HOUSTON, TX --- The 25th annual NHRA O’Reilly Spring Nationals began today and the John Force Racing contingent of Ford Mustang Funny Cars were led on the track by rookie of the year candidate Courtney Force and Full Throttle Funny Car points leader Robert Hight. The youngest Force is the provisional No. 6 qualifier and Hight, winner of the past four NHRA events, is in the provisional No. 7 spot.
In the first session Hight and Neff were the last pair of Funny Cars by virtue of their positions in the points but both shook the tires just a hundred feet into their runs. In the second session Hight was on a strong run but at the finish line his AAA Texas Ford Mustang shot towards the center and slowed dramatically at the top end.
‘It welded the clutch together and it made a right hand turn real hard. That is what we needed to do. That 4.15 wasn’t what Jimmy was looking for but hopefully that will stay in the Top twelve. We’ll try and do better tomorrow,” said Hight from the top end.
For Courtney Force her opening session run was a thing of beauty as she raced to the provisional No. 2 spot. She picked up two qualifying bonus points, her first bonus points this season, and rolled into the second qualifying session with high hopes for improvement. Her first round session was quick enough to hold her in the No.6 spot going into Saturday.
“When you go out and you’re first run of the weekend is a 4.150 you are definitely excited and confident,” said Force, who sits No. 9 in the Funny Car point standings. “That is a good run to build on. We will tweak a couple things and hopefully make it run a little quicker tomorrow. I am definitely happy with where my car is at this weekend. We want to just build on that success and go rounds on Sunday.”
As one of the last pairs of Funny Cars to take to the track Force was paired with Cruz Pedregon. It was the two-time Funny Car champion Pedregon who raced to the provisional No. 1 spot with a 4.103 second pass while Force had problems as soon as she hit the throttle slowing to a 5.443 second run.
“There was a little flash of fire and Ron got on the radio and told me to shut it off. I got it shut off right away and we didn’t get a great run out of that one but we had that 4.15 in the first session which kept us in pretty good. I think we are No. 6 so we’ll fix the problem and go out tomorrow and try and do better.”
John Force made a strong run in the first session 4.212 at 296.05 mph and in the night time session at the finish line his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Mustang posted a 4.269 second run. He will go into Saturday as the provisional No. 10 qualifier.
“Our goal for tomorrow is to get this Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang qualified. We are tenth but we won’t stay there. We are trying to learn about this car. We have to get it right,” said Force.
The Castrol GTX Ford Mustang tuned and driven by Mike Neff just missed making the top twelve running the 13th quickest time of Friday in the second session, 4.318 seconds. In the opening run his Mustang struck the tires and his pedestrian time of 8.164 seconds forced him to run early in the second session.
“(In the second session) we wanted to be aggressive and we were. We were just a little too aggressive. When it went to lock the clutch up it just had too much clutch and it shook the tires loose. It was running real good at that point,” said Neff. “It would have run a 4.05 or something but it was just too much for the track conditions. You never like going into Saturday not qualified but it could be worse. IT was on a good run so we just have to back it off tomorrow. We wanted to be aggressive and we were running good.”
The driver with the most consistently quick Funny Car of the season will have two shots to get into the show on Saturday.