AT COUNTDOWN MIDPOINT HIGHT POISED FOR RUN TO CHAMPIONSHIP
READING, PA (October 2, 2013) — Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team entered the Countdown to the Championship in 9th place but with the momentum of a win at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. They made huge strides in Charlotte winning again and jumping to 3rd in the Mello Yello point standings. The past two races only one thing has stood between the 2009 Funny Car champion and four consecutive finals. John Force.
Hight and the 15-time Funny Car champion have met the past two races in the semi-final round with Force getting wins and advancing to the final. The winningest driver in NHRA history has a runner-up (Dallas) and a win (St. Louis) to show for his efforts and with three races to go Hight who now sits on 4th place knows he has a great car and some stiff competition.
“We won Charlotte and the past two races we have run up against John Force in the semi-finals. We are qualifying great and running really well on race day. No one in the Auto Club pits is hanging their head. We are doing what we need to do. Every race we have made up points on Matt Hagan so we are focused on that,” said Hight.
Heading into Reading, Pennsylvania for the 29th annual Auto Plus NHRA Nationals the Auto Club Mustang has been one of the strongest Funny Cars in the class. Each week Hight’s team has been ranked in Mike Dunn’s Power Rankings as a Top Five Funny Car. The praise is well deserved.
“If you count qualifying, Hight has the best car based on performance,” said Mike Dunn, ESPN analyst, in his latest Power Rankings report.
In the past two years the combination of Robert Hight and his crew chief Mike Neff have each claimed victory at Maple Grove Raceway. With tremendous conditions the track has seen record times during qualifying but for the Auto Club team the focus has always been on race day success.
“When I won in 2011 and Neff won last year neither one of our cars were putting up record numbers but on race day we were consistent. That is what Neff does as a crew chief which is great. He gets the most out of the race track on race day. I give him my best as a driver and we are working really well together,” said Hight.
Prior to the Western Swing John Force executed a driver switch between the Auto Club and his Castrol GTX team. Force went over to the Jimmy Prock led team and Hight was matched up with Mike Neff. It took a few races to get acclimated but now with two cars in the top four and both cars consistently in the finals the past four races the switch has proved to be good for both teams.
“I am really confident with Neff over here and I know John and Jimmy are rolling. We have two great driver/crew chief combinations right now. It was great to see John get the win last week and we want to close out this four in a row to start the Countdown with another win,” said Hight.
For Immediate Release
BRITTANY HOPES TO PLAY SPOILER AT READING
Rookie Sends Hot Pink Version of Castrol EDGE Dragster into Auto-Plus Nationals
READING, Pa. – After recording personal bests in three of her last four starts, Brittany Force finds herself in the pink, both figuratively and literally, this week as she resumes her 11th hour bid for the Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award at Maple Grove Raceway, site of the 29th annual Auto-Plus Nationals.
Figuratively, the 25-year-old rookie’s stock has never been higher after a No. 4 start in drag racing’s biggest event, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., and a No. 5 qualifying effort in last week’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Madison, Ill.
In fact, in the last four races, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton has stopped the 1,000 foot timers in 3.820, 3.812, 3.832 and 3.795 seconds, performance numbers that place her strongly into position to play a major spoiler role in the Countdown to the Championship.
Literally, she and sister Courtney, drag racing icon John Force’s two youngest daughters, will race in special pink paint to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a result, the usual black-and-gold of Brittany’s Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster will give way to a paint scheme that is pink and pinker.
“I’m really looking forward to this promotion,” Brittany said. “Courtney did it last year and she’s doing it again this year. It’s for an awesome cause and it’s something I think the fans will really enjoy. Being able to be a part of a team that’s going to help bring awareness to breast cancer and breast cancer research is such a great thing.”
A credentialed California schoolteacher who put that career on hold to follow her sisters into the family business, Brittany is hoping her performance this week transforms basic pink into hot pink.
“I’m excited going into Reading,” she said. “Top Fuel dragsters tend to do really well there because of the weather conditions. I remember (that) Antron Brown ran awesome there last year (lowering the national record at 1,000 feet to 3.701 seconds while Shawn Langdon was raising the speed record to 334.15 miles per hour).”
