ASHLEY FORCE, SCHUMACHER, WARREN JOHNSON AND CHRIS RIVAS TOP QUALIFIERS AFTER DAY ONE AT ROUTE 66 JOLIET, Ill. - It may seem that, after earning her first career win as a professional driver more than a month ago, a No. 1 qualifier would be ...
ASHLEY FORCE, SCHUMACHER, WARREN JOHNSON AND CHRIS RIVAS TOP QUALIFIERS AFTER DAY ONE AT ROUTE 66
JOLIET, Ill. - It may seem that, after earning her first career win as a professional driver more than a month ago, a No. 1 qualifier would be somewhat anticlimactic for Ashley Force.
But when she drove her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 4.759-second pass at 329.10 mph during the second round of qualifying at the Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Friday, those numbers stood for more. They proved her young team, in only its second year together, is becoming the kind of consistent and comfortable team that posts competitive, winning numbers, like her career-best speed.
"That's definitely the most exciting part for our team, even over that No. 1 qualifier and E.T., is that speed, because we're racers and we love the quick speeds in drag racing," Force said. "It doesn't seem like four miles per hour is a lot different, but from 325 to 329, we're pretty pumped up."
Qualifying concludes with two rounds on Saturday at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago. If Force's performance stands, she will be the first woman to earn a No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car. Eliminations for the event, the halfway point of the regular season in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, are on Sunday.
The biggest difference between her first season and her second, she said, was with her team.
"Definitely just consistency (is better), a lot less mistakes for all of us," Force said. "The driver; my team. Working on the car. When you get all the kinks worked out things go so much smoother that you're able to build on things and go rounds and that gives you confidence. That makes a big difference as well, when you can get in these cars or prepare these cars and know that you know what to do, even against people who have been doing it over 30 years. We're a new team, so to have that kind of confidence from round wins definitely makes us better."
Five-time and defending NHRA POWERade Series world champion Tony Schumacher was the Top Fuel qualifying leader after two rounds, piloting his U.S. Army dragster to a 4.513 at 331.69 in front of his hometown crowd near Chicago. This would mark his third No. 1 qualifier of the year and the 50th of his career.
"The track is outstanding, and the conditions were just great tonight," Schumacher said. "It was just perfect. It was kind of what drivers dream of. The cross breeze - it's a pretty good cross breeze out there. I was watched Cory (McClenathan) and I didn't know why, but he was right in front of me, and he got over and had to shut it off...(our car) made just a little shimmy out there, but it was fine."
Warren Johnson drove his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP to a 6.711 at 206.35 on his way to what his team hopes will be his third No. 1 qualifier of the year and a stunning 139th of his career.
"We had two pretty good runs out there," Johnson said. "Everybody goes out there on the first session not wanting to step over the boundaries and make a bad run, so everybody's just a little cautious, not knowing what the track will handle, and it pretty much looked like that on the second session. Everybody picked up incrementally. I think a few cars shuffled as far as position, but there wasn't a whole lot of changes other than about a 2-hundreths decrease in E.T."
Chris Rivas rode his G-Squared/S&S Racing Buell through a strong crosswind all the way to his first provisional No. 1 qualifier. He posted a 7.027 at 187.29 to lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
"The wind is really deceiving," Rivas said. "At the starting line there's not too much wind, but when you get out just a little bit, and especially when you get out past the grandstands, there's a lot of wind. In the bikes, it really moves you around a lot...but we can adjust the chassis. We got the thing dialed in real good. Had to drive it around just a little bit, but at least we stayed enough in the groove that we could make a pretty decent lap. It's thanks to (my team) that we got all this stuff done."