ALL FOUR JFR FORDS MAKE FIRST DAY LINEUP AT ACDELCO NATIONALS
Hight Speeds to the Top of Qualifying Order in Auto Club Ford Mustang
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – With his father-in-law cheering him on from trackside, Robert “Top Gun” Hight drove his Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to the top of the qualifying order Friday in the first day of the ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hight’s new “better in black” Mustang, boasting a brand new body atop a re-configured chassis, cleared the quarter mile timers in 4.763 seconds at 322 miles per hour to edge Tony Pedregon for the first day pole.
That result sent John Force, father of Hight’s wife, Adria, back to the pits feeling better, he admitted, than he has since crashing heavily Sept. 23rd at the Texas Motorplex, an accident that caused serious injuries which left the 125-time tour winner hospitalized in Texas for 27 days.
Although Hight’s time was well off his own 4.677 second track record, the former crewman was pleased considering the marathon build-up required to put his 8,000 horsepower Ford on the track. Working “7a.m. to midnight” shifts for five days, Hight’s Auto Club crew got the new car done in time to make four test runs last Thursday.
On Friday’s first qualifying run, the clutch didn’t wear as expected and it Hight aborted after he lost traction.
“I don’t know if (the 4.763) will stay (atop the order),” Hight said, “but if conditions are better (on Saturday), a lot of people could run better. But we could, too. To be honest, I didn’t think it would stay Friday night. When we ran, the track temperature was 95 but by the time Tony and some other others ran, it probably was down in the 80s.”
If Hight does hold on, he would earn his 23rd Skoal No. 1 bonus in his first three seasons in partnership with Force and crew chief Jimmy Prock.
It was a stellar performance on an emotional day for John Force Racing, Inc., which put all four of its Ford Mustangs in the field. However, the biggest feel-good story of the day may have been that of former crew chief Mike Neff.
Neff, who was crew chief to Gary Scelzi when the veteran beat Ford for the 2005 POWERade Championship, was clocked in 4.784 seconds after putting up a time of 4.896 in his first trip. Until last week, he wasn’t even licensed to drive one of the 8,000 horsepower hybrids but hsi performance during testing on the same LVMS track prompted Force to speed up the schedule, giving him a two-race head start on his rookie year.
Meanwhile, the team’s current Rookie-of-the-Year contender, Ashley Force, was 11th Friday at 4.836 seconds and Phil Burkart Jr., subbing for Force in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford, was 15th at 4.869 seconds.
“It’s been an emotional day,” Hight said after topping the first day field. “John being here is the best therapy he could have. I spent a lot of time with (him) in the hospital and all he talked about was racing. No one loves this sport more than John Force and he’ll be back real soon.”
Although the biggest ovation was reserved for Force, the second biggest probably went to Neff and crew chief John Medlen. Medlen, whose son, Eric, succumbed to injuries suffered in a testing accident last March at Gainesville, Fla., since has headed up the JFR and Ford safety initiative, the Eric Medlen Project, which is housed in Brownsburg, Ind. Friday marked the veteran crew chief’s first time back in competition.
“It was cool to see (Medlen) over there banging on Neff’s hood and pointing into the car like he did with Eric,” Hight said. “I’m sure it was tough for him, but when that car went straight down through there, he was so pumped up. It’s been a great day for all of us. We needed this.”
Ironically, the day began with Hight facing the possibility of going solo in the season’s next-to-last race, the first of two-in-a-row that will determine who will reign as 2007 POWERade Champion. Because of Force’s crash and the earlier accident that claimed Medlen, the team has moved cautiously in re-assessing every part and piece on the world’s quickest and fastest Fords.
Until Friday, Force had given the okay for only Hight’s Ford to compete. After meeting with his crew chiefs and drivers Friday morning, however, Force gave the go-ahead for a full effort to support Hight’s 2007 title bid. Hight is the only Ford driver in the NHRA’s Countdown to One.
