Denver: John Force Racing final report

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP IN DENVER Morrison, CO -- Ashley Force Hood and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang raced to their sixth final in ten races this season with a solid effort at the 30th annual MOPAR Mile High NHRA Nationals. She held onto ...

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP IN DENVER

Morrison, CO -- Ashley Force Hood and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang raced to their sixth final in ten races this season with a solid effort at the 30th annual MOPAR Mile High NHRA Nationals. She held onto the points lead as the NHRA Western Swing leaves Denver headed to Seattle next weekend for the 22nd annual Northwest NHRA Nationals. The youngest driver in the John Force Racing stable was defeated in the final by veteran Ron Capps for the second time this season. Her 4.231 second run was no match for No. 1 qualifier Capps' 4.187 second pass. In Norwalk, Ohio, two weeks ago Force Hood bested Capps in a wild second round match-up that saw her take the points lead with the round win.

She is the only female to ever lead the Funny Car points and is the only Funny Car driver who has led the points both this season and last season. Even with her success behind the wheel Bandimere Speedway got the best of Force Hood the first two times she raced here. She turned over a new leaf at Thunder Mountain today picking up her first career round win and racing all the way to the final round.

"We have never done well in Denver. I love coming to Denver. We just seemed to have bad luck. My rookie year we didn't qualify and last year we lost in the first round. When we won first round today we were pretty pumped to finally cross that boundary. Then we just kept going rounds. I never felt quite for sure in qualifying. We seemed to struggle to get where we wanted to be as far as tuning the car and me driving the car. I never felt quite as confident as a lot of other tracks we have been at this year. We were surprising ourselves when we were going rounds," said Force Hood.

The disappointment of not getting into the winner's circle was softened by the knowledge that she has arguably the most consistent Funny Car in the class with seven straight and counting semi-final appearances this season.

"Of course we wanted to win. I'll take a runner up especially looking back at the Friday night sideways run. I didn't know if we would have a car to run during that pass. Thank goodness we got through the rain and were able to get the race in. We are bummed but give us half an hour we'll be back to our normal selves. We'll be able to see the bigger picture that we made it to another final. We just need to keep doing that. (If you go to) semis and finals all year long that can do a lot at the end of the year," said the 2007 rookie of the year.

Force Hood had to race through teammate Robert Hight to get to the final. That situation is one that has become a little too familiar for John Force Racing and one that the team is always looking to avoid.

"We have no control over the ladder after we qualify. It is how it is. We are just lucky that it hasn't happened more than it has. That is how it fell this weekend and the positive side is you know that whoever wins you are sending a teammate into the next round. When I ran Robert we knew one of us was going to the final. That takes a little pressure off your shoulders. You can have a little more fun," concluded Force Hood.

Team owner and leader John Force's day ended early with a first round defeat to Robert Hight but he was able to enjoy watching his daughter race to the finals and his son-in-law reach the semi-finals. The Force-Hight race was the only Funny Car first round race that featured both competitors racing into the 4.20s. Force's 4.298 wasn't enough to hold off a charging Hight's 4.271 second run.

"Robert beat me which was good for him. He moved up a little in the points but it hurt me. Luckily, I didn't fall back in the points. It all depends on how you look at it. It is a gut feeling to be honest that either way you win," said Force who remained in 8th place in the Full Throttle point standings

"I have to mentally get up to race Robert; to cut a light because he is so good. If I don't get up because I know it is my car that is bad. Against (Ron) Capps or Tony Pedregon you just instantly get up to race them with the energy. Against your own car you tend to lose some energy. Boy you have to fight to keep it. No matter what they tell you it is all about emotion. Your emotions tell you it is OK to lose to your own car. So your energy goes down and then you are late on the light. You have to have that spark."

Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team made some gains today racing into the semi-finals for the third time in 2009 and the first time since Las Vegas. Hight's first trip to the finals was derailed by his sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood. The win by Force Hood avenged the defeat of her father, 14-time champion John Force in the first round to Hight. The two JFR Ford Mustangs gave the crowd a great show as Hight edged Force for the win in a great side by side race. At the top end Hight talked about the points chase and the fact that got some marching orders from the team owner after defeating him.

"Right now (the points chase) is all this Auto Club Ford is thinking (about). We dug ourselves a hole and we have to get back into this top end. To beat that Matt Hagan guy they are a great team over there. They are one of the teams that are ahead of us. After I beat John Force in the first round he said that I better not beat him and then go out and lose the next round. He said I better get this Ford Mustang into the semis," said Hight.

Hight was able to dispatch rookie Matt Hagan in the second round setting up another JFR Mustang head to head race. It was another nail-biter for Hight but this time he came up on the losing side 4.246 seconds to Force Hood's 4.229 seconds run.

Mike Neff slipped in the points after a first round lose to Tony Pedregon. He fell from 9th in the Full Throttle point standings to 11th but he is only four points behind Cruz Pedregon who is in 10th place. Neff's Ford Drive One Mustang had struggled mightily during the two days of qualifying. In the first round crew chief John Medlen found a little magic for the mountain and his Mustang made a solid full pull versus Pedregon. Neff covered the 1000 ft. race course in 4.373 seconds versus Pedregon's 4.257 second pass. Neff's run was his best of the weekend and gives the team a small amount of momentum heading into Seattle, the second stop on the Western Swing.

At the end of the day team owner John Force reflected on having all four of his Mustangs in the unfortunate position of being on the same side of the eliminations ladder.

"It is one of those things where having all of us on the same side of the ladder actually hurt us. I was up against my own teammate (Robert Hight in the first round) and then in the semis I had two Mustangs (Ashley Force Hood and Robert Hight) racing against each other. The only positive was that I was guaranteed a Mustang in the final. In the semis I couldn't win. If I rooted for Robert because he is my son-in-law and my daughter Adria is at home praying for him to win. My granddaughter Autumn is praying for him too. It is also big for Auto Club. On the other side I want my daughter (Ashley Force Hood) to win because it is big for Castrol and Ford. She also carries the Auto Club logo. I was good with either one winning,"said Force.

"The fact is though when the crew chiefs come in and say we are on the same side of the ladder they are all bummed. They all believe they can win. When we are all on opposite sides of the ladder we are all excited. We have had to good weekends in the past, the last two races actually, and the ladder has been in our favor. We just haven't taken advantage of it. This week it wasn't in our favor but because the other fell we held our own."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , John Medlen , Mike Neff