FORCE HOOD HANDLES WILD RIDE STAYS NO. 1 AT READING -All JFR Mustangs in Top Half at Toyo Tire Nationals- READING, PA --- On a day when cool temperatures and the threat of rain loomed over Maple Grove Raceway Ashley Force Hood electrified ...
FORCE HOOD HANDLES WILD RIDE STAYS NO. 1 AT READING
-All JFR Mustangs in Top Half at Toyo Tire Nationals-
READING, PA --- On a day when cool temperatures and the threat of rain loomed over Maple Grove Raceway Ashley Force Hood electrified the crowd during her only qualifying run as her Castrol GTX Mustang exploded before the finish line. Force Hood escaped unharmed and when forecasted rain showers hit further nitro qualifying was canceled. She held onto her No. 1 qualifying position at the 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals. This was Force Hood's fifth No.1 qualifying effort of the 2009 Full Throttle season.
For tomorrow's elimination rounds Force Hood will pull out her back-up Castrol GTX Mustang to face Jeff Arend in the first round.
"I don't think we can fix my Castrol GTX Mustang for tomorrow. It is in pretty bad shape. We'll start from scratch tomorrow since we didn't get that last session. That is OK. That is what spare cars are for," said Force Hood.
"(The explosion) really took me by surprise. My Mustang felt like everything was going good. It was going right down the groove. It wasn't moving around on me and then it just banged. Vision was really the issue for me. There was some fire initially but then it was back behind me. I really couldn't see anything. I had the injector, the body, and everything was up in front of me. I was trying to gauge where I was on the track. I didn't know if I was over by the wall, over center, or in front of Robert (Hight)."
"On the way back to the pits we were joking that my Mustang looked like abstract art. The injector was turned sideways and the windshield was cracked. It wasn't a very pretty sight. My guys are working really hard and they are very energetic group. They don't get to do this kind of service very often. I wouldn't say they are excited to be doing this but they are definitely up for the challenge," said Force Hood. "They were reminding me that a lot of drivers do well after a big blow up. Tony Pedregon won a race after a big explosion recently. Maybe you are just more focused in making sure nothing goes wrong."
While Force Hood would like nothing better than to pick up her second win of the season she also knows a trip to the winner's circle would be special for some of her family members as well particularly her teammate Robert Hight.
"To have anybody in our camp win this race would be great. Robert has been a real strong person. He has gone through a lot of ups and downs. That team is not used to struggling like it has this year. It has gotten them down but I have never heard him complain. I have never heard him mad. He knows that is part of drag racing, you are not always going to win. That can wear on you after a while. They deserve it as do all our teammates," added the 2007 NHRA Rookie of the Year
Hight was in the lane beside Force Hood when she had her mishap. He slowed from his Friday effort but held onto the No. 4 qualifying position. He was very happy his sister-in-law was OK and he was glad to be at the back of the qualifying pack with her.
"We were number two qualifier after the first run and that made us the last pair of funny cars. Lately I have been so early in the session because of where we are in the points. You don't get to go out there and look at the track and get your head into it. It was real refreshing today to get out there on the race track and watch some cars run and walk out there to see what is going on. That is what I used to do every single run," said Hight the only driver to lead the funny car points at least once in the previous four seasons.
Team leader and 14-time funny car champion John Force will have a chance to immediately help Hight's Countdown chances as he squares off with rookie Matt Hagan in the first round. Hagan is in 11th place in the Full Throttle point standings and only 27 points in front of Hight. Hight likes the fact that he has the winningest driver in NHRA history paired with his usual crew chief Jimmy Prock.
"I like that John has Matt Hagan because I know what Jimmy Prock can do. That is my crew chief. It is a great combination for me. I know they will be up for it and hopefully get him first round and knock him off. If for some reason he got by them then he might have Ashley if she wins. Everybody out here is tough. Coil says this Auto Club Mustang will run better but we will have to get after it," summed up Hight.
John Force is pleased to have all his Ford Mustangs in the top half of the field and for them to all be in position to go rounds on Sunday.
"I am proud of my fleet of Fords. They have done their job even with some of the changes I have made. I am doing the best I can. I hope that I have an opportunity tomorrow to hold Hagan back. Robert given the opportunity of one less guy in his way can move up. Hagan is a good driver. We'll see what happens," said the six time Maple Grove winner.
"When I made this decision (to switch teams with Hight) it was based on putting an older guy like me with a younger kid (Jimmy Prock). It was a decision to put a younger kid like Robert with older guys like Bernie (Fedderly) and Austin (Coil). I hate not being with those guys. We have done this for so long. I'll go back to them in time. The deal was to get Robert in a more consistent Mustang to help him move up in the points. I made a decision," said Force.
Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One Mustang team took advantage of great conditions to run the third quickest qualifying lap of the second session and move up into the No. 6 qualifying position. He will have a tough draw against fellow Mustang racer Tim Wilkerson. Neff has a 3-8 record against the veteran and but he has split his first round races with Wilkerson 2-2.
"We'll be ready tomorrow. I know (crew chief John) Medlen and the boys will have this Ford Drive One Mustang hopped up. We need to go rounds to hold our position in the Countdown. We want to help out Robert if we get the chance and we also want to help John and Ashley. One way to do that is to get around Wilkerson in the first round. It will be a great race between two solid Mustangs," said the 2008 NHRA rookie of the Year.