Pre-Race Package for the 30th annual Summit Southern Nationals
May 14-16, 2010
Ninth event in the Countdown to the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Championship
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follow John Force Racing at www.twitter.com/jfr_racing
To celebrate 25 years of Castrol sponsorship, go to www.castrolforce.com
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Castrol/JFR 25th Anniversary Flashback:
When John Force hired John Medlen and Tony Pedregon in 1996, his plan was to field a second car to run “just five or six races” while focusing on R&D projects created by crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly.
That plan changed dramatically when, in the season’s fifth race, the Summit Southern Nationals, Pedregon earned an upset victory in the Summit Racing Southern Nationals in what was the first ever all-Castrol Funny Car final.
Pedregon was clocked in 5.103 in his Castrol GTX Pontiac; Force in 5.318 in his identically-painted green-and-white Pontiac. The result ended Force’s three-race winning streak and prompted from him the comment “I think I’ve hired my own assassin.”
The result kept Pedregon on tour for the rest of the year, ultimately producing a 1-2 finish for Castrol that, for Force, underscored the benefits of fielding multiple cars.
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At few events has John Force Racing been more successful than it has been in the Summit Southern Nationals. Four drivers have won Funny Car titles for JFR at Atlanta Dragway and two team drivers earned their first tour victories in the event. Significantly, both defeated team owner John Force in the final round – Tony Pedregon in 1996 and Ashley Force Hood in 2008.
Force Hood’s victory over her dad in the 2008 final had several historic implications. Not only was it the first NHRA tour Funny Car victory for a woman, it also was the first father-daughter final round in NHRA history and one of the rare final round meetings between drivers who qualified in the bottom half of the field (Ashley No. 11 and her dad No. 9).
All three JFR drivers enter this week’s race among the top six drivers in Funny Car points with John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang in the lead as they have been since winning the season-opening 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. Ashley is the fifth in the Castrol GTX Mustang and, following a victory two weeks ago in the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Madison, Ill., reigning Full Throttle Champion Robert Hight is sixth in the Auto Club Mustang.
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HIGHT LOOKING TO START STREAK AT ATLANTA DRAGWAY
COMMERCE, GA ---- The most recent Funny Car winner on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour is looking to become the first back-to-back winner in 2010. Robert Hight grabbed the win two weeks ago at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. The victory was Hight’s 15th career win and his first of the season. After an arguably disastrous start to the 2009 season Hight is glad to get into the winner’s circle before the Countdown to 1.
“I’m glad we got a win earlier this year than we did last year. I’ve said all along this year, that the next championship I get I want it to be when I have been in the ballgame all year long. Not just squeak into the Countdown and use the Countdown to our advantage like we did last year, although, that wouldn’t be a bad way to do it. I just think it’s going to be hard to ever do that again. I want to be like John [Force] and win some championships where you’re dominant and you’re near the top all year long and you’re a hitter at every race,” said Hight. “To win the Inaugural AAA Nationals for my sponsor, and make it five for seven for Ford in NHRA, that’s big. I’ve been saying it all year. My car is so close to John’s. They’ve duplicated over the winter to make John’s like mine. We’ve just had some gremlins, but I think we’ve fought those off and we’re back now.”
As the reigning Full Throttle Funny Car champion Hight brings a new set of expectations to the race track every weekend. For the former crewman turned world champion the pressure is there but not overwhelming.
“After winning the championship, you have such high hopes of winning another one. You get greedy. It’s like you first just want to qualify, then you want to win a round, well now you want to win a couple rounds, then you want to win a race and then you want to win a championship. Well, now you want to win more. The next goal is to win another championship, and defend our championship. Winning a race now is probably more special, and in all honesty, the way our car ran at the beginning of the year it was hard to feel like a champion. We were struggling. It probably is a little different now and it really proves that we are champions,” said Hight a 34-time No. 1 qualifier.
The win in St. Louis has given the Auto Club team some of their end of year swagger back. Hight is quick to point out that there is still a long season in front of them but the St. Louis race day performance numbers: 4.165 seconds (2nd round), 4.159 seconds (semis) and 4.149 seconds in the final over Jack Beckman have Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock focusing on continued success.
“You can see it with Jimmy Prock, my crew chief. He has some confidence. I feel like we’re going to be strong during the stretch that is coming up. We have a lot of races in a row here, and if we can carry that momentum running we’ll be right near the top,” said the 2007 Summit Nationals winner.
Ironically, Hight took the win in St. Louis from the bottom half of the qualified field. He only has five wins from the bottom half and his No. 9 starting position was the worst start of 2010 for Hight. The last two wins for John Force Racing have come from the bottom half when you consider John Force took the Las Vegas title from the No. 11 spot. The lower positions force teams to give up lane choice and sometimes overcome less than stellar track conditions. Two weeks ago Hight and Prock used what many perceived as a less advantageous lane to their maximum benefit.
“In St. Louis the right lane was a tricky lane, so lane choice was a big deal. I didn’t have lane choice first round, nor did I have it second round against John, but we ran low ET of the race second round. Jimmy Prock just got it all together, and put it together at the right time,” said Hight. “We ended up staying in that lane the rest of the day. I was wondering if we were making a mistake by not putting Ron Capps in the other lane when we had lane choice over him in the semis, but Jimmy really believed that our best chance of winning was in that lane. It was a close race, but we got him.”
If Hight is going to grab his second win in a row he will have to battle through the toughest competition top to bottom in recent Funny Car history. He does have some history of his own on his side. Hight picked up his first win at Atlanta Dragway in 2007 on the heels of his win the previous race at Las Vegas.
Hight has started from the top half of the field four of his five starts at Atlanta Dragway and after reaching the finals in his first three starts he has been ousted in the first round the past two years. While he has never qualified No. 1 in Commerce he has two No. 2 qualifiers to his credit.
“The first three year I raced at Atlanta Dragway I went to the final and then I got beat the first round the last two years. Force went to the finals like twelve times in a row here. I would like to get on a streak like that and I think we have the Mustang to do it. I’ll have to race some tough teams to do it though. John’s Mustang is running great which is awesome to see. I know Ashley’s Mustang could dominate just as easily. You also have guys like (Jack) Beckman, (Ron) Capps, (Matt) Hagan, Del (Worsham) and the Pedregons out there. You consider those guys as well as the