(08/21/12) John Force lost the race then got back in the race in the first round before finally coming up one round short of winning his 12th Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in a bizarre day at Brainerd International Raceway. Force lost to new points leader Ron Capps in a classic Don Schumacher Racing versus John Force Racing Funny Car final round. Force smoked the tires at about 200 feet in his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang.
In the opening round Force, the No. 6 qualifier, shockingly red-light to Alexis DeJoria handing the rookie a first round win and putting a dent in Force’s hopes of holding onto his position in the Top Ten. Seconds later in a dramatic turn of events DeJoria smoked the tires in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry and crossed the center-line. That infraction was worse than Force’s red-light and he moved on to a round two match-up with Cruz Pedregon.
Force outran Pedregon and then defeated Ford Racing veteran Tim Wilkerson to set up his final round race with Capps.
“What is most important is I have a race car now. It has been showing signs of life since Denver and Sonoma. Courtney should be pretty close to clinching but it isn’t official. My improvement went way up this weekend. I was running 4.0s all weekend,” said Force. “I have no complaints after first round. The guys stood by me which is most important. When I failed they stood right up. I have to push that starting line against these cars to see what I can get away with. Sometimes you goof up and that is what I did in the first round. I’ll move on from here and we’ll be ready to test in Indy.”
“To make the Countdown is great but I don’t like to make something if I can’t compete in it. Just like Tony Stewart said last year. He barely got in last year and then he got on a roll. We’ll see what happens.”
After Force got the win over Wilkerson he reviewed the day at the top end. Force was motivated by the support he got not just from his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE team but from the entire JFR organization.
“After first round that was a real white knuckler. My boys back in the pits asked me, ‘Force, what do you teach us? We are a team. We love you even when you are screwed up.’ (Crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli, Danny DeGennaro and all the guys stood by me. I have to thank Castrol, Ford, Auto Club Mac Tools, BrandSource and Traxxas. Mike Jenkins, the Traxxas president, bought my daughter a Rolex watch for winning Seattle. I don’t need a watch I just need to win.”
In the second round Mike Neff pulled up beside Ford Racing teammate Tim Wilkerson. Neff had a slight ET advantage from his first round win over Robert Hight and was awarded lane choice. After both Mustangs pulled up to the lights Neff hit the throttle a few thousandths of a second early and gave a round away as he red-lit. Wilkerson advanced to face his third Ford Racing opponent of the day in John Force.
“We got a break first round; smoked the tires against Robert. Luckily he did the same thing so I was lucky to get by that. Second round, I just don’t know. I jumped before the tree came down. I don’t know if it was a long light or if I wasn’t focused,” said Neff, the driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “I don’t even really know what happened. I feel bad for my team, my sponsors, everybody involved because they all put the work in and to just blow it like that, I’ve done that too many times. We’re going to go back to Indy and test and try to stay positive. The Countdown is getting ready to take off soon and it’s a blank slate. We locked in a Countdown spot this weekend so we still have a great shot at the championship this year.”
Robert Hight’s woes continued at Brainerd International Raceway. In the first round he dropped a tire smoking battle to teammate Mike Neff. Hight had a slight advantage off the starting line but at half-track his Auto Club Mustang lost traction and he had to watch as Neff also smoked the tires but he was further down track and that was all he needed to get a 4.475 to 4.653 win.
Hight also lost his grip on the points lead as Ron Capps got the win today. He will have a strong chance to take back the Full Throttle points lead at the Mac Tools US Nationals in two weeks.
“We will go into Indy trying to get that point lead back. This was a set-back but we’ll go testing in Indy and be ready for the Mac Tools US Nationals. That will be a big race. We are in the Traxxas Shootout so our goal is to win that $100,000 and then win the race. Once the Countdown starts it is a whole new ballgame,” said Hight.
Courtney Force and the Traxxas Ford Mustang continued their streak of qualifying for every race this season and with one more regular season race on the schedule the Rookie of the Year front-runner is poised to clinch her spot in the Countdown to the Championship. She dropped a first round race to Ron Capps but she will leave Brainerd in 6th place with a 132 points lead over 2011 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan in 11th place. Only the top ten in points will have a chance to race for the Full Throttle Championship.
“Not getting that last run in qualifying hurt us. It would have helped us a little bit more in the first round to see what our car would do after making some changes to it. We had a tough competitor. Unfortunately we didn’t have lane choice, but you have to do the best you can and get your car running good no matter what the situation is, especially when you’re paired up with someone like Ron Capps. He ran good all weekend and he qualified good. Our biggest thing was, I think, we just overpowered the car in first round and it ended up spinning the tires at the other end,” said Force.
“It wasn’t a great weekend for us, but my dad went on to the final round and we remain sixth in points which is good for our Traxxas Ford Mustang team and we’ll be going to the ‘Big Go in Indy,’ trying to clinch a spot in Indy and hopefully we can get into that Traxxas Shootout since voting starts today.”