KENT, WA --- John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang raced to the top of the Funny Car field at Pacific Raceway on Friday. His opening run of 4.124 seconds at 304.87 mph, a track record, was enough to grab the provisional pole on a day when tire smoke ruled the day.
“Something is going on. A couple of racers could make a wrong call but too many out there missed it. If you look at the whole pack I don’t know how Top Fuel is running. Funny Cars are struggling,” said Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history. “I thought the second session was going to be killer. We have to race what is out there. You have to figure it out. When the cool air comes in like this. You get all hopped up mentally.”
The most dramatic moment of the day came when Robert Hight blew a tire on his second run at about 200 feet. The tire shot through the Auto Club of Southern California Mustang body and Hight had to manhandle his Funny Car to a stop.
“The car isn’t looking so good. It started shaking and I gave it a quick pedal like (Jeff) Arend and the next thing I knew the tire blew up,” said Hight immediately after the incident. “At first I thought it was the engine that blew there were body parts flying around. This AAA team has a lot of parts and we’ll get this Ford Mustang put together and we’ll get in the show tomorrow.”
“I have a good feeling we will switch chassis tonight just to be careful. We’ll take this chassis back to the shop in Brownsburg and check it all out to make sure it is perfect.”
In the press center at the end of the day Force was asked by the media for his thoughts on the track conditions and Hight’s second run.
“Is that dangerous when a track is loose? Yeah, but I raced on race tracks in El Paso when there was sand blowing across the track. Yeah, anything is dangerous. Like my attorney said if you don’t want to get hurt don’t get in one of those things. We have to adapt to that track,” said Force.
“The right combination will go down that track, it just won’t be fast. Right now I was lucky. Mine was spinning and it ran a 4.12. It almost didn’t go. If they would have pulled them back early or made them run harder later they might have got through it. It is hard for me to say something is bad. If I thought that I would tell you. I am not being politically correct here. I don’t know but I am going to go back and ask my people what they think.”
“The track is loose and we can’t get down it. We have to adapt to that. That happens when the heat comes out. If it was 100 degrees everybody would just be saying it is hot and they would be going on down the road. Is it bad out there? I’ll go back and talk with (JFR track specialist) Lanny (Miglizzi). He gives us the full report. He has been here for a couple of days.”
Mike Neff was still waiting to run after Hight’s incident and he weighed in from the starting line during the down time. The current Full Throttle points leader and two-time Funny Car world champion crew chief was surprised by the turn of events for his teammate.
“It was kind of weird. It shook the tires and Robert pedaled it. It looked like a tire just came apart. You never know what is going to happen when you step on the gas in one of those things. That is definitely the first time I have seen that.”
Neff had premature chute deployment on both his runs but managed to record the third and second quickest elapsed times of the qualifying sessions. The second instance was frustrating for the four-time 2011 national event winner.
“It was on a good run right there and then the chutes fell out. I hate when that happens. It just feels weird and you are not used to that. It is just a bummer. I think it probably would have been a pretty good run. If we keep the chutes in we might be all right tomorrow.”
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JOHN FORCE, 62, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 1st at 4.124 seconds, 304.87 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q1)
MIKE NEFF, 44, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 4th at 4.300 seconds, 241.07 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (3rd quickest of Q1 and 2nd quickest of Q2)
ROBERT HIGHT, 41, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 16th quickest at 7.469 seconds, 86.54 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0