ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RACES TO TOP OF FIELD; PUSHES DAD TO NO. 2 ATLANTA --- Baseball legend Babe Ruth is known for his famous "called" shot home run. Today at Atlanta Dragway 14-time Funny Car champion and drag racing legend John Force called his...
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD RACES TO TOP OF FIELD; PUSHES DAD TO NO. 2
ATLANTA --- Baseball legend Babe Ruth is known for his famous "called" shot home run. Today at Atlanta Dragway 14-time Funny Car champion and drag racing legend John Force called his shot during the second qualifying session at the 29th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals but unlike Babe Ruth he was one-upped by his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, five minutes later.
Track conditions improved dramatically as Force pulled his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang up in the left lane at the sun set. Force asked crew chief Austin Coil to put his hot rod at the top of the qualifying order with a run of 4.10. His team responded with a stellar 4.100 run that moved him to the top of the highly competitive Funny Car field.
"I asked Coil if he could make this Ford Mustang run a 4.10 like (Ron Capps' crew chief Ed) McCullough did. Coil was like we'll run what we can run," said Force. "Then they told me she (Force Hood) called out to Guido (Dean Antonelli) make this thing run a 4.07. Then it goes out there and runs a 4.07. You want to start that war OK we'll get into that."
Indeed after Force Hood heard her father request a top elapsed time she asked her co-crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dean "Guido" Antonello if that was all it took to run a top ET; a simple request.
"I was two pairs behind dad and right before he started the car he got on the radio and said let's put a ten on the board (4.10). He went out and ran a 4.10. I got the radio and said 'Is it that easy? We just say what we want to run.' I was totally joking and I said, 'OK, Guido I want to run a 4.07' and we are all laughing about it. It was kind of a push since I thought a .08 or .09 was possible if we were really on our game," said the 2009 O'Reilly Spring Nationals winner.
"Then it made a great pass and I knew it was a good run but you never know quite what it ran. As I was coasting off the track my other crew chief Ron Douglas got on the radio and asked me what did you wish for and I said a .07. He said I got it. It was pretty amazing."
Force Hood is racing on the track where she made history last year becoming the first female to win a Funny Car NHRA national event. After today's success she was asked if Atlanta Dragway was a special track for her team.
"I have never been one to really believe in (lucky tracks) because I know in drag racing you can think that all you want but it is different when you are actually out there. All the variables can change from day to day much less from year to year. After did so well today and we had done so well last year maybe there is something to that. I don't know if it is something so simple that you have more confidence because you did well there," said Force Hood. "There are drivers that just have certain tracks that they do great at. Robert (Hight) does great at Auto Club Raceway and he does really well there. There are just certain (tracks) that people do great at and maybe this track is our track."
At the end of the day John Force made a quick appearance in the press room to comment on recent track improvements the NHRA has made at Atlanta Dragway. The 14-time champion and crash survivor was ecstatic about the top end improvement that have been made especially in these tough economic times.
"In this economy with as tough as everything is, with budgets and money in the whole world (it is important to talk about) safety since we lost Eric (Medlen), my crash and Scott Kalitta's (crash) has really become huge. We are starting to see change in safety. Not just with the chassis or the shorter race tracks but I just want to say in a time that people don't want to spend and when I get down to the other end I was really excited and I just want to thank Atlanta Dragway and the NHRA because it takes big bucks to go down there and do what they did. When you go down there and you see a shut off area because I used to be here with a gut ache when my kid was running last year because I knew the situation," said Force.
"The only way we learn is when someone gets hurt. When you go down there and see the big tall fences on both sides. These are rules that NHRA is mandating. The tracks are having to spend their money; their own money to do it. They need to be thanked for that because when you are a driver your life is out there at over 300 mph. When all hell breaks loose you see the parachutes come out on these cars at half track. The only protection you have is the stuff that goes on the car automatically, the fire bottles that can save your life. I really mean that."
He was pleased with his team's performance particularly his daughter Ashley as well as the crowd that she impressed with her last run.
"It is exciting to see her (Ashley's) mother excited. You know what I mean, to see her baby girl out there. The stands were packed today. With this economy even NASCAR isn't filling the stands. We had packed stands today for a Friday. That was big. Our sport has a real chance here."
This is a big weekend for John Force Racing as Ford celebrates the 45th anniversary of the iconic Mustang. All four JFR Mustangs as well as the Mustangs piloted by Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson are racing with commemorative decals on their race cars.
The other two JFR Mustangs did not fare as well as they struggled to tame a tough track at times. Mike Neff and John Medlen were unable to muscle the Ford Drive One Mustang down either lane and Robert Hight made two runs that were also less than stellar. Hight wound up in the provisional No. 12 spot. With two runs tomorrow and seventeen Funny Cars vying for sixteen spots the final day of qualifying at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals will be an exciting one for the fans.
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 2nd at 4.100 seconds, 306.19 mph
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 1st at 4.073 seconds, 310.05 mph
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, AAA Texas Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 12th at 4.244 seconds, 286.68 mph
MIKE NEFF, 41, Drive One Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: Made 17th quickest run at 5.512 seconds, 127.51 mph