John Force Racing 2 for 2 Winning Gatornationals

Team Force Wins Gatornationals

Mike Neff, John Force Racing, NHRA Funny Car, NHRA Gatornationals
2nd of 22 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Series

42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals

Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Florida

March 13, 2011

* * * *

Final round results from Sunday’s 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, second race in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:

FUNNY CAR – Mike Neff, Fishers, Ind., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.092, 310.48 mph, def. Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Snap-On Toyota Camry, 7.819, 99.32 mph.

TOP FUEL –Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Al-Anabi dragster, 3.858, 318.00 mph def. Tony Schumacher, Brownsburg, Ind., US Army  dragster, 3.866, 318.39 mph

PRO STOCK – Jason Line, Mooresville, NC, Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.554, 211.96 mph def. Greg Greg Anderson, Mooresville, NC, Summit Pontiac GXP, 6.545, 212.43 mph

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Eddie Krawiec, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley Davidson V-Rod, 6.847, 197.08 mph def. Karen Stoffer, Gardnerville, NY, Geico Suzuki, Red-light DQ, 6.949,193.27 mph.

* * * *


GAINESVILLE, FL — Mike Neff and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang were hot on Saturday and they got hotter on Sunday racing to a second career win as a driver at the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. The win was the 198th funny car win for John Force Racing and it was the eleventh win for JFR at Gatornationals seven by John Force, one by Tony Pedregon, one by Gary Densham, and one by Ashley Force Hood in TAD. This was the first funny car win for JFR at Gatornationals since 2003.

It was the second win in a row for JFR in 2011, Robert Hight won the season opening NHRA Winternationals, and the fourth overall going back to John Force’s championship clinching wins at Las Vegas and Pomona at the end of 2010.

“This is just a great day for our whole team. We needed this to keep the Force string going,” said Neff. “This is four in a row for team Force. It feels good. Fortunately I have a great Mustang. It is the car John drove last year and I just got in it. Now it is just a matter of not messing it up as a driver.  That is the hardest part for me.

This was Neff’s first final round and win at the NHRA Gatornationals as either a driver or crew chief. Neff was crew chief for Scotty Cannon and Gary Scelzi. His previous best at the Gatornationals was two appearances in the semi-finals with Scelzi.

Neff is pulling double duty as crew chief and driver but he is not carrying the load by himself. He was quick to spread the credit for the team’s success to his crew and teammates.

“I am mentally drained. Losing an hour of sleep last night didn’t help me either. We have so much help with people looking at the track like (track specialist) Lanny Miglizzi and (crew chief) Bernie Fedderly. I’ve got guys like (crewmen) Danny (Hood) and Jon (Schaffer) in the pits helping me. They help carry the load and they do a lot of the hands on stuff. The hardest part is the mental side. That mental drain just kind of wears you down over the course of the day. It is all worth it now.”

Neff didn’t know he would be back in the driver’s seat until the end of January. For the unflappable Neff the return to the seat was a welcome diversion but also a mentally taxing endeavor. When he was asked if he could slip back into the crew chief role if Force suddenly reversed field Neff was eager to make his driving plans clear.

“I want to give it a run all year now. I love tuning and that is what I will be doing for a long time. This driving deal might just be a one year deal for me. I am trying to make the most of it. When I drove a couple of years ago I was disappointed with my results,” said the seven time NHRA national event finalist driver. “I just felt like we didn’t achieve what I would have wanted to achieve. I made some mistakes driving. For whatever reason I just felt kind of unsatisfied. It is important to me that I want to be a good driver. That is what I am really trying to work on. This win means more to me than the other one by far. This is just a great, great day here.”

With the win Neff moved into sole possession of the Full Throttle points lead. He became the 37th different points leader in funny car class and he is the sixth different JFR driver to lead the funny car points. He joins a list led by John Force, Robert Hight, Ashley Force Hood, Tony Pedregon, and Gary Densham.

For the crew chief turned driver he improved his final round record to 2-5 and he has now won his last two final round appearances. He is 2-5 versus Cruz Pedregon. Ironically, Neff’s first touring job was working on Pedregon’s McDonalds Oldsmobile in 1992 when Pedregon won the funny car championship.

He opened the day with a first round win over friend Jim Head. Neff dispatched fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca III in the second round and he defeated Jack Beckman in the semi-finals before outrunning the two-time world champion Pedregon in the final.

Neff’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang clicked off an impressive string of elapsed times: 4.095, 4.059, 4.126 and 4.092 for a round average of 4.093 seconds on a track that reached a temperature in excess of 110 degrees.

Neff’s last win was 2009 Auto Club NHRA Finals when he defeated teammate Ashley Force Hood.

While Neff was extending the JFR win streak his teammates were battling to maintain their positions in the Full Throttle top ten point standings. No. 10 qualifier Robert Hight had the toughest draw in the opening stanza racing against teammate and legend John Force. Hight made his best lap of the weekend, a session quickest 4.079 seconds in route to first round win. Hight dropped his next round race to Jack Beckman when his Auto Club Ford Mustang went up in smoke at half track.

