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John Force Drag Racing News

2012 NHRA Final Qualifying Summary
1st of 23 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Series

52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals
Auto Club Raceway at Pomona
Pomona, Calif. Feb. 9-12, 2012

john force racing, robert hight, winternationals




POMONA, CA — Robert Hight went from zero to hero in eight hour at the 52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals. Going into the third qualifying session Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car were on the outside of the field but after a 4.06 second pass he was sitting on top the category. When persistent rains set in Hight claimed his 40th No. 1 qualifier and third in four seasons at the season opening race. The NHRA cancelled the final qualifying session as the skies opened up drenching the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

“It is amazing how things can change so fast. Don Garlits said it best; you are only as good as your last run. We came into today not qualified and we ended up going to the No. 1 spot. We lost a run the first session here it broke the blower drive shaft. Everyone has been telling me at least it didn’t happen on Sunday. I look at it that why couldn’t it have happened on the last run of testing when it really didn’t matter,” said Hight. “We put that behind us. It was weak the next run. We had big, big decisions today. The temperature dropped and the track got even better. We have to really get after this thing so it doesn’t shake. When you do that you risk smoking the tires.”

“It was funny this morning I told John (Force) I would be happy with a 4.05. He looked at me like I had two heads. No one had even come close to that but that was the only way we were going to make it down the track. I would have liked to have gotten another run out there tonight. Jimmy looked at the run and he thinks we could have run better.”

With Hight at the top of the field he was out in front of his JFR teammates but he knew anyone of them could have a good day on Sunday. Since Hight captured the top spot  Michelle Pettipas from Hesperia, Calif. won a washer and dryer compliments of the “Win with Force” BrandSource contest.

“What is great is all four of our Mustangs are qualified. It is so good to be back here with the fans. You start going nuts over the winter. Being in the shop too long is not a good thing, especially for John. He is not much fun in the winter time. It is a lot better being out here with the fans. It is good to get another No. 1 and see if we can win this race for Auto Club and Ford and all our sponsors.”

“It is good for the sponsors to be No. 1. Trust me this is not a race I would want to not qualify at. We are in front of the Auto Club at their home track. Jimmy calls it laying an egg. We did not want to lay an egg here.”

With two lost runs to start the race the mood in the Auto Club pits was tense on Friday night. Hight felt very confident coming into the race but his on track performance was not up to his high standards.

“Yesterday was not a good feeling. We left West Palm Beach with the quickest and fastest run in testing. Some might think that is not a big deal but all those other guys were trying to run that hard and that quick too. To have that happen and your hopes are so high you are ready to get the season started,” said Hight, who recorded the quickest runs in testing. “Last year we ended up not winning the championship but we won the most races. You are ready to get out here and redeem yourself. For the first two runs to go the way they did, yeah it was a letdown. You still have to do your job and my team pulled together. Looking back it was a little gutsy but we got it done.”

For team leader John Force Saturday was a day of tension that ended with a rush of excitement. Force raced into the No. 6 qualifying position with a 4.126 second run that has the 15-time champion squaring off with rookie Alexis DeJoria in the first round. Force wanted to get the final lap in for himself and for his teammates.

“Obviously it is a good day. Robert has always done well at the Winternationals. Mike Neff if he would have gotten another lap he would have stepped up. My car is in top half and Courtney jumped in at 12 so with a new sponsor in Traxxas it is important to have a good day,” said Force. “You should see the lines at the ropes at the Auto Club stage show and at the BrandSource Top Fuel dragster. It is a new day and to get all four Ford Mustang Funny Cars in I am really excited. In this economy people invest and we have a brand new team and a brand new driver so to go down the race track three times in a row everyone did their job. That was critical. I wish she could have gotten another run in.”

With his youngest daughter making her pro debut on Sunday Force tried to keep it simple and offer only one word of advice.

“Same. Do the same thing again. Go up there and do exactly what she did on Thursday, Friday and today. It is about repetition and doing things the way she was taught. Don’t get into competition and look out the window at the other driver and forget to drive your own car. She knows that. I have made that mistake.”

With Force’s advice at the top of her mind Courtney Force and her Traxxas team led by Ron Douglas and Scott Wible had continued success today as they strategically pushed the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car down the track at 4.199 ET at 307.09 mph.

“I’m pretty pleased with how qualifying went. Our car has been really consistent so far this weekend. We ran a 4.19, 4.21 and then a 4.20 today. As a driver and as a team all you can really ask for is consistency and I think we’ve got that. I hope we can build on it tomorrow.

By the end of the third qualifying shot, Force was set in the no. 12 spot for Sunday. She will face Bob Tasca III in the first found of eliminations on Sunday.

“It’s pretty crazy knowing that I’m actually qualified for my first ever national event in Funny Car. I’m so proud of (crew chiefs) Ron Douglas, Scott Wible and my team for getting me here because I couldn’t have done it without them. Same goes for the support of my sponsors- Traxxas, Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource, and Mac Tools.

“It’s very surreal right now. I can’t believe that I’m event in the show. There are so many great drivers out here and we ended up squeezing our way in so I’m very excited. Hopefully we can get this car running a little quicker tomorrow and get that first round win,” said Force.

Finally championship contender Mike Neff came in to Saturday in the bottom half of the field. The car struggled in the week’s previous qualifying sessions and left Neff in the no. 13 spot at the end of Friday’s activities.

“Yesterday we actually made a good run and something malfunctioned with the lights. It could have run a really good number, but it didn’t work out that way. Having that run not count made it even more stressful on us today,” said Mike Neff, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car.

Today in a side by side race with Robert Hight, Neff and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made a clean pass straight down the track and posted a 4.103 ET at 307.16 mph which left Neff respectively in the no. 5 spot. He will face Tony Pedregon on the opening round of Funny Car qualifying on Sunday.

“I’m always happy to qualify. That’s always the first task when we come to the race. Getting qualified on the first pass today was a huge relief especially looking back now with the last session getting rained out. Being aware that that stuff happens sometimes makes us all the more thankful that we got in what we needed to before the rain. I’m just excited for the first race of the year and ready to get going tomorrow,” added Neff.

Neff has had some success versus Pedregon winning the last five first round match-ups but Neff is taking nothing for granted going into the first race of the season.

TEAM JFR QUALIFYING REPORT #2 on the next page…

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