FORCE, HIGHT NEAR TOP AT READING TOYO TIRE NATIONALS READING, PA -- Tremendous conditions at the 26th annual Toyo Tire NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway helped treat fans to some of the most exciting Funny Car racing action of 2010. In both...
FORCE, HIGHT NEAR TOP AT READING TOYO TIRE NATIONALS
READING, PA -- Tremendous conditions at the 26th annual Toyo Tire NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway helped treat fans to some of the most exciting Funny Car racing action of 2010. In both Funny Car sessions John Force Racing put up top performance numbers lead by provisional No. 2 qualifier John Force and No. 3 qualifier Robert Hight. Both drivers are trying to accumulate as any qualifying bonus points as possible to either hold onto their points lead (Force) or make up ground on the leading drivers (Hight).
In the first qualifying session Hight picked up three much needed qualifying bonus points but the cost was high when you consider his Auto Club Ford Mustang blew the blower at the top end cracking his Mustang body in half as the Mustang went through the finish line timing lights. His time of 4.060 seconds was the quickest of the session and stood as the third quickest time of the day. His team pulled out the back up body and in the second session he put up another respectable 4.065 second run. He was hoping for more but he was able to bank another qualifying bonus point going into Saturday's final day of qualifying.
"We were going for it on that run (in Q2). I picked up four qualifying bonus points. I don't think picked up any points last race. I know I'll be in the top half. I shouldn't have John (Force) first round which is good. We have to help get Ashley (Force Hood) up in the standings so we can stay away from her. We gained points on the first day. It went down the track. We definitely have something to work off for tomorrow. We'll just keep chipping away at it. Unfortunately the two cars that are the most ahead of me are No. 1and No. 2 today. It ain't over yet," said Hight.
In the all important night session as temperatures continued to drop teams were looking at their weather stations and making continuous changes to their set ups. The crew chief trip of Austin Coil, Mike Neff and Bernie Fedderly set up John Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to grab as much of the track as was possible and he raced to the top spot with a blistering 4.057 second pass at 311.27 mph. For the 14-time champion the bonus points didn't matter but getting a good run was top of mind.
"You are trying to run a number when the national record is out there. Jimmy (Prock) had a shot. That 4.05 I was pretty impressed until Hagan ran that 4.011. You have to tip your hat to those guys. Ashley will still get all the TV unless someone gets the record tomorrow," said Force.
In the next pair youngster Matt Hagan made the pass of 2010 with an amazing 4.011 second run to grab the top spot from Force.
In the lane beside Force on the night run was his daughter and two-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner who blew her blower at about 150 feet launching her Castrol GTX Mustang body into the Maple Grove Raceway stratosphere. It was that spectacular sight that Force thought would get all the TV coverage on ESPN2. Force Hood wrestled her Mustang under control as it slowed to a stop. This explosion was reminiscent of her Seattle incident in 2007 and her Reading explosion last year in the final qualifying session.
"I was excited for the run because it was cool with good conditions. We were more towards the back of the pack. We were good to go. The sun had set. We wanted it a little more than this Mustang wanted to give us. It gave me a little warning to lift but there have been times when it has rattled and then it was OK. I just made the wrong judgment call," said Force Hood.
"I remember it kind of rattling and I was thinking these are the best conditions we have seen in a while maybe I am just feeling it go so hard. I didn't want to make the wrong choice and lift. As soon as I was thinking that is when it went. I knew that was the wrong decision to make. It is just amazing how quickly it happened. I told the guys at the top end my Seattle crash was like in slow motion. This one was different. I didn't realize the body was gone until the safety Safari guy was leaning into the cockpit. It just went real quick and it was early in the run. It seems like when you launch it takes a moment to get down the track and then you are halfway down it. Things haven't gone wrong for me that early very often. The times that I have had problems have been further down the track maybe that is why it took me by surprise."
After the body was off the car fans could see Force Hood working feverishly steering her Mustang as it whipped from side to side in her lane.
"I don't remember when the body left but I remember my head hitting both sides of my padding. It was OK and I remember trying to control the steering wheel. It was whipping pretty fast and I had to wait. I was going through my shut off routine and made sure I had my fuel off and then I got back on the steering wheel and my finger kind of got caught up in the whipping and I waited a moment longer and I was right on the center line and I remember seeing dad down track. It finally calmed down and I was able to get hold of it and got it stopped then the Safety Safari guys were right there, "said Force Hood.
For Force, the team leader and father, seeing how well his Ford designed Mustang bodies held up in two different explosions was validation of all the hours of research and development.
"It is just good to see that a lot of the safety we have on these cars will hold them together. The body went airborne because it unhinged from the blower explosion. It didn't break in half. That is what is most important because when they break in half you lose all your aero on these Ford Mustangs. The strength of these bodies comes from Ford engineering," said Force.
"We have seen cars explode and come in half and pieces go flying. She was early when she blew up instead of in the lights. The first thing I did after I saw she was OK and she told me to get away from her because I was stressing her I went down the track to look at the body. The body was damaged but it wasn't broken in half. That means the structural strength was there."