FORCE HOOD PROVISIONAL NO. 1 AT ENGLISHTOWN -NEFF AND HIGHT ALSO IN TOP 4- ENGLISHTOWN --- Ashley Ford Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang handled a hot track at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in the early afternoon and then dominated the ...
FORCE HOOD PROVISIONAL NO. 1 AT ENGLISHTOWN
-NEFF AND HIGHT ALSO IN TOP 4-
ENGLISHTOWN --- Ashley Ford Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang handled a hot track at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in the early afternoon and then dominated the track as the sun went down before an impressive crowd. At the hit of the throttle her Mustang began pulling harder than usual according to Force Hood and she out-distanced her closest competitor, teammate Mike Neff, by nearly four-hundredths of a second.
"When I left the starting line I felt it pull harder than it does all the time. It's nice when what you felt in the run matches what the crew chiefs are doing to the car. They were trying to push it harder earlier in the run since down-track wasn't taking as much. A lot of people were spinning down track," said Force Hood. "We were able to push hard early in the run and not push so hard down track and we were able to make a good run out of it. That's the best thing for a driver to hear that I'm not crazy and making things up that happened on the run."
As one of the last two cars down the track for the Funny Car session Force Hood's crew chief tandem of Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas were able to evaluate all the factors at their disposal before sending Force Hood down the track.
"They (Antonelli and Douglas) were making a lot of decisions and talking a lot. Usually my guys don't do that so much. They pretty much have a decision in mind and they don't let the performance of the cars ahead of us alter what they were planning on doing although you do have to factor in what other cars are doing, as well. They were talking back and forth right up until the time to start the car," said Force Hood. "So I didn't really quite know what to expect on the run. That can either mean it's going to be a monster run or that means you could be right on the edge and you might not make it."
Force Hood credits her Friday night success at the 40th annual United Association NHRA SuperNationals to her team being able to build on early successes in qualifying and ride a wave of solid runs. She also knows that she and her team cannot take their good fortune for granted.
"We are (on a pretty good roll) but as soon as you start to get a little cocky about it, it goes right out the window. So we're trying to not let ourselves think that far ahead. We go into each weekend in the same way. We were probably more excited about our earlier run today because it was in the heat," said the 2007 NHRA Rookie of the Year. "The car went A to B. That's the greatest feeling because on Sunday it's probably going to be similar conditions to that. Hopefully, we can make two more tomorrow and the only way I could be happier than I am right now would be if we could make two more runs tomorrow in the heat because then your that much more confident for Sunday."
When asked how in just her third year behind the wheel her young team was rising to the occasion and her veteran teammates were struggling Force Hood talked about how important the whole qualifying process contributes in an almost circular fashion of success. She also noted that her teammates Mike Neff and Robert Hight were dialing in on the successful pattern this weekend and that was encouraging for the entire John Force Racing organization.
"Once you get behind on one thing, it's like a domino effect. A perfect example is qualifying. If you're able to make a great run your first pass, you're able to run later in the (second) session and its cooler. So then you're more confident about that. So you work harder and then you get the No. 1 and it all repeats itself. And it all starts from that very first run. So if you're unfortunate enough to have something go wrong or something strange happen, they you're behind the game. We're just lucky we've been able to stay ahead of the game," explained Force Hood.
Prior to Ashley Force Hood's provisional number one qualifying pass Mike Neff out ran teammate Robert Hight in the most impressive side-by-side race of the second session. Both drivers were running earlier than they preferred as the track had not reached optimal conditions but they unleashed stellar runs that by all accounts would have translated into even more impressive passes had they been executed later in the session. Neff's 4.110 second pass held up for the No. 2 position and only one driver, last week's winner Tony Pedregon, was able to run quicker than Robert Hight's 4.148 second run.
"That was a really impressive, aggressive run. Especially after the first session didn't have very many good runs at all. The track didn't seem to be that good. When it cooled off the track came around. So to be early and to be aggressive like that, put up a good number it takes a lot of guts by (crew chief John) Medlen. Even now I still say that was a great run because after you see someone make a run like that then it gets easier you can tune to that so that is one of the things that helped Ashley make a really great run. I still say that 4.11 was a pretty impressive run," said Neff
"I knew when we did it that was going to be a good run. I didn't know if it was going to be low or not. I knew when it was all said and done that was going to be a good run. It feels good to put a good solid run up there on Friday. Now tomorrow we'll be on the offense and try to get ready for Sunday," added Neff.
As encouraged as Neff was by his Ford Drive One Mustang's performance he was equally happy to cross the finish line with teammate Robert Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang right beside him and under full power.
"That was awesome to see Robert make a good run right next to us. That is an encouraging thing to see all these Ford Mustangs running at the top of the pack. We are trying to get them all back up in the point standings. That is what we are fighting for now. I feel like we are starting to hit our stride. It is a good time for us," said the 2008 Rookie of the Year.
Building on a string of good runs was a theme for Robert Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock today. Last weekend in Chicago the Auto Club team wanted to go from A to B back to back to back. They succeeded making improvements with ever run beginning on the Friday night qualifying session. They duplicated that pattern of success today and will be rewarded by being at the back of the qualifying pack on Saturday for the first time since Las Vegas in early April.
"That is what we need to do every race; qualify in the top four. If we can do that the next eight races that will be enough to gain a round or better on guys that are in front of us. That is what we need to do. We don't need to go out there swinging for the fences every week on Friday night," said Hight. "We need to make good runs. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) has his confidence up. What I like about it is he has this Mustang tuneable. We are not looking for what we have to do next and getting a little lost. We know where we are and that is a big confidence booster."
Team leader and 14-time champion John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang made a solid run in the heat of the first session but in the second session his hot rod shook the tires loose and he was unable to improve. In spite of that hiccup the winningest driver in NHRA history will move into the final day of qualifying with the 12th quickest elapsed time.
In the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks Brittany and Courtney Force had their qualifying session cut in half today due to inclement weather in the morning. They both made solid runs in their one and only run of the day. Brittany's BrandSource sponsored A Fueler out distanced Courtney's Sanyo Supersharged HD/BrandSource A Fueler, 5.368 to 5.531 seconds.