TEAM JFR QUALIFYING REPORT
2012 NHRA Final Qualifying Summary
7th of 23 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Series
32nd annual NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals
May 4-6, 2012
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HIGHT SNAGS FOURTH NO. 1 QUALIFIER OUT OF FIRST SEVEN RACES
ATLANTA, Ga. (May 5, 2012) – Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang, posted his best time in the second session Friday – a quick 4.104 ET that held the No. 1 spot throughout the end of qualifying today as the field was set at the 32nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Hight will lead the field into Sunday’s eliminations and continue to advance John Force Racing as a whole with the Auto Club team’s qualifying efforts. This makes for Hight’s fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season.
Hight made two laps today, smoking the tires at about the 300 ft. mark on his first lap of the day. On his second, with the track temperature rising, the Auto Club Ford Mustang put a 4.156 ET on the board.
“We were testing a little bit the first run, and it didn’t make it, so Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] put it all back to normal. He said, ‘We have to make a run down the track in 130-degree-plus track temperature,’ because we didn’t have that yesterday. It was middle 120s. I’ll be honest with you; I think the right lane is probably the preferred lane, so to run a .15 in the left lane there, that was a statement,” said the crew member turned driver in 2005.
“I saw Cruz [Pedregon] in front of me go 4.17, so you know the track’s good enough to hold it. I honestly was thinking if we could get somewhere around 4.17 we’d be good. I didn’t think we’d run a 4.15. Like I said, you gotta have a few breaks. Honestly, leaving the starting line on that run, I didn’t think it was going to make it. It made a hard move to the right, instantly, like right towards the tree. I brought it back and it stayed there the rest of the way so I got on the radio and said, ‘man, it almost didn’t make it. It made a hard right hand turn,’ because I knew I was pointed straight, I wasn’t pointed that way and (track specialist) Lanny Miglizzi told me that the right tire had more bald then the left and so the right one spun and the left one had traction and it shot me over there towards the tree. Luckily I was able to save it. Usually when you have to make a move that hard on a hot track like that on the starting line it’s over. Maybe we dodged the bullet, but we put a number on the board,” added Hight.
Hight has competed at Atlanta Dragway eight times since the start of his Funny Car driving career. This is the first time he has qualified No. 1 for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Statistically, the Yorba Linda, Calif. native has qualified No. 1 for 43 out of 168 events, which equates to Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang grabbing the top spot every fourth race of his career on average.
“There are a lot of cars that are bunched up there (number-wise, in the field). It’s going to be a tough, tough race tomorrow. I’m excited for it. You’re going to see a lot of close, side-by-side racing. It’s not easy. When you win a race like this, it’s probably a little more special. You probably are going to need a few breaks along the way because anything can happen in this heat. It’s tough,” said Hight.
The Auto Club team has raced out to a powerful points lead in the Full Throttle Funny Car category. They have won four races to date for 2012 and raced to 17 consecutive round wins before falling to Ron Capps in the semi-finals in Houston last weekend.
Hight’s 4.104 ET holding through the end of qualifying also gained one lucky fan a front loading washer and dryer combo for the fourth time this season, compliments of the BrandSource “Win with Force” promotion.
As President of John Force Racing, Hight keeps an eye on the big picture going on around him. Hight’s boss and fifteen-time champion John Force made a good pass in the heat of the day during the fourth and final qualifying session.
“That was stout, he (Force) stepped right up. Neff will be back next week too. He’s won the most rounds as a crew chief the last two years and happened to drive it last year. He’s the smartest racer there is out here so he’ll be back.”
Throughout the weekend John Force and Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang team have been making steady progress on a very tricky track. The crew-chief tandem of Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Danny DeGennaro have been building a tune-up combination that will not only work this weekend but also for the rest of the summer.
“We have a whole new combination. Dean Antonelli and Danny DeGennaro have been working on it with support from John Medlen, Jimmy Prock and Mike Neff. I felt bad today about Mike Neff. I have two cars in the points lead Hight and Neff but I almost wish Mike was in instead of me but at the end of the day he is secure in the points right now and Courtney and I are a little vulnerable,” said Force, who is currently No. 8 in the Full Throttle points. “We need all these cars to go rounds. We are going to focus and work hard tomorrow. We are showing potential. We thought the heat would throw us a curve ball at us but we got through it and ran 4.19.”
Force made the fourth quickest run of the final qualifying session when the conditions were at their hottest. His 4.190 second pass narrowly missed earning some of the valuable qualifying bonus points. Force was edged out by Jack Beckman’s 4.183 second pass three pairs after he ran. The seven-time Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals winner is confident he can have a shot tomorrow when he squares off with Cruz Pedregon for the 85th time. Force holds a 57-27 round win edge over the two-time Full Throttle Funny Car champ.
“I know personally how to race this track and Guido knows how to race here. He won with Ashley. In the early days Guido and Coil won all kinds of races here. This combination is completely different. The tires are different, the chassis is different, the aero is different so we are all having to learn, learn, learn.”
Shockingly Mike Neff, the No. 2 Funny Car in Full Throttle points, will be on the sidelines for tomorrow’s eliminations. This was only Neff’s 3rd DNQ and the last time the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was not going to be racing on Sunday was September 22, 2008, at AAA Texas Fall Nationals outside of Dallas, Texas.
The winner of the O’Reilly Spring Nationals last weekend made the 17th quickest run of the event on Saturday and missed qualifying by .031 seconds to Bob Bode. Even with the DNQ Neff will most likely head into Topeka in two weeks in the same points position. It would take a win AND national record by Ron Capps to move around the driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
“That is drag racing. We used all our luck up last week. We don’t get that much and we cashed it all in last week to get the win in Houston. I am fine. Of course you want to qualify at every race but you are going to have good days and bad days. We had a bad day today. Days like today are one thing that is positive for the Countdown,” said Neff, a class leading five-time winner last year in Funny Car. “This is not going to hurt us too bad. They are going to take our points away and reshuffle them anyway after Indy. My attitude changed some this season after how we finished last year. These early races are worth nothing at the end of the season. We are trying some different stuff and some of it is working and some of it isn’t. We will be alright and we will be back on track in Topeka.
On Neff’s final run of the day he had a mechanical failure that forced his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to pop the blower at the top end. He was easily on a run that would have qualified him.