FORCE HOOD CONTINUES QUALIFYING STREAK; TOPS AT LAS VEGAS LAS VEGAS --- Ashley Force Hood is on a roll in Las Vegas. Her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made the quickest run of each session today picking up six valuable qualifying bonus points and ...
FORCE HOOD CONTINUES QUALIFYING STREAK; TOPS AT LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS --- Ashley Force Hood is on a roll in Las Vegas. Her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made the quickest run of each session today picking up six valuable qualifying bonus points and positioning her to grab her first No. 1 qualifier of 2010. Going back to Saturday of the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals last weekend she now has four qualifying runs in a row where her Ron Douglas/Dean Antonelli tuned Mustang Funny Car has been the quickest in the class.
"We were definitely very excited that we got down both runs under power. This is a very tricky track and with the weather it was just a matter of doing the right thing each run. It definitely helped to get the first run down the track. We had more data to go by for the second run. You could see the other cars getting it figured out pretty quickly," said Force Hood. "By tomorrow I am sure you will see a better session full of more full runs. I am sure my time is not going to stay first. If the conditions improve and everyone can outrun us that means we can improve as well. That is what we are looking for tomorrow."
Today she laid down laps of 4.236 and 4.195 seconds. She was the only driver to dip into the teens in Funny Car. Force Hood and her crew were hopeful that she could make a good run in the last session and thanks to a setting sun and masterful tuner-up they got their wish.
"They (co-crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) could definitely push it a little more and we were watching what the other teams were doing. Some of them were going down and some of them were struggling. I am sure they were a little conservative. It has been a while since we were excited to run in the teens. Going up for that session my crew guy Matt and I were asking Guido and Ron, 'Can we run in the teens please, please?' Obviously it is not that simple. We were really hoping if we could break into that teen number we would feel pretty excited and it would be good for the fans to see a run in the teens. These numbers aren't the typical numbers for these cars in Las Vegas. I am sure everyone will get it figured out by tomorrow and definitely by Sunday," said Force Hood.
2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight got back on track finishing the day as the No.5 provisional qualifier. His second qualifying run of 4.223 at 300 mph was a solid run considering the hot conditions. Hight and the Auto Club Mustang were in the second pair of Funny Cars in the second session when track temperatures were still well over 115 degrees.
"I was actually discouraged. I really thought we could run a 4.18 or 4.19. I didn't think that 4.22 would be close to staying in the top half. I guess everyone was just being real cautious. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) just took a bunch of measurements. We did not want to smoke the tires. This is really our first full race in the heat and you do not want to go into Saturday not in the show. When we went out there and ran the 4.22 I told my guys I thought that would be OK but it might not stay in the top twelve. We wound up No. 5 and it only ran 300 mph. That is nothing to shake your head at. We had to go," said Hight.
The second run could have been a little better if Hight would not have been protecting his 2010 Ford Mustang from possible mayhem. In the past two races Hight has uncharacteristically destroyed two 2010 Ford Mustang bodies. In the first round of eliminations in Charlotte he side swiped Jeff Arend and Friday night in Houston he grenaded an engine destroying another brand new AAA Texas body on only its second run. Today that was on his mind as he was accelerating down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I kind of screwed up at the top end. It was on a nice smooth run and at half track I put my hand up on the chutes and it was going along. I told myself because of the problems we have been having blowing up bodies that if I felt anything going wrong I was going to click it and get on the chutes. I do not want to blow up another body, another brand new Ford Mustang body that is expensive. I would rather go into tomorrow not qualified than blow up another body. I don't know what I was thinking but my hand just went forward and it probably would have run better than 300 mph. I don't think it would have changed the ET. It might have run 301 or 302 mph," said Hight.
"I still had my foot on the throttle and I drove it for a second with the chute out. Usually you are off the throttle and slowing down when the chutes blossom. That run it jolted me. I just saw the video and the chutes were fully blossomed and the throttle was down. It made an unbelievable sound. It was weird that I did that."
In the first run Hight's Mustang smoked the tires and finished the session in the No. 14 position. Even that aborted run gave the Auto Club team some valuable information that they used to their advantage in the second session. They continued to learn how to fine tune the 8,000 hp Mustang and built on last weekend's results.
"Every run you make when you get past an explosion you forget about any problems, even getting that first run today out of the way. We smoked the tires but we learned something and we applied that to the second run. We looked at it like there was no engine trouble, even the second round run in Houston. No engine trouble. First run on Sunday in Houston we were low ET and top speed of that round and we had no engine trouble. We were starting to see pan pressure and that pressure goes down into the crank case. We were seeing that early. This morning there was no pan pressure. We are almost taking baby steps. It is not a good thing but it is probably all right that we did not make a full run on that first pass. We do not want to blow another body off," concluded Hight.
The current points leader John Force powered his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang to the provisional No. 10 spot which is critical in that his time will carry over into tomorrow's final day of qualifying. The 14-time champion knows there is room for improvement and that his crew chief triumvirate of Austin Coil, Mike Neff and Bernie Fedderly will get his hot rod running in the right direction by Sunday morning.
In the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks Courtney Force finished the day as the No. 11 qualifier with a 5.564 second run at 252.38 mph behind the wheel of her BrandSource Ford Racing A Fueler. Brittany Force drove in from Yorba Linda, California and was hoping to reach Las Vegas by the second session. Unfortunately a traffic back-up heading into town forced her to miss the last session of Friday and she will have one shot tomorrow to power her BrandSource A Fueler into the show.