Englishtown: John Force Racing final report

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP AT ENGLISHTOWN -Younger Sister Brittany Force also Races for Wally- ENGLISHTOWN, New Jersey -- Ashley Force Hood raced to her third final in a row - class leading fifth overall for 2009 - and moved into second place...

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP AT ENGLISHTOWN
-Younger Sister Brittany Force also Races for Wally-

ENGLISHTOWN, New Jersey -- Ashley Force Hood raced to her third final in a row - class leading fifth overall for 2009 - and moved into second place in the Full Throttle point standings today at Raceway Park. Unfortunately she did not drive away with the victory at the storied NHRA SuperNationals. Her Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuned Castrol GTX Mustang made a solid 4.21 second run but two-time world champion and former John Force Racing driver Tony Pedregon got a jump start at the starting line and beat her to the finish line.

"(Reaching three finals in a row) will matter in about an hour and a half," Force Hood said standing in her trailer. "Then you will get it into a little more perspective. We had a good weekend. It is frustrating. You never want to lose on a hole-shot. You never want to lose period. For a driver (hole shots are) particularly hard to swallow. When your car stumbles a little or doesn't run as quick you'll see my crew chiefs upset and I am the one pepping them up. It works the same way for the driver."

"It is amazing how important the reaction times were in the pro finals. My husband Dan told me that before me the Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock classes were won on hole-shots and then Antron (Brown) red-lit in the Top Fuel final. This final round for the pros was all about the start and the first couple of feet."

Prior to the pro final rounds there was nearly two hours of downtime as two separate Alcohol Funny Cars drove off the top-end of the race track successfully testing the new safety measures at the top-end. When asked if the delayed schedule affected her ability to perform Force Hood was positive it did not.

"I don't think so. I have never seen a pattern. I am still looking for one. I have cut really good lights and I ask myself what I did differently. There are so many little things that are just different. It could be a different part of the day, how you are feeling, or how you did the run before. I think all the runs before the final I was a little more nervous," said the nine-time finalist. "If anything I was more calm for the final because we did have so much time. There wasn't a big rush. Sometimes the rounds you are rushed you run right up there and you are wondering if we remembered everything and that run wasn't like that at all. We were able to take our time and get in."

The Castrol GTX team was looking for a little 2008 luck to repeat itself at Englishtown.

"We were hoping since last year we went to three finals in a row (Houston, Las Vegas and Atlanta) and won on our third attempt Atlanta. We were hoping that we could do that again and have the third time be the charm," said Force Hood. "I can't complain about getting to another final. It gives us that much more data and me more experience in the car. That will come in handy down the road. If you are losing first or second round you aren't just losing those points you are not getting extra rounds."

Co-crew chief Dean "Guido" Antonelli put the day into perspective from his standpoint.

"It is not about who wins the most races. It is about who goes the most rounds. (Eddie) Krawiec (the 2008 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion who did not win a race en route to his title) proved that last year. All we need to do is just keep going rounds and we will be fine," said Antonelli

Force Hood and Pedregon both outperformed their peers throughout the day consistently making the quickest runs of each session. Force Hood dispatched Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca III to reach the final.

The 2007 Rookie of the Year has been on a tear so far this season and she knows that she the race car and the talent to get into the winner's circle. In just her third season she has already outdistanced her performance from 2008. Last season Force Hood reached four finals and already she has been to five along with four No. 1 qualifiers, also a personal record for a Funny Car season.

The JFR race day started with an all John Force Racing first round Funny Car match-up between the Auto Club's Robert Hight and Castrol's John Force. Neither driver came close to matching their qualifying performances unfortunately. Hight who entered Sunday as the No.4 qualifier suffered dramatic tire shake 100 feet into his run, essential ending his race day as Force powered past him. Force smoked the tires but quickly pedaled his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and took the win with a pedestrian 4.659 second pass.

At the end of the day for his Funny Cars Force was adamant that Ashley's performance was right where he wanted it to be and she did not have anything to worry about. In fact she was in a position that the 14-time champion is aspiring to reach in 2009.

"Ashley is at the top of the points which is somewhere I'd like to be. At the end of the day like I said to Ashley 'Tony Pedregon is a veteran and it took him years to get here.' I saw him emotional at times," said Force. "She has a good race car. She is winning rounds. You have to earn the right to win. I know my kid she will make it. She is doing fine. It is all about getting experience. She hates thinking she let everybody down but she isn't letting anybody down. She was racing one of the best in Tony Pedregon."

In another Ford versus Ford battle John Force pulled up beside Bob Tasca III in the second round. Force was looking to race into the semis for the second time in 2009 but he was bested by Tasca's 4.166 second run. They were even until half-track when Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang got loose and slowed thereby handing the round win to Tasca.

Mike Neff was racing to move into the Full Throttle Top Ten after his teammate Ashley Force Hood defeated Cruz Pedregon in the pair in front of him in the second round. Neff would have moved around the 2008 Funny Car champion and rookie Matt Hagan with a round win and its accompanying 20 points but luck was not on his side. Tim Wilkerson beat him off the starting line and Neff's 4.167 second pass was not enough to move him into the semi-finals. Neff did close the gap on the 10th spot as he sits just eight points behind Matt Hagan (No. 10) and nine points behind Cruz (No. 9).

"The performance of the car is getting better every race. It is performing at the top of the pack. That is a good thing. We lost a close race to Tim Wilkerson. We are not getting any breaks. We all have to do our jobs and be on. (Crew chief John) Medlen and the boys are doing their job and I have to make sure I am doing my job. Part of the deal is getting the performance back to where it needed to be. It's there now. I feel confident we will start moving up the points now," said Neff.

"The pressure doesn't bother me. Even the inexperience doesn't bother me. I don't feel inexperienced any more. It is about performing at a high enough level to get the job done. The racing is so tight now you have to be on all the time. You can't afford to slip up even a little bit," said the 2008 Rookie of the Year.

"It is a team effort here. We are all working together. That is also what makes Funny Car racing so exciting. It is the top category in drag racing in my opinion. It is so close competitively. These races are being decided by a few thousandths of a second on a regular basis. That is just part of how intense it is."

Brittany Force had a successful day from the No. 1 position defeating Dan Mercier in the first round and Rich McPhillips in the second. In round two she stepped up her performance running an event best 5.320 seconds.

In the semi-final round which had the unique position of also being the final Brittany lost to John Finke, 5.560 to 5.444. Her BrandSource A-Fueler had a hole out -- a dropped cylinder -- and could not generate enough power to duplicate her earlier success. Prior to The Force Finke race Mike Kosky won but broke was would have been unable to return for the final therefore the second semi-final was the race for the Wally, winner's trophy.

"Today was pretty awesome coming from last weekend in Chicago when I didn't make it into the show. I was the No. 17 qualifier. This weekend I am the No. 1 qualifier and I start going some rounds. Going rounds is pretty exciting. We get to the semis and I am sitting in my BrandSource A Fueler and they tell me that another racer broke and if I win this round I'll be the race winner. I don't know if it was technically a final since I wound up in third place but I consider it a final even though it wasn't four rounds," said Force.

"(Crew chief) Jerry (Darien) has a great team and we are coming together. I'm listening to everything he is telling me and I am trying to do my best. We were off for almost six weeks and now we just finished three races in a row. Each race you get a little more comfortable. We are starting to figure things out. The more laps you get the better you get as a driver I think."

Courtney Force dropped her first round match-up with Richard Bourke in Top Alcohol Dragster. Her Sanyo/BrandSource slowed to 5.734 seconds versus Bourke.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Bob Tasca III , Mike Neff , Courtney Force , Brittany Force