Now that she’s winning rounds and running numbers comparable to anyone else in the category, Brittany actually wishes the season wasn’t so close to conclusion.
“Each weekend we learn a little bit more about our car (to) get it moving in the right direction,” she said. “The temperatures in Reading usually are cool and those are good conditions for these dragsters. I’m anxious to get there.”
The driver isn’t the only team member excited about recent performance.
Although the Top Fuel learning curve may have been a little steeper than anticipated, crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Eric Lane, whose previous experience was entirely in the Funny Car class, have begun to get a handle on the “long car” tune-up thanks to help from Jimmy Prock and John Medlen, both of whom have had previous dragster experience.
“It’s starting to come more naturally,” Antonelli admitted. “Finally, it’s not like every run is going to be a new adventure. We’ve got good data and we’ve got great support from what John calls ‘the brain trust,’ especially from John Medlen who worked with Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme on their dragsters.
“We’re all learning the Top Fuel business together. Hopefully, we can do some good this weekend.”
For Immediate Release
FORCE CLOSES IN ON POINTS LEADER HAGAN
15-Time Champion On a Roll After AAA Midwest Nationals Victory
READING, Pa. – For a man who admittedly has had his problems on the track while adapting to a new chassis and a new crew chief and who, off the track, has absorbed two of the biggest body blows imaginable with the announced departure of long-time sponsors Ford and Castrol at the conclusion of the 2014 season, John Force is having a pretty good year.
; By the time it’s over, it might even be a great year.
That’s because from somewhere deep inside his competitive soul, the 64-year-old racing icon has summoned the wherewithal to mount yet another championship run, one that brings him to Maple Grove Raceway for this week’s 29th annual Auto-Plus Nationals as the hottest driver in the Funny Car category.
After consecutive final round appearances and a Countdown victory last week at St. Louis, drag racing’s all-time winner this week tops ESPN analyst Mike Dunn’s Power Rankings having moved to within six points of Matt Hagan in the battle for the $500,000 Mello Yello Championship.
“I promise you, I can win this championship,” Force proclaimed. “There are a lot of fast hot rods out there and Hagan, he’s one of the best of the young guns, but this ol’ Ford, it’s pretty fast, too.”
It’s an unlikely scenario – even for a man who for the last 30 years has put his name on virtually every notable record in the sport. To be in contention, serious contention, for a major championship this close to qualifying for his first Social Security check is, well, a little mind-boggling.
For his part, Force understands the historic implications. He knows this could be his last shot at a title – with heavy emphasis on the “could be.” After all, he won the NHRA championship just three years ago, becoming at age 61 the oldest champion ever to win, not just in a major auto racing series, but in any kind of series that mixes 20-somethings with everyone else.
Force is the champion of “everyone else” and when he drove his Castrol GTX Ford past reigning series champ Jack Beckman’s Dodge in the final round of last week’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals, it re-energized an entire generation for whom he continues to defy the odds.
After struggling the last two seasons, winning just one time each year, the 136-time tour winner (no one else has won even 100 times) started the current campaign in similar fashion. Halfway through the 16-event regular season, he was only 10th in points and battling with Bob Tasca III for the final transfer position into the Countdown.
Then, he and crew chief Mike Neff got hot, just like they did in 2010. Force won at Bristol, Tenn., and took his Ford to the final round in the next two events. One race later, he announced that he and his son-in-law, Robert Hight, would be swapping rides for the remainder of the season – Robert coming over to drive for Neff and Force going over to drive for Jimmy Prock.
It was one of those moves that had even those within his inner circle wondering if he was beginning to suffer the maladies of old age. Apparently, he wasn’t. Coming into Maple Grove, where Force has won six times in his career (but not since 2001), both drivers are in position to win an 18th championship for John Force Racing, Inc.
Force, though, is more than just the sentimental favorite.
“Jimmy Prock always swings for the fences,” Force said. “The car owner in me used to complain about that, but now that we’re together, I love it. I was struggling a little bit with my leave times (reaction times). I had to go back to basics but it’s like Jimmy said, ‘Force, you’re learning how to drive all over again and I’m learning how to tune. We’re gonna make a good team.’‘
Maybe even a great one.