DALLAS, TX – The JFR Mustang drivers had to endure a long rain delay during the final round of qualifying for the 25th annual O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals and the wait was not worth it. Cool temperatures made for positive racing conditions and a number of race teams took advantage of the all-concrete racing surface to improve on Friday night’s times. Unfortunately the NHRA’s decision to offer all the professional classes (Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Stock and Top Fuel) except the Funny Car category a fourth qualifying session spelled doom for JFR.
The biggest shock came after over five hours of waiting to finish the lone Funny Car qualifying session John Force will be paired with teammate Robert Hight in the first round. The Funny Car session opened with John Force blasting down the track in 4.170 seconds to solidify a top half of the field position. In the next pair Ashley Force Hood raced to the No. 1 spot with a 4.10 second pass. Melanie Troxel and Jeff Diehl raced and then the rains set in over the Texas Motorplex.
When racing resumed Hight was in the fifth pair of Funny Cars and he and Force began moving closer and closer to a first round match-up as more and more Funny Cars moved around the ladder. Hight was paired with fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson and at the time Wilkerson was behind both Force and Hight. As Wilkerson was racing to the No. 1 spot with a 4.079 second pass Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang was charging but lost traction and crossed the finish line with a disappointing 4.517 second run and a date with points leader John Force in the first round.
“It is do or die. In a perfect world this would be the perfect scenario for us. We are racing the No. 1 guy in points. We have had two first round losses so far in the Countdown and the No. 1 guy in the points is the guy you are chasing. Yes there are a couple of other teams between us but he is still No. 1,” said Hight.
“It is unfortunate it is out boss and it is really unfortunate if we lose first round because that is three first round losses which is half of the Countdown in a row and you can’t win a championship that way. It is do or die for us. If we don’t win tomorrow our chances of winning the championship are over.”
For the seven time Fall Nationals winner and current points leader, Force, the first round race will most likely set the tone for the remainder of the season no matter who wins or loses.
“That is why I carry all the logos on all my Mustangs. We don’t like it but it is called drag racing. We are going to go up there and punch it out. Robert needs every point he can get to run for this title and I need every point I can get to stay in the lead. I am going to wish Robert luck because he just wished me luck. We are family still but tomorrow we all have to fight. Hopefully one of us will get Ashley in the final and we’ll have to fight there too,” said Force.
Ashley Force Hood will race Todd Simpson for the first time in her career. Last week she picked up her 100th round win and she is looking for four more round wins on Sunday. She is currently No. 4 in the Full Throttle point standings and multiple round wins could go a long way in moving Force Hood closer to the first Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
“We are definitely hoping we can go some rounds tomorrow. This weekend has just been crazy and confusing as far as the ladder and match-ups. Tomorrow we are just going to go into our first round and the crew chiefs will do their thing and I’ll do mine. We’ll try and make the strongest runs the track can handle. We don’t look at the guy next to us. The best chance to win is to push the car as hard as you can without going over the edge. We’ll have a good shot if everyone does what they are supposed to do,” said Force Hood.
“We’ll have lane choice which is an advantage at this track. When it is cooler it is not quite that big of a deal. When it gets hot the left lane is a little better. The crew chiefs think it will be cool but the sun will be out. That is good for us. “
Other big first round match-ups that could have championship implications for all three John Force Racing drivers include Jack Beckman (No. 2 in Countdown) versus Jim Head and Jeff Arend versus Matt Hagan (No. 3 in Countdown). In those two races Beckman and Arend will have lane choice. Early exits by either of those two Don Schumacher Dodges (Beckman and Hagan) would tighten up an already hyper competitive Funny Car race. Only 90 points separate John Force (No.1) from Robert Hight (No. 6) in the Funny Car point standings.
Final eliminations will begin tomorrow at 11 a.m. (local time).
* * * *
JOHN FORCE, 61, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.170 seconds, 294.63 mph
Qualifying bonus points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Robert Hight (10-12)
Quotable: “We are going to go up there and punch it out. Robert needs every point he can get to run for this title and I need every point I can get to stay in the lead. I am going to wish Robert luck because he just wished me luck.” – JOHN FORCE
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 27, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.100 seconds, 307.72 mph
Qualifying bonus points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q3)
First Round Opponent ((W-L): Todd Simpson (0-0)
Quotable: ”We’ll try and make the strongest runs the track can handle. We don’t look at the guy next to us. The best chance to win is to push the car as hard as you can without going over the edge. We’ll have a good shot if everyone does what they are supposed to do.” – ASHLEY FORCE HOOD
ROBERT HIGHT, 41, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 4th at 4.183 seconds, 287.66 mph
Qualifying bonus points: 0
First Round Opponent (W-L): John Force (12-10)
Quotable: “It is do or die for us. If we don’t win tomorrow our chances of winning the championship are over.” – ROBERT HIGHT
* * * *
FOLLOW JOHN FORCE RACING AT www.twitter.com/jfr_racing.com
* * * *
Sunday, September 26
Eliminations: 11 a.m.
* * * *