Share This

John Force Drag Racing News

2nd of 23 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Series
28th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals
Firebird Raceway Phoenix, Ariz.
Feb. 17-19, 2012

Robert Hight, john force racing, nhra funny car
Photos courtesy of Ron Lewis Photography – click to see full size

Final round results from Sunday’s 28th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals at Firebird Raceway, second race in the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:

FUNNY CAR – Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang, 4.139, 307.02 mph def. Mike Neff, Fishers, Ind., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.168, 309.91 mph.

TOP FUEL – Antron Brown, Brownsburg, Ind., Matco Tools dragster, 3.793, 319.82 mph def. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., US Army dragster, 3.813, 318.17 mph

PRO STOCK – Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.557, 211.69 mph def. Greg Anderson, Mooresville, NC, Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.570, 211.06 mph.

* * * *


PHOENIX — Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang raced into the record books extending a number of personal best streaks today winning the 28th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals in a great all John Force Racing final round against teammate Mike Neff. In the final Hight’s Ford Mustang outran Neff’s Castrol GTX backed Mustang 4.139 seconds to 4.168 seconds, in the first all JFR final round at Firebird Raceway. Until today, no other JFR driver other than John Force had won at Phoenix and he had won eight times.

“I’ll be honest with you. We did not have a chance if Mike Neff was running like he was running all day. I am not sure what kind of a problem he had on that last run but Jimmy just made it go down the left lane. We picked it up a little from the round before,” said Hight. “We were having trouble out there because there was a little bump that just upset our car because that was right where we were giving it some clutch. I’ll be honest I would not have bet on a 4.13 beating Neff in the final.”

Robert Hight, Mike Neff, NHRA Funny Cars

Hight has appeared in two previous finals at Firebird Raceway losing to Tony Pedregon in 2007 and then to Jack Beckman in 2008. Today’s win was the 24th of Hight’s career in 38 final round appearance. He has won at least one race every year of his career. This is the 16th different tour event Robert has won and it’s the 14thdifferent track on which he has won. In the last two rounds Hight was relegated to the trickier left lane.

“I have been to the final here a couple times but I never got the job done. This is big. We had some runs going over there that could have run 4.07 but they weren’t good enough to run that. Those bumps (in the left lane) were just tricky. I had to pedal it second round. We slowed it down against Courtney (Force) in the semis and we got by her. It wasn’t a great run but we got by her to get into the final. Going into the final (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) said he was going to pick it up a little more but he didn’t want to give it away. I honestly thought Neff in that right lane would run 4.07 or go low like he has been doing. That has been a tough, tough car.”

This was also the second straight week Neff has posted quick time 4.072 seconds and top speed 309.91 only to lose in the final. Last week at the O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals it was 4.036 seconds and 316.97. This is also the first time JFR has been 1-2-3 in points in the Funny Car standings.

Coming into the race Neff and Hight both have been runner-ups at Phoenix but neither had won. Hight now has a 2-0 final round record over his teammate winning today and Topeka last year which was JFR’s 200th Funny Car national event win. This is the second straight year the two have raced at Phoenix. Neff won in the first round last year. HIght equaled his round win record at 6-6 with Neff.

This was the 37th all-JFR Funny Car final and this is just the third time that JFR drivers have opposed one another in consecutive final rounds. The last time that happened was 2001 when Tony Pedregon beat John Force at Englishtown, N.J., on May 20 and then next week (May 27) beat him again in the final round at Topeka, Kan. The only other time that there have been consecutive all-JFR finals was 1996 and again it was Force versus Tony. Force won both times, on Aug. 4 at Seattle, Wash., and on Aug. 18 at Brainerd, Minn.

Hight qualified No. 8 and had to outrun Bob Tasca III in the opening round He survived a close tire-smoking battle with the No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray to advance to the semi-finals.

courtney force, john force nitro funny car

In the semi-finals he had to race teammate Courtney Force who in addition to being one of the favorites for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, as NHRA rookie of the year has a tremendously consistent race car.

