HIGHT WINS ATLANTA TO EXTEND JFR FINAL ROUND STREAK
BAYTOWN, Texas (April 27, 2014) – Robert Hight came out on top again this weekend at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway where he won for the third time this year and extended his streak of consecutive final round appearances to five.
In Sunday’s eliminations, he dismissed Bob Tasca III, Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham and Jack Beckman to score his 32nd professional career event win, No. 229 for John Force Racing as a whole.
“It was like we didn’t even show up on Friday,” Hight said. “It was horrible. On the first run it got through the clutch and wore it out and eventually smoked the tires. Second qualifying session we just totally missed it. It was weak and shook, but I didn’t lose faith in my team.
“They showed confidence and had the ‘we’ll go get ‘em Saturday’ attitude. We went out there and ran 4.07, 4.08 on Saturday to put us in the No. 4 spot.
“Then the first three rounds today ran 4.07, 4.07, 4.07. You know how hard that is to do in one of these cars? There are so many variables. It’s hard to make that many consistent runs in a row, but it shows how good my team is. They’re making just tiny changes, and at the last minute. They never act like there is a fire drill or anything is out of the ordinary, they just put their heads down and do their job. It’s a lot of fun right now,” said Hight.
The Auto Club driver picked up his first professional win at Houston in 2005 and since then has won more Funny Car races than anyone other driver in the category. He also scored his 299th round win today.
“It’s great to come out here and put AAA Texas on the side of the car. I’ve always felt bad, because we did get our first win here, but I’ve never been back to the final here in Houston. We haven’t done a very good job in this area. I haven’t gotten another win for them until now. To get back here and get them in the winner’s circle is huge.
“I had high expectations coming into this weekend because I got my first win here. Mike Neff- he has owned this place. When he drove and tuned his own car he was, well, just like he was today. You have high expectations, especially since we’ve been in four straight final rounds. We’ve been kind of on a roll here. It dates back to Indy,” said Hight.
This is the thirteenth race in a row that John Force Racing has had a Funny Car in the final round going back to the U.S. Nationals last season. Hight’s two final round losses this season have come at the hands from Alexis DeJoria and heading into the final round he was 1-4 versus the Patron XO Café sponsored driver.
“That win against Dejoria was huge. She’s owned me, she’s had my number. I finally got a win against her at Four-Wide, but before that I was 0-4 and I still have a losing record against her. That’s a great team. They’re running well. She qualified right with me. We were 4 and 5. You always know they’re going to be there.
“When you win one of these races, it’s an accomplishment. To have this as my third win of the year, just shows how steady my team is and, truthfully, that just puts more pressure on me because when that car goes up there and runs like it does, a bracket car, all I can do is screw it up. I have got to do my job,” said Hight.
“When you can put 4.07’s on the board in a row in the heat, that mentally wears on your competitors. Some of these Funny Car guys, they’ll roll it in there deep and make their reaction times look good. Not me. I want ET. I want my competitor to be scared and I don’t want to give lane choice away by rolling in deep. Even in the final, I didn’t roll it in. When you have confidence in yourself and in the car, there’s no need,” said Hight.
In the final round, Hight set top speed in the Funny Car category with a 314.90 mph run. Hight’s average ET on race day was a 4.069, but other team members of Hight struggled this weekend.
“Mike Neff was over helping Courtney’s guys, in fact, a lot of my guys were over there. She had a good car in first round, just spun a little down track. We all help each other. If you stood back on the starting line, I had Castrol, Castrol Edge, Traxxas, all of them behind my car. We share in the wins and it’s one big team. Don’t look for those (Traxxas) guys to struggle much longer. They’re right around the corner from doing exactly what we are.”
Despite a strong showing in qualifying, an impressive first round win and running a career best speed of 327 mph, Brittany Force was unable to advance past the quarter finals. At the hit of the throttle, her 10,000-horsepower Castrol EDGE Dragster overpowered the track surface.
Always optimistic, the 2013 Rookie of the Year was happy that her team stepped up its game with a strong and consistent performance. Brittany was hoping for another final round appearance today, but that will have to wait until the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta in two weeks.
