HIGHT, FORCE HOOD LEAD JFR INTO RICHMOND ELIMINATIONS PETERSBURG, VA --- Cool conditions provided the perfect springboard for all classes at the 4th annual NHRA Virginia Nationals. No. 5 qualifier Robert Hight and No. 6 qualifier Ashley Force...
HIGHT, FORCE HOOD LEAD JFR INTO RICHMOND ELIMINATIONS
PETERSBURG, VA --- Cool conditions provided the perfect springboard for all classes at the 4th annual NHRA Virginia Nationals. No. 5 qualifier Robert Hight and No. 6 qualifier Ashley Force Hood will lead the quartet of John Force Racing Mustangs into Sunday's eliminations at Virginia Motorsports Park. They are joined in the sixteen car field by Mike Neff (No. 8) and John Force (No. 12).
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Mustang team will face teammate John Force and the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang in the first round. This will be the sixth time this season Force and Hight have squared off with Hight holding a 3-2 advantage. Hight picked up three qualifying bonus points on Friday but on Saturday he was denied any of those valuable points.
The first round match-up will be a repeat of the 2008 opening round; a race Hight won handily.
"Last year I raced John in the first round and I ran a 4.005. That is still the quickest Funny Car run at 1,000 feet. We knew there were good numbers out there we were just a little off. I am not worried. We have a great car and (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) will get us set up for tomorrow. It is always tough to have to run a teammate but we are going after a championship so we'll be ready," said Hight who sit in second place, seven points out of first place.
Funny Car points leader Ashley Force Hood will race Memphis winner Jeff Arend and the DHL Toyota in the first round. She was the provisional No. 1 qualifier at the end of the day Friday and her Castrol GTX Mustang made the second quickest run of the first qualifying session today.
Over the course of the two days of qualifying Force Hood picked up seven points in qualifying. She also ran top speed a blistering 311.21 mph in the final session. For the weekend the 2007 rookie of the year had the best average ET of the class an impressive 4.099 seconds per run.
"It sounds like conditions on race day will be similar to Friday and Saturday. You feel a little more confident since we have gone down the track every run. We are ready to go for tomorrow. It seems like when the weather changes on Sunday you go out there thinking you are going to have to start from scratch. We are excited. My Mustang has been running pretty well. It may not have been the quickest of the weekend but I think it was one of the most consistent," said Force Hood.
"The nerve racking part is that if anything goes wrong then you lose 20 points. The qualifying points are really important since you can get them here and there. Round wins are crucial. Hopefully the car will keep running like it has been running. I think if it does we will be able to go rounds. I run (Jeff) Arend who took me out last weekend so I do owe him one. They have been running really well too. If we can run like we have been running all weekend we have a good shot," concluded Force Hood.
John Force pulled up to the starting line for the final qualifying session and at the hit of the throttle his Mustang immediately went up in smoke. He slipped to the No. 12 qualifying position on the relative strength of his run on Saturday morning, a 4.112 second pass at 304.39.
"In that last run we were going for it. We knew you needed to run an 'oh' and that is what we were shooting for. You aren't going to have anything handed to you so we know we have to take it. We'll figure it out. I have my brain trust working on it and I am ready to race. Conditions are good we just have to perform," said the winningest driver in NHRA history.
Mike Neff has been pulling double duty on his Ford Drive One Mustang as crew chief and driver this weekend. John Medlen's keen eye has been called into duty on Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage team. Over the past two days Neff and car chief John Boyce have made steady improvement lowering their ET every round. For race day Neff knows he will have to pick up the pace but he also know he doesn't have to make a big performance jump to get right in the thick of things.
"We need to step it up a little. It did not run as quick as I would have liked that last run but biggest thing is we have gone down the track four times and we have gotten quicker every time. We are not that far off the pace. I look at that as so far so good. It could have been a lot worse. We are making progress and learning what moves to make. I can't complain," said Neff.
In the first round Neff will race Tony Pedregon. This will be the second race in a row these two Countdown combatants have raced in the first round. Neff is 0-4 in first round match-ups with Pedregon in his career and they have raced each other six previous times in 2009.
"You have to go down the race track. If we can keep on the pace of improvement we have had this weekend a couple more hundredths tomorrow will put us right in the thick of things. We'll have a good chance then."