After his first round win over Force Hight told the near capacity crowd, “That is what we have to do. We have to quit messing up. Our team was behind this run. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and (assistant crew chief) Eric Lane were great. Now my team gets to put some of these Mac Tools to work. It is tough when you have to race the boss but now he is going to tell me to go out there and get this win now.”

At the top end after his first round loss Force was philosophical but not concerned by his slow start for the 2011 season.

“I make (Hight) president and now he is sending me home every week. It ain’t no good if we have to race each other in the first or second rounds. We need to stay away from each other and get everyone up in the top half. Jimmy said OK and then he runs a 4.07,” said Force.

“I thought good as long as one of these Fords wins. My son-in-law is my new president. At the end of the day he whipped me in Pomona and I had to fight my way back here. I am just excited because he is still in and Neff is still in. (Co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas were taught by Austin Coil, the very best.“

When Force looked back on some of his personnel changes from the past two seasons, the winningest driver in NHRA history doesn’t know how to evaluate their success.

“I don’t know if I am lucky or smart. I keep having to make changes amongst the teams and move my drivers and crew chiefs around. Mike Neff proved that he could win when he won Pomona (in 2009). To see him come out here and win is great,” said the 132-time winner.

“He was on his game all day. The car was consistent. He has Danny and Jon working with him and these kids are working hard for him. They are working like Austin and Bernie. The car isn’t missing a lick. Not only is he doing great as a crew chief but also a driver. He was on his game every round. I was really proud. He was under a lot of pressure. He showed he can do it. He is in the game up in the points. I am not worried about Guido and Ron Douglas and my team. We know how to win and we just have to get our deal jiving. I made some good calls. All our sponsors Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, Mac Tools, and BrandSource get the payday.”

The three John Force drivers will leave Gainesville Raceway in first, fourth and ninth place in points.

* * * *


FUNNY CAR1. Mike Neff, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 201; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 161; 3. Matt Hagan, 175; 4. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 170; 5. Jack Beckman, 116; 6. Ron Capps, 105; 7. Jeff Arend, 104; 8. Johnny Gray, 100; 9. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 88; 10. Jim Head, 86

TOP FUEL – 1. Del Worsham, 186; 2. Tony Schumacher, 162; 3. Shawn Langdon, 148; 4. Morgan Lucas, 147; 4. Larry Dixon, 147; 6. Antron Brown, 141; 7. Spencer Massey, 136; 8. Steve Torrence, 87; 9. Doug Kalitta, 85; 10. Terry McMillen, 84

PRO STOCK – 1. Jason Line, 230; 2. Greg Anderson, 182; 3. Greg Stanfield, 148; 4. Roger Brogdon, 138; 5. Ron Krisher, 131; 6. Erica Enders, 115; 7. Kurt Johnson, 85; 8. Shane Gray, 83; 9. Ronnie Humphrey, 82; 9. Vincent Nobile, 82.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – 1. Eddie Krawiec, 124; 2. Hector Arana, 104; 3. Karen Stoffer, 100; 4. LE Tonglet, 74; 5. Andrew Hines, 62; 6. Matt Smith, 54; 7. Gerald Savoie, 53; 7. Shawn Gann, 53; 9. David Hope, 32; 9. Jim Underdahl, 32; 9. Angie Smith, 32; 9. Mike Berry, 32


JOHN FORCE, 61, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 7th at 4.119 seconds, 310.48 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Lost to Robert Hight.

Quotable:  On Mike Neff – “He is trying to lead tune the car and lead drive the car. That is a lot of overload. Then you have the pressure of stepping into my hot rod. I told him there is no pressure. This is our house we own it. Nobody tells us what to do and I only make changes when changes are due. I am just excited for the whole group and we have a strong three car team. Ford says we are One Ford. We are all in the top ten and we will be OK.”  – JOHN FORCE

MIKE NEFF, 44, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.074 seconds, 311.05 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +7 (3rd quickest of Q2 and quickest of Q3 and Q4)Race Results: Beat Jim Head, Bob Tasca III, Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon

Quotable: After second round win – “I felt pretty good rolling up there. We went down the race track when it was a little hotter than this. I just kind of ran in like yesterday. I hate to say it but I am a little surprised it ran that quick. It feels good the old Castrol Ford has been running good. I am just going to try and not screw it up.“ – MIKE NEFF

ROBERT HIGHT, 41, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Final Qualifying: 10th at 4.133 seconds, 309.20 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race Results: Beat John Force. Lost to Jack Beckman.

* * * *




12th annual Nationals, April 1-3, Las Vegas, Nev.

2nd annual NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, April 15-17, Charlotte, N.C.

24th annual O’Reilly Spring Nationals, April 29-May 1, Houston, Texas

31st annual Summit Southern Nationals, May 13-15, Atlanta, Ga.

23rd annual O’Reilly Summer Nationals, May 20-22, Topeka, Kan.