JOHN FORCE RUNNER-UP AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS
ENNIS, TX —- John Force almost got his revenge on the Texas Motorplex, site of his horrific crash in 2007, but he came up a few hundredths of a second short against his nemesis Cruz Pedregon in the final round at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. Force was racing in his second final round since his crash at the historic track but fell 4.220 seconds to Pedregon’s winning 4.106 second run. Force did move up to 4th in the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings with his fifth final round appearance of the season.
“My race car is running good and all of our race cars are really running well. Courtney’s ET in the first round would have whooped anybody else. The run with Cruz was good but it got loose down there. Cruz was yelling in his interview about putting out the top bulb. I am just learning if I get in there and get set up my focus is a lot better,” said Force, a seven time winner at the Texas Motorplex. “I had a great leave time a .055 light. He put out the top bulb. He is a good racer but I have a good race car too. Like (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) said, ‘Force you are learning how to drive all over again and I am learning how to tune. We’ll make a good team.’ We are all up in the top of the points. (Matt) Hagan didn’t get a run on the points today. We will go to St. Louis for another AAA race. This was big for AAA Texas and next weekend we’ll be racing for AAA Missouri.”
Force’s run to the final was a tough battle for the leader of John Force Racing. He had to defeat both of his team cars, each of whom is a championship contender in a tough Countdown battle. In the first round Force posted his best run of the weekend against his daughter Courtney, then Force outran former teammate Tony Pedregon before taking on Robert Hight in the AAA Texas Ford Mustang.
“I am really excited. I have been struggling a little as a driver. I had to go back to basics. I was so busy teaching my kids that I forgot how to drive. I was hot early in the year and then I got this new car. I was sitting in it differently and I got a little lost. Robert has really been helpful in working with me to get me comfortable with the pedal and the padding,” said Force.
The semi-final win over Hight took the biggest toll on the 15-time Funny Car champion.
“I said in my interview after I beat Robert. I can win the championship. I have proved that and I will win again but if I was a betting man I would not bet against Robert Hight,” said the proud team owner.
“I could have left here second in the points if I would have won. Hagan didn’t move on any of us. Now it is all jammed up. Cruz is two, Robert is three and I am four. It is all a matter of who gets on a roll. Right now Robert is on a roll. He won the last two races and today they lost a motor. The ignition was on fire in the second round and they had to change motors before the semis. That is like starting all over without qualifying. They smoked the tires but Neff, I drove for him, he runs it right on the edge. Robert is Cool Hand Luke.”
While Force was racing to the finals he had to go through the hottest driver on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series to reach his 221st career final. Hight, the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals No. 1 qualifier, had won the previous ten rounds of racing going into the semi-finals versus Force. Hight’s win streak started when he won the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals Labor Day weekend and the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals last weekend. Hight moved up from 9th to as high as 2nd place in the Mello Yello point standings this weekend was pleased with his overall performance even if he personally wasn’t standing in the winner’s circle.
“We made up some ground on points leader Matt Hagan this weekend. We were the No. 1 qualifier and we made it to the semi-finals. You have to be ready for anything when you race John. We were over in the right lane which was a tough lane and we had a shot. I am proud of my AAA Texas team and we will be ready to go after them in St. Louis in a couple of days,” said Hight.
Hight defeated veteran Del Worsham in the first round with the quickest run of the session a great 4.067 second pass.
“We had to step up. That Del Worsham team over there is tough. They can put a great number up on the board just like anyone else can out here,” said Hight from the top end after the win. “That was a great, great job by (crew chief) Mike Neff and this whole AAA Texas team. We have to do a great job for our sponsors. I do not want to look back and say Texas is where we messed up.”
In the second round Hight squared off against Johnny Gray, another Countdown competitor. Hight had lane choice and the Funny Cars launched together but Gray went into tire smoke just before Hight’s Goodyears also lost traction. Hight was able to maintain control of his AAA Texas Ford Mustang Funny Car and get the win with a less than dominant 4.593 to Gray’s 5.374 second run. Hight attributed his quickness in gathering control of his Funny Car to a consistent tune-up by Neff.
“The way this Mustang has been going up and down the track Neff has it tuned perfectly. When it does smoke the tires, that is out of the norm so you can catch it quickly,” said Hight. “As driver it is easier to catch a car when it has been running well. We have a tough round next round against another Ford Mustang with John Force. For sure one of us will be in the final and try and get the win for AAA Texas.”
No. 5 qualifier Courtney Force lined up beside her father John Force today in the first round of eliminations. The 2012 NHRA Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner – “Rookie of the Year” – and her father have faced each other six times prior to today with more than half of those matchups coming in the opening round.
The pair ran a great side-by-side race. The 25-year-old went right down the groove with her quickest pass of the weekend. Unfortunately, the 15-time World Champion also made his quickest pass of the weekend and pulled away for the win.
“We had another first round matchup against my dad. You know, we went out there, we had lane choice, we had a good car, we ran a 4.08, but he outran us with a 4.06. It’s definitely a tough way to lose, especially when you’re out here because you’re focused on winning the Mello Yello Funny Car championship.”
“Every round counts. I really didn’t expect him to go out there and put a number like that on the board, but he had a good car and he got the win light so that’s all that matters,” said Force.
With that loss, Force dropped two spots to No. 8 in points.
“For our team, I’m proud of my guys, they gave me a great race car it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t go rounds today. We just had the wrong matchup, but we’re going to get after it again in St. Louis,” said Force.
Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE team continued to make improvements as they advanced to the second round.
After qualifying No. 10 in the field, Force had a first round match-up against Kalitta Motorsports’ David Grubnic. With a strong car, she knew she had a good chance at advancing. Force ran a 3.832 elapsed time at 317.79 mph to Grubnic’s 4.284 at 208.17.
“We had a good first round today against David (Grubnic),” Force said. “The entire Castrol EDGE team worked so hard to put together a really good, consistent car. We ran a good number and actually got the win this time. We were so excited about that. It was a good confidence booster for all of us.”
The entire Top Fuel team worked hard to prep the 27-year-old Southern California native’s dragster for round two of eliminations. As the track temperature hea
ted up, crew chiefs Dean Antonelli, Eric Lane and John Medlen made the right adjustments to the car that would ultimately take them all the way down the track with a solid time. Force ran a 3.867 ET, but it wasn’t enough to get the win over eventual Top Fuel winner Mac Tools backed Doug Kalitta, who had an ET of 3.805.
“Going into second round we had Kalitta,” said Force. “We’ve raced him quite a few times already this season. Unfortunately, we went out second round to him. Again, we still had a pretty decent car and I was very happy with my job both runs. I had good lights, good leave times right off the Christmas Tree, which is something I’ve been practicing more than ever because my team now has an awesome car put together for me and I want to make sure that I’m doing my job next to them.
“Overall, I think the weekend went awesome for the Castrol EDGE team. We’re excited about it. Just getting that first round win gets me pumped up and motivated and it’s the same with my team and crew chiefs. We’re still moving in the right direction. We leave Dallas with some good runs and another round win under our belt. We didn’t hurt the motor today either, so we’re very happy about that, too,” Force continued.