Sonoma: John Force Racing Saturday report

HEAT FOILS JFR SATURDAY AT SONOMA; HIGHT VS. FORCE HOOD SONOMA, CA -- After two days of qualifying at Infineon Raceway John Force Racing knows two things for sure; it is hot and they will be guaranteed a spot in the second round. Unlike previous...


SONOMA, CA -- After two days of qualifying at Infineon Raceway John Force Racing knows two things for sure; it is hot and they will be guaranteed a spot in the second round. Unlike previous races in 2010 when a short field has created the opportunity for a No. 1 qualifier to receive a bye round to start the day, at the 23rd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals John Force Racing Next Generation drivers Robert Hight and Ashley Force Hood will race each other in the opening stanza.

2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion Robert Hight qualified in the No. 8 spot and teammate Ashley Force Hood landed in the No. 9 spot. The winner will faced either Jack Beckman or Jeff Diehl in the second round.

The qualifying struggles for JFR started on Friday night when the conditions improved affording the teams a chance to test the superior Infineon Raceway track. Ironically it was a poor performance in the opening session by 14-time Funny Car champion John Force followed by strong second qualifying run on Friday night that set up a chain of events that spelled doom for Hight and Force Hood.

Force was in the second pair of Funny Cars on Friday night and made a run tripping the clocks at 4.104 seconds and 307.30 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. That run catapulted him to the top spot and also showed the remaining teams that big numbers were out there. Ultimately Force will go into the eliminations rounds tomorrow as the No. 3 qualifier and will square off with former teammate Tony Pedregon.

For the Castrol GTX crew chief tandem of Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas along with the Auto Club crew chief Jimmy Prock the temptation to swing for the fences was too much on Friday night. Neither team made a solid run. They moved into Saturday with a time that was quick enough to carry over but also vulnerable to improved performance by other top teams.

"The first run here (on Friday) we had (my Mustang) set up slow enough that it was good enough for number two. Last night we knew when we ran we could throw down. We knew we were going to stay in the top twelve in fact we knew we would be in the top half. We had nothing to lose," said three time 2010 winner Robert Hight. "We were trying to run a low oh and we smoked the tires. (Today) we were too fast the first run and (on the final qualifying run) it looked like it should have gone but it didn't. We know we won't ever do that again. Unfortunately we have to race Ashley in the first round."

On Saturday neither Force Hood nor Hight improved while Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson stepped up in the heat pushing the JFR teammates into the dreaded 8 vs. 9 match-up.

The prospect of racing teammate Robert Hight does not sit well with Force Hood who is looking for her first win of the season. The always consistent Castrol GTX Mustang has had an up and down start to the season and Force Hood would like to make a move up the standings starting tomorrow.

"We would really like to go some rounds tomorrow because it has just been a tough year for us. Our car has been running really good but it is not that much fun if you aren't going rounds. We'd like to turn it around this weekend. You never want to run Robert the first round but that is just how this weekend went. We have been hit and miss on qualifying," said Force Hood.

Before the final qualifying session Force Hood huddled with her crew chiefs and discussed the launch of her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and how that affected its performance. Before the final run the team adjusted the steering wheel for Force Hood and it appears to have made a difference.

"I was missing the groove when I was launching and we adjusted by steering before that last run and it went nice and straight. I feel a lot more confident than I think I would have if not for that change. I feel a lot better since that may have been playing a role in why we weren't getting down the track on some of our other runs," said Force Hood. "My Castrol GTX Mustang went nice and straight that last run like it usually does. We'll take that into tomorrow."

The silver lining for Hight going into eliminations is that no matter what happens in the first round he has clinched a spot in the Countdown. Last year Hight and his Auto Club team had to execute a Full Throttle Hail Mary on the series' biggest stage, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the final regular season race. This year Hight has his spot locked up and can concentrate on making a run at the top spot. Hight is only 43 points behind points leader Force.

Hight or Force Hood could face Force in the final round of the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals and restart a streak of JFR dominance at Infineon Raceway. Eric Medlen won the event in 2006, followed by Force in 2007 and then Hight in 2008. Last year Tim Wilkerson broke that streak.

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Jeff Diehl