoma, California where all our friends are and my old car didn't embarrass me too bad. She'll be better tomorrow," said Force.
The biggest surprise of the day was an up and down performance by defending event champion Robert Hight. Hight's Auto Club Mustang came out of the gate and raced to the No.1 position in the first qualifying session with a solid 4.18 second lap.
"That was a good start for this Auto Club Ford. We started off where we left off last year here. That is definitely what we needed to do. We have to get this Mustang into the top ten. Time is running out. We love coming up here to Sonoma. It is kind of like my home track. It is a good way to start. Great job 9crew chief) Jimmy Prock," said an excited Hight from the top end of the race track.
In the second session Hight was in the last pair with Tony Pedregon and as the overflow crowd rose to their feet expecting to see a record run from one either Hight or Pedregon. Instead they were treated to tire smoke from Pedregon and a top end exploding Mustang manhandled by Hight. Multiple connecting rods broke on Hight's Auto Club Mustang as it belched fire the last 500 feet of its aborted run. Neither funny car driver improved and Hight will go into Saturday's second day of qualifying provisionally positioned in the No. 10 spot based on the strength of his first round effort.