Commerce: John Force Racing Saturday summary

FORCE HOOD HOLDS ONTO TOP SPOT IN ATLANTA; LOOKING TO DEFEND TITLE ATLANTA -- Defending Southern Nationals event champion Ashley Force Hood retained her No. 1 qualifying position heading into tomorrow's eliminations. She made a solid final ...

FORCE HOOD HOLDS ONTO TOP SPOT IN ATLANTA; LOOKING TO DEFEND TITLE

ATLANTA -- Defending Southern Nationals event champion Ashley Force Hood retained her No. 1 qualifying position heading into tomorrow's eliminations. She made a solid final qualifying run and for her efforts she gets 22-time event winner Del Worsham in the first round.

When alerted about her first round opponent the 2009 NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals event winner was less than thrilled.

"I was all excited we got No. 1 and as I am coming into the press room I find out I have Del Worsham in the first round. They have a great team and he is a great driver. That is race day and you know you have to take the hard guys and there are no easy guys in our field. Funny Car is super competitive," said Force Hood. "There is not going to be an easy round all day. It is all going to come down to getting down that track tomorrow."

Force Hood was nearly flawless in qualifying except for her pass in the third qualifying session to start the day. Her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang went up in smoke at about half track and the former high school cheerleader had to muscle her 8000 hp machine back towards the center of the track.

"The groove is, from what I have learned in the last two days, pretty narrow. We watched my video of my third qualifying session. I got outside and went right up in smoke. I thought I was way outside but in the video it was just the teeniest amount that I saw. I was thinking I must have gotten out pretty good but that just goes to show you how narrow it is. You can't make any mistakes. There is no leeway. You have to keep it where it needs to be."

Last year Force Hood made history at the NHRA Southern Nationals as the first female to win a Funny Car title and tomorrow she could become the first female to defend a Funny Car national event win as well as put her Mustang into the winner's circle on it's anniversary weekend.

"This is a big weekend for us with our sponsors, mainly Ford. It is the 45th anniversary of the Mustang. To be able to have the No. 1 and No. 2 spots held by Mustangs. We are pretty excited about that. It is a great way to kick off the race. Hopefully all the Mustangs in the field can do well tomorrow and get one of them in the winner's circle."

Force Hood outpaced her 14-time champion father John Force on Friday but his qualifying time was also good enough to hold up through two more sessions today. Force will race veteran driver Jerry Toliver in the first round.

The other two John Force Racing Mustangs made big performance leaps today. Mike Neff jumped from the 17th position to the top half of the field (No. 8) after he laid down a 4.125 second pass during the final session. It looked like he would be paired with his teammate Robert Hight but fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson moved up to the No. 6 spot and reshuffled the qualifying order.

Neff's John Medlen tuned Ford Drive One sponsored Mustang was off on Friday but came around today. The former off-road racer was pleased with today's performance and is looking forward to Sunday's eliminations.

"We had problems on Friday. The clutch wasn't doing what we wanted to. We changed some stuff around today and fortunately we got it close on the first run today. We were able to step it up some for the last run. We just got behind yesterday but we had a good day today. Definitely getting four sessions in was a big deal for us. We feel good a lot better than yesterday," said Neff.

Robert Hight made steady progress every qualifying session and he moved his Auto Club Ford Mustang into the No. 10 qualifying spot and a head to head match-up with Jack Beckman. Hight was encouraged by the progress his team made but he understands they still have a long way to go to return to the form that had him racing in the finals at Atlanta Dragway three years in a row (2005-2007).

"I think my Auto Club Ford Mustang is definitely tuneable for tomorrow. We are making slow progress. It is still not anywhere near where it needs to be. At least it is going down the track. We are able to tune from it. Testing didn't go so well in Las Vegas but in all honestly there are some things that we tried that we have put out of our mind for now."

"That is one thing great about John Force Racing is we have dynos and everything so we found a problem on the dyno with one of the clutch discs we were running. We have to continuously use those tools since we are not able to test as much. It is paying off. We just have to get this clutch under control then Jimmy will be more comfortable."

When he contemplated his success here he was honest in his evaluation of his chance tomorrow.

"I really don't look at history that much. I look at how we are running going into race day based on how we were qualifying. We can definitely step this thing up to win this race tomorrow. We just have to do it," said the 2007 Southern Nationals event winner.

Final eliminations will begin tomorrow at 11 a.m.

***

JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.100 seconds, 306.19 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jerry Toliver

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.073 seconds, 310.05 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Del Worsham (5-3)

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 10th at 4.144 seconds, 299.60 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jack Beckman (3-4)

MIKE NEFF, 41, Ford Drive One Mustang
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.125 seconds, 303.43 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jim Head (1-0)

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Del Worsham , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Jerry Toliver , Robert Hight , John Medlen , Mike Neff