“It was a bummer we didn’t win this weekend, but we learned a lot and I’m really proud of my guys. They worked so hard, and to improve the way we did on race day says a lot about this Castrol EDGE team,” said Brittany Force.
During the first round of eliminations, Brittany faced off against rookie Richie Crampton. Both dragsters left the starting line with Brittany getting a slight holeshot advantage. The Castrol EDGE Dragster never trailed and took the win light with a 3.787 second elapsed time at 327.82 mph. It was one of the quickest and fastest runs of the event.
“The Castrol EDGE team ended up qualifying number eight, and we were paired up with Richie Crampton. I had run him once before at the Winternationals. Coming out today, I was pumped and excited and just felt good. I knew we had a good race car and I have a great team behind me with Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli. So, we went out there and got past the first round and I was so excited. I didn’t see my win light so I actually didn’t know I won. My guys told me over the radio,” said Brittany Force.
Ask any drag racer and they’ll all tell you, the first round is always the toughest. Brittany has suffered her share of losses in the opening round on race day, but today was not one of those days.
nbsp; “It’s always good to get past round one as it’s a real bummer that after four qualifying passes and all the hard work the guys put into the car, only to lose in the first round. So, I was excited to get past round one and the fact I ran that 3.78 time, which was the best we ran all weekend, was huge. It’s such a positive to improve on race day, because the conditions are so different from qualifying. We also ran a career best speed of 327 miles per hour so I was excited and my guys were pumped up for that,” said Brittany Force
During the second round of eliminations, Brittany lined up against Steve Torrence. As soon as Brittany left the starting line, her Castrol EDGE Dragster immediately smoked the Goodyears. She tried to pedal her race car in hopes of recovering the run and chasing down Torrence, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
“I had beaten him in Phoenix earlier this year,” said Brittany Force. “Unfortunately for us, he got the win. Right when I stepped on the gas, my dragster went up in smoke, I tried to pedal it but we couldn’t get it down the track.”
In a highly uncharacteristic move, John Force red lit his chances of winning his 140th career victory at today’s NHRA Spring Nationals. The 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champ was facing off against Cruz Pedregon in the opening round when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang left the starting line early, causing the red light to come on in John Force’s lane.
“We were excited going into the first round today, after we struggled here, trying to get qualified. I had a red light, it happens, we learn from it and move on,” said John Force.
Even though John was sidelined early on race day, he was still focused on his other team drivers and their performance throughout Sunday’s eliminations. Whether it’s giving advice and coaching his drivers as they go through the rounds of eliminations or being a cheerleader while watching them from the starting line, he knows it’s a team approach in securing another NHRA Mello Yello World Championship for John Force Racing.
“The Castrol EDGE dragster with Brittany has been trucking all weekend. She won the first round with a 3.78, which is a big number out here in these conditions, and it’s pretty impressive. Courtney and I both struggled, but I struggled the worst with the red light. Robert’s going some rounds and we’re looking strong in Top Fuel and Funny Car, so we’ll be all right,” said John Force.
Even though John Force hasn’t visited the winner’s circle at Royal Purple Raceway since 2002, and his winless drought at the NHRA Spring Nationals continues, he still remains solidly in the top half of the NHRA Mello Yello points chase.
Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang team fought all the way through qualifying to qualify 16th. It was the first time the 25-year-old has qualified lower than the No. 14 position.
“We had a tough start going into first round. We got things figured out just in time for first round today,” said Force.
Force went up against competitor Del Worsham in the opening round. This was the ninth time the two have met up in eliminations and the fourth time they have met in the first round.
“Unfortunately the car started to spin the tires down at the finish line, just enough right before the line for him to pass me. We were out ahead the whole time. I really thought we had that win so it’s a bummer for me and my team, but we’re going to look at the positives.
“We made the show this weekend, we put up a good fight in the first round against Worsham and almost had it right there at the end,” said Force.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year will hold her No. 10 points. She is just two pints behind Tim Wilkerson in the No. 9 spot.
“We’re going to have to move forward. We have our eyes set on Atlanta now. We’re still in the top 10 in points which is a good thing. We just have to keep pushing forward, stay positive, stay motivated and go to Atlanta,” said Force.