“If she keeps this pace going next race she will be in the finals. She is doing a great job. It is not as much fun having to race your teammate knowing that they can step up and run good. She had lane choice against me and she had run 4.09 the round before. We knew we couldn’t run 4.09 against her. I asked Jimmy to just make it go, let’s just see what happens. Luckily it worked out. She is doing a great job. She is loving it. I can tell you right now she is ready to go to Gainesville.”

After winning against Courtney Robert was eager to get to the final with another teammate Neff.

“This is a good comeback for us. It was pretty exciting watching Neff run 4.09 right in front of us. Seeing him get to the final guaranteed an all JFR final. It is two Ford Mustangs in the final just like Pomona. I am glad we were not out in the first round and we are racing in the final. It is going to be a great race between Neff and I. We’ll see what happens.”

By getting his first win of 2012 Hight qualified for the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Knowing that the first seven slots could be locked up by race winners Hight wanted to ensure his Auto Club Ford Mustang was one of those seven race cars sooner rather than later.

“It is pretty exciting two weekends in a row having all John Force Racing Fords in the final. You have to cherish that because you know that is not going to keep happening. It is so tough to do. What is really cool is I got in the Traxxas Shootout. When they show you the rules and there are seven guaranteed spots for seven winners. That isn’t that easy. There are a lot of good Funny Cars out here. To get it this early that is a little bit of a relief,” said Hight.

This was the second final in a row for Neff and his only consolation today was he will leave with the Full Throttle Funny Car points lead. Neff now has led the points after 16 of the last 23 races. He led for the first time after last year’s NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals which was the second race of the year.

Neff’s route to the final round started when he dispatched Bob Bode in the first round, then Ron Capps and Jack Beckman in consecutive rounds. After the final round Neff was philosophical about the day’s results.

“All in all, anytime you go to the final it’s a good day; especially to be leaving here with the points lead. That’s always a good thing, but still I’m frustrated with letting one slip away last week and then I feel like I let this one slip away here too. It was a good opportunity to win the race today,” said Neff. “Our car has been running great and to just have it not do what we wanted it to and shake and I had to peddle it an just barely lose it, you know, it’s frustrating. We want to win, we work hard, but on the positive side we’ve had two races with two Force cars in each of the finals. We’re definitely satisfied with that. We’re happy about it. We’re just a little frustrated that we haven’t won either of those two, but we’ll just keep on keepin’ on.”

In the most anticipated first round match-up of the day Courtney Force outran her father John Force and moved to the second round for the second race in a row. For Force the first round loss on the heels of his season opening win at the Winternationals was bittersweet.

“I went through it with Ashley. There is just a difference in emotion. You love your kids. You want them to do well. I want her to do well for her sponsor Traxxas. I had the points lead which I haven’t had in a while. I just choked it out there. The car dropped a cylinder. It wasn’t going to run anyway no matter what I did,” said Force. “You have to get your energy up every run. It is hard to get in that fight mode where you want to drill the competition; it is hard to get that way against your family. No matter how hard I try.”

The first round was the third consecutive time the pair had gone down the track side by side and each lap had a little bit of playful drama according to the veteran Force.

“Yesterday she had flickered the light on me and in the next session I flickered the light on her. I don’t do it to screw her up. If I screw her up and hurt her as a driver then I could have sponsor problems. I don’t want to screw her up. When I did it I wanted her to see what it was like. I’ll be honest it distracted me a little bit in the first session yesterday. When I rolled in her light flickered and instead of thinking ‘OK, whatever,’ like I would have against another driver and I’d have gone on in. With her I was like is she screwed up. I didn’t think she was screwing with me. I thought, ‘Was is she in trouble?’ What she may not realize is if you don’t light that bulb and the tree comes down you won’t get a time. I remember I was thinking get her in there, get her in there. That was in qualifying so I went back against her in the second session so she could see it from my side.”

In the first round race the student took her shot at the master and waited for the 15-time champ to stage which is highly unusual for any driver to attempt. Force traditionally has a habit of staging second.

“She doesn’t seem to be bothered by much. Even up there staging I asked her what took her so long to get in. She told me she knows that I sit. She said everybody told her that. I told her OK so this early in the game we are sitting. She said no I was just going to go in and let you go in. She is not losing her focus with all that thinking.  She is probably smarter than me. She is like her mom that way,” said Force through a broad smile.

