JFR HOLDS ONTO 1-2-3 AT AUTO CLUB FINALS
POMONA, CA -- On the final day of qualifying of the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle season the pressure was ratcheted up with every pair of Funny Cars. Heading into eliminations at the 46th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals John Force Racing will lead the charge with a 1-2-3 qualifying effort led by Ashley Force Hood. John Force and Robert Hight round out the top three and championship contender Matt Hagan stepped up to the No. 4 qualifying spot.
At the end of the day Ashley Force Hood talked about the feeling of being at the last race of the season with so much on the line.
"These are those moments that I remember from growing up. The sun is going down and you are at your home track. The stands are packed. That was always really cool. I am a competitor now but I am still a fan at heart. I love those kinds of moments. It was a good session for us. It is always good to get down the track in those good perfect conditions. We were happy to go A to B. It hurt itself at the end again. We'll get it figured out and we'll be ready for tomorrow," said Force Hood.
The No. 1 qualifying effort was Force Hood's sixth of the season and 15th of her career. As the No. 1 qualifier she could potentially meet Matt Hagan in the all important semi-final round with her father's championship hanging in the balance.
"He has taken me out the last couple of races so I owe him one. There are a lot of good running Funny Cars out here. That is good. That is what you want to see. You want to have competitive cars. I am sure the fans will be betting on the races and a lot of them will come by and let us know if they are betting on us or other teams. When I was a kid I would bet quarters and I would always bet on our car. It is going to be fun tomorrow," said Force Hood.
By virtue of Force Hood's top qualifying effort Christine Powell of Tehachapi, California won a Whirlpool washer and dryer from BrandSource as part of the "Win with Force" promotion. This was Powell's first NHRA race to attend in person and she could not believe her good fortune.
"We watch the races on TV on ESPN and we are big John Force fans. It was neat to see everything and then to win a Whirlpool washer and dryer was amazing. I never would have thought that was possible. Today was a great day," said Powell before meeting No. 1 qualifier Ashley Force Hood.
On both of Force Hood's runs today she experienced trouble at the finish line. In the first round she was accessed the $2,500 oil down penalty when the Safety Safari trucks had to roll to clean up liquids that escaped her Castrol GTX Queen of Hearts Ford Mustang after it threw the rods out. In the final session her Mustang held together but there was a brief flash at the top end.
"I stepped off after a big old flash of flame. I'll have to get back with Ron and Guido (co-crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dean "Guido" Antonelli) and see what is going on. It hurt it last run (Q3) as well. It was right at the finish line."
"We don't need that to happen tomorrow. Hopefully whatever little bug we have in there we can find. You don't want that kind of stuff happening on race day. Most important is my car body is still OK. I have never had a specialty body last this long. Every special body I have had I have managed to blow up in competition. My team was excited that it was still in one piece after two races. I had this horrible dream of it exploding and my guy's faces flying back it me into the cockpit. We are hoping to get that car into a winner's circle. It is so special my whole team is on it. My cats are on it. This will forever be my favorite race body."
The drama mounted in the final qualifying session as teams were calculating points on an almost round by round basis. It was critical for John Force to keep his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang 39 points or less behind Matt Hagan which would be the equivalent of two rounds of racing. If Hagan would have been able to stretch his points lead to 40 points or more then John Force would have had to win three rounds of racing to pass the second year driver.
The pair raced side by side in the final stanza of qualifying and Force blasted down the track with a run of 4.077 seconds to Hagan's 4.094 second pass. The roar of the crowd at the Fairplex in Pomona could quite possibly have been heard at the Ontario airport. Force picked up three valuable qualifying bonus points and held his deficit below 40 points.
"I can't control (Matt) Hagan. I can't count on him to make mistakes. Getting a national record (and its 20 bonus points) would take a miracle. We can't afford for him to go too many rounds tomorrow. That was a pretty nice run. We pushed it. We did what we wanted to do. Tomorrow is a new day. I didn't like seeing him move up to fourth. I wanted to try and get him earlier. I wish I could race him in the first round. If you are going to kill me, kill me early. I shook his hand at the top end. I am going to try and stay in that right lane. He loaded his up and I loaded mine up. We both had the front ends up on that run. I think there was more out there. We don't screw with each other. You aren't going to get in his head. He is the real deal," said the seven-time Auto Club NHRA Finals winner.
Force's final run of qualifying was a team effort as all the John Force Racing crew chiefs have been sharing ideas and tuning suggestions all weekend. When asked if any of his 14 NHRA Full Throttle championships might help give him a psychological edge over Hagan Force was not convinced they would.
"My confidence is going to the gym tonight. I'll get my legs right and go to bed early. I'll get out here and be ready to go. All the championships I have none of that matters. Right now what matters is what I can do tomorrow. Maybe I can and maybe I can't. My little girl (Ashley Force Hood) her hot rod is flying. At the end of the day we have three cars all up there and we'll see what happens. The boys at Ford Motor Company they are at Phoenix and they are watching this. That 1-2-3 means a lot to them. It means a lot to all my sponsors, 25 years with Castrol, Auto Club, Mac Tools, and BrandSource. They are the ones that keep me alive."
The final JFR Funny Car, the Auto Club sponsored Mustang, of Robert Hight smoked the tires in his final run and will head into Sunday on the strength of his run from yesterday. He will have Melanie Troxel in the first round. Hight the 2009 Funny Car champion is looking for his first round win of the 2010 Countdown.
"Tomorrow is the last day of the season. We have had bad Countdown but that could all turn around if John can get that championship trophy. My guys will give me a great race car tomorrow and I just need to do the most with it," said Hight.
In the first round Force Hood will face veteran Jim Head and Force will square off with former teammate Gary Densham. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m.