BRAINERD RESULTS SET STAGE FOR COUNTDOWN BRAINERD, Minn. -- Most of the drama heading into the 29th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals was wrapped up at the end of the Western Swing when Ashley Force Hood clinched her spot in the Countdown to 1 ...
BRAINERD RESULTS SET STAGE FOR COUNTDOWN
BRAINERD, Minn. -- Most of the drama heading into the 29th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals was wrapped up at the end of the Western Swing when Ashley Force Hood clinched her spot in the Countdown to 1 ensuring all three John Force Racing Ford Mustangs would have a shot at racing for the $500,000 Full Throttle world championship check.
At Brainerd International Raceway Force Hood raced to the No. 1 qualifying spot but her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang started dropping cylinders at the hit of the throttle versus Paul Lee and her race day ended early. The Cal State Fullerton graduate and 2009 championship runner-up is now looking to build on her qualifying momentum heading to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals where she is the defending champion.
"This was a tough weekend. We qualified great but today was just not our day. I am looking forward to the Countdown. Going back to Indy to defend my title will be big. We will have a lot of fans supporting us and I think this Castrol GTX Mustang is just about to turn the corner. I have a great team and a great car. Robert showed last year that you can win the championship from anywhere you just have to be in the Countdown to have a chance. We are in the Countdown and we are ready," said Force Hood.
There was a minor battle brewing in the Funny Car class and that was the fight for the No. 1 spot heading into the Countdown to 1. John Force held a slim lead over Robert Hight and after Force was narrowly defeated by Bob Tasca III in the first round Hight knew that he had a shot at moving around the 14-time champion.
"I have said all season I would like to have that top spot in the Countdown. I am just hoping to go some rounds today and win this race. That would be a great way to go into the Countdown," said Hight after his first round victory over Tony Pedregon.
Unfortunately for Hight his second round loss to eventual finalist Jack Beckman ended his bid for the top spot. Hight came up one point shy of Force and will ultimately go into the first race of the Countdown 30 points behind the winningest driver in NHRA history. Force was on the starting line for the second round match-up and while his points lead hung in the balance there was no doubt where Force's rooting passion was directed.
"Would I have been happy if Robert was No. 1? Without a doubt. What I was focusing on in Brainerd was winning this race. When Ashley and I got beat the only one left was Robert. What you have to look at is would you rather have a few points going into the Countdown, a round, over the chance of winning $50,000 here when you have a car that is still in the game. You know what I mean? Do you think I was hoping he was going to get beat? I'll be honest I have never hoped for one of my cars get beat ever. Not even when they are racing me. Those words will never come out of my lips," said Force.
As the final six races of the 2010 season take on even more importance the fact that Hight and Force have won four races apiece is not something that 2009 Funny Car champion Hight gives any weight to.
"What we have to focus on is we have to forget what we have done to this point. Winning four races and getting to this point you throw all that out the window. The success we have had so far does not guarantee success in the Countdown. We have to forget that. It is from here forward that matters. We will have to adapt to all the new conditions we will face over these next six races. You can't say I won four races already so now I expect to win two in the Countdown. Forget that," said the 18-time NHRA national event winner.
"Going into the Countdown the one thing we can do is not focus so much on the points and what is at stake. Last year we weren't expecting anything because we were 10th and we hadn't even won a race. We went in there with no expectations. We talked about running the first couple of races and then going into test mode. When you don't have expectations you don't put extra pressure on yourself. I think that is the key. You need to do what you ought to do and the results will come. That is the mindset you need to have."
"Trust me we are still going to count points and know where we are at after every race and where every other driver is too. All the other years I finished second I think we got overwhelmed by the pressure and everything else. Maybe winning it takes a little of the pressure off. You know you can do it. You don't just expect it because you have to earn it. It is tough. For someone to win three races like we did last year it will be tough with the competition that is out there. I made this statement last year if you won a race and averaged a semi-final finish in the Countdown races you will be right in the thick of the championship hunt," concluded Hight.