The youngest Force qualified 12th and successfully went up against her father for the first time ever in eliminations winning with a 4.146 ET at over 307 mph.

“Coming up here for first round I had my dad and I knew it was going to be tough. I raced him in qualifying a couple times. We both had fun and kind of messed with each other on the tree and then we were able to do it again first round. I don’t know if it threw him off, but I was able to get the win. My car went out and ran pretty good and he got in trouble early in the right lane,” said Force

Courtney got a great lead off the line and never had to look back, as the Castrol Ford Mustang got sideways and the elder Force spent time trying to correct the car.

“I hate beating him (John Force). He is my dad and I have dreamed about racing him for such a long time. The fact that I can go out there against him first round was pretty amazing. We have had a pretty consistent car all weekend. I know he was trying to step it up that run to try and outrun me. I know we have a good car and it got a little lose at the top end. We just want to go from A to B and not make any mistakes. I waited on him a little bit. He wasn’t going to go in to stage so I waited a little longer because I know he likes to be second. We definitely had some fun on the starting line. That was a good win for Traxxas and Ford plus Auto Club, BrandSource, Mac Tools and Castrol. I hate beating up on Dad, but that was fun,” said Force.

The largely-celebrated win sent her into a quarterfinals match-up where the youngest Force would have lane choice over new full-time racer Todd Lesenko. Alongside Lesenko, Force recorded her career-best ET with a 4.099 at 306 mph and proceeded to turn on her win light for the second time today.

“Second round we had Lesenko. I actually ran my career-best ET, a 4.09, and the best of the round so that definitely gave me a lot more confidence going into the semis. I was excited to get my first second-round win in a Pro category. It must be rookie luck because I am still in shock that I am even out here driving one of these. That was awesome,” said Force.

Despite the team’s constant efforts to improve, Force lost in the semifinals to teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight. Force ran a 4.199 ET at 299.93 mph to Hight’s 4.158 ET at 304.32 mph.

* * * *


FUNNY CAR – 1. Mike Neff, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang,196; 2. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang,154; 3. John Force, Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, 150; 4.Jack Beckman, 137; 5. Ron Capps, 125; 6. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang,124; 7.Todd Lesenko, 102; 8. Johnny Gray, 99; 9. Jeff Arend, 84; 10. Gary Densham, 83

TOP FUEL – 1. Antron Brown, 212; 2. Tony Schumacher, 180; 3. Spencer Massey, 176; 4.Morgan Lucas, 143; 5. Shawn Langdon, 139; 6. Clay Millican, 126; 7T. Bob Vandergriff, 89; 7T.Steve Torrence, 89; 9T. Brandon Bernstein, 85; 9T. Doug Kalitta, 85

PRO STOCK – 1. Greg Anderson, 209; 2. Jason Line, 208; 3. Mike Edwards, 147; 4. Roger Brogdon, 125; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 122; 6. Vincent Nobile, 111; 7. Greg Stanfield, 103; 8. Allen Johnson, 93; 9T. Shane Gray, 84; 9T. Larry Morgan, 84; 9T. Erica Enders, 84



JOHN FORCE, 62, Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 5th at 4.115 seconds, 307.02 mph
Race results: Lost to Courtney Force
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (3rd quickest of Q2 and Q4)

Quotable: “I had the points lead which I haven’t had in a while. The car dropped a cylinder. It wasn’t going to run anyway no matter what I did. You have to get your energy up every run. It is hard to get in that fight mode where you want to drill the competition; it is hard to get that way against your family.” – JOHN FORCE

MIKE NEFF, 45, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.096 seconds, 307.51 mph
Race results: Beat Bob Bode, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman. Lost to Robert Hight.
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (3rd quickest of Q1; quickest of Q4)


ROBERT HIGHT, 42, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.132 seconds, 304.32 mph
Race results: Beat Bob Tasca III, Johnny Gray, Courtney Force, Mike Neff

COURTNEY FORCE, 23, Traxxas Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 12th at 4.180 seconds, 297.75 mph
Race results: Beat John Force, Todd Lesenko. Lost to Robert Hight

Team qualifying report for NHRA Arizona Nationals on the next page…

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9