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LAS VEGAS, Nevada. – Provisional pro qualifiers after the first of two days of qualifying for Sunday’s seventh annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
FUNNY CAR – 1. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, 4.763, 322.58 mph; 2. Tony Pedregon, Ft. Gratiot, Mich., Chevrolet Impala, 4.770, 317.57 mph; 3. Jack Beckman, North Hills, Calif., Dodge Charger, 4.782, 321.81 mph; 4. Mike Neff, Fishers, Ind., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.784, 326.40 mph; 5. Jeff Arend, San Dimas, Calif., Chevrolet Impala, 4.799, 324.28 mph; 6. Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., Dodge Charger, 4.815, 322.11 mph; 7. Mike Ashley, Melville, N.Y., Dodge Charger, 4.819, 326.95 mph; 8. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Dodge Charger, 4.820, 317.87 mph; 9. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Chevrolet Impala, 4.834, 316.08 mph; 10. Scott Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Toyota Solara, 4.835, 319.07 mph; 11. Ashley Force, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.836, 315.78 mph; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camarillo, Calif., Chevrolet Impala, 4.839, 318.84 mph; 13. Jerry Toliver, Temecula, Calif., Toyota Solara, 4.846, 319.52 mph; 14. Tony Bartone, Long Island City, N.Y., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.864, 310.98 mph; 15. Phil Burkart Jr., Yorkville, N.Y., Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 4.869, 314.83 mph; 16. Tommy Johnson Jr., Avon, Ind., Chevrolet Impala, 4.875, 313.44 mph.
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, Prospect, Ill., 4.482, 327.59 mph; 2. David Baca, Brentwood, Calif., 4.532, 326.79 mph; 3. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Ind., 4.534, 321.42 mph; 4. J.R. Todd, Avon, Ind., 4.550, 325.30 mph; 5. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., 4.555, 316.23 mph; 6. Melanie Troxel, Avon, Ind., 4.558, 331.53 mph;
7. Rod Fuller, Las Vegas, Nev., 4.558, 320.13 mph; 8. Brandon Bernstein, Lake Forest, Calif., 4.561, 328.78 mph; 9. Doug Kalitta, Ann Arbor, Mich., 4.562, 326.79 mph; 10. Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg, Ind., 4.562, 325.06 mph; 11. Cory McClenathan, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 4.577, 326.56 mph; 12. Urs Erbacher, Arlesheim, Sweden, 4.594, 326.48 mph; 13. Doug Foley, Sewell, N.J., 4.597, 324.05 mph; 14. Doug Herbert, Lincolnton, N.C., 4.600, 318.54 mph; 15. Joe Hartley, Portland, Ore., 4.627, 320.20 mph; 16. Hillary Will, Fortuna, Calif., 4.643, 323.43 mph.
PRO STOCK – 1. Justin Humphreys, Monrovia, Md., Pontiac GTO, 6.750, 204.05 mph; 2. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.754, 204.08 mph; 3. Jason Line, Terrell, N.C., Pontiac GTO, 6.761, 203.77 mph; 4. Ron Krisher, Warren, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.765, 203.68 mph; 5. Greg Anderson, Mooresville, N.C., Pontiac GTO, 6.766, 204.20 mph; 6. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Dodge Stratus, 6.766, 203.43 mph; 7. Richie Stevens Jr., New Orleans, La., Dodge Stratus, 6.769, 203.00 mph; 8. Kurt Johnson, Sugar Hill, Ga., Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.781, 203.28 mph; 9. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Dodge Stratus, 6.786, 203.03 mph; 10. Max Naylor, New Buffalo, Pa., Dodge Stratus, 6.788, 201.04 mph; 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Delaware, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.790, 203.52 mph; 12. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Dodge Stratus, 6.796, 202.52 mph; 13. Kenny Koretsky, Richboro, Pa., Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.805, 202.67 mph; 14. Jim Yates, Occoquan, Va., Pontiac GTO, 6.807, 202.27 mph; 15. Craig Hankinson, Newark, Ohio, Pontiac GTO, 6.811, 202.09 mph; 16. Matt Hartford, Phoenix, Ariz., Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.815, 202.55 mph.
PRO MODIFIED – 1. Tim Tindle, Santa Rosa, Fla., 1967 Ford Mustang, 6.023, 236.55