Joliet: John Force Racing final report

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO JOLIET, Illinois -- Ashley Force Hood battled the heat, rain and a host of strong Funny Cars racing to a runner-up finish at the 12th annual United Association NHRA Rt. 66 Nationals today. In the final she...

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO

JOLIET, Illinois -- Ashley Force Hood battled the heat, rain and a host of strong Funny Cars racing to a runner-up finish at the 12th annual United Association NHRA Rt. 66 Nationals today. In the final she and eventual winner Tony Pedregon left almost simultaneously but Force Hood's Castrol GTX Mustang smoked the tires about 200 feet from the starting line. Force Hood pedaled quickly hoping to regain the lost momentum but Pedregon pulled away from her for the win.

This was Force Hood's third final round in five races and she moved within two points of Tony Pedregon who advanced to second place in the Full Throttle point standings.

"I think we did great this weekend. You always want to win and you are bummed when you don't. Sometimes you do have to push it and roll the dice. You are not going to win championships being timid. We took a chance and maybe it didn't work out for us this time but I bet it will work out another time. We will just keep trying. Our Mustang is running really well in all kinds of conditions. This has been a challenging race for me. I don't know what it was about it. I had a lot of issues with thinking about things and changing routine. I was maybe trying a little too much. That can sometimes push you backwards," said Force Hood.

"That we got to the final with me having a weird weekend might not be noticeable from the outside but sometimes you just have those weekends. It doesn't come so easy. I felt like I was battling a little bit. I am very happy with this weekend. I know the guys will be too when they get past tonight. We have been to three finals in five races. We did a pretty dang good job this weekend. This wasn't a random weekend. That is a great feeling to go to semis and finals one after another. We'll just keep trying to do that."

The Ford Drive One Mustang piloted by Mike Neff and tuned by John Medlen had one of the most consistent three days of racing in recent memory. For seven runs he averaged 4.116 seconds on each run. His quickest lap was 4.079 in the second round of eliminations versus 14-time champion and boss John Force.

"We had a really positive weekend. The car ran well every run which is nice. We are able to learn a lot more when you are going down the track. You get a chance to make seven runs in a weekend instead to four or five. It feels good for all of us at John Force Racing. Robert ran well. John ran well. It feels good to feel like we made some forward progress. Looking forward to going to Englishtown," said Neff.

The mystique of racing John Force was not lost on Neff, the 2008 NHRA Rookie of the Year and World Championship crew chief.

"There is nothing like racing John Force. Boss or no boss. We are racing straight up. It is just awesome to be able to pull up next to him. He has so much determination and drive it just is just a highlight to be able to race him."

Team leader John Force held onto his position -- 9th place - in the Full Throttle point standings. His Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang made a number of solid runs including a 4.113 to extend to 9-0 his win record versus Jeff Arend in the first round. In the second round versus Neff Force's burst panel became dislodged and his emergency chutes deployed slowing him to 5.548 at 110.57 mph.

Robert Hight made a second round exit but it was a solid weekend for his Auto Club Ford Mustang. He made performance improvements almost every time down Rt. 66 Raceway at Chicagoland Speedway. His last run of the day in the second round versus Tony Pedregon was his quickest of the weekend; a solid 4.096 second pass at 304.25 mph. His opening round win over rookie Matt Hagan was his first round win since April 5th. Overall Hight was thrilled with the turn around his Auto Club Mustang made at Chicago.

"We are definitely heading in the right direction. It is responding and coming around. It is definitely tunable for (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock). First time all year we made three solid runs in a row. If we can do our jobs and not make mistakes I think it will continue in that direction. We'll get there. The best thing we did was change our clutch. He can look back to 2006 and see how it is responding. We could never make that other clutch do that. Our Mustang is more like Guido's and Ron's," said Hight.

"We can learn from them and they can learn from us. I really want to thank Ron Douglas and Guido for helping us out. They will also learn from us which helps everybody. We are going to keep taking baby steps. We have a competitive car now and now we need to qualify in the top half of some fields and then just start tweaking it. We lost the second round but if we would have gone up there and pressed and smoked the tires we would not have learned anything. We tuned it up a little and it went from a 4.11 first round to a 4.09. I probably would have beaten just about anybody else."

He is still outside the Full Throttle top ten but solid performance improvement has his program headed in the right direction.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Ashley Force , Jeff Arend , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , John Medlen , Mike Neff