Gainesville: John Force Racing Saturday report

HIGHT NO. 2 AT TIRE KINGDOM GATORNATIONALS -John Force Racing Grabs Three of Top Six Qualifying Spots- GAINESVILLE --- A huge crowd filled historic Gainesville Raceway on a sunny and partly cloudy day creating the kind of atmosphere that has ...

-John Force Racing Grabs Three of Top Six Qualifying Spots-

GAINESVILLE --- A huge crowd filled historic Gainesville Raceway on a sunny and partly cloudy day creating the kind of atmosphere that has make this a signature event on the Full Throttle Drag Racing tour. The fans on hand were treated to one of the most exciting days of racing in the young 2010 season. In the first session Ashley Force Hood led the Funny Car class with another solid 4.093 second pass and the final qualifying session saw the kind of performance numbers that kept the fans in the edge of their seats.

When the shuffling was done Robert Hight still had the quickest run of the weekend but young Matt Hagan equaled Hight's elapsed time, 4.060 seconds, but he surpassed Hight on miles per hour (313.58 mph to 310.13 mph) to get the No. 1 qualifying spot. Ashley Force Hood wound up No. 5 and Full Throttle points leader John Force will start the day from the No. 6 spot.

Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang were the most consistent Funny Car of qualifying running 4.093, 4.093 and then 4.081. That kind of consistency gives the 27 year-old driver a lot of confidence going into eliminations.

"All of our runs have been in the 4.0s. We ran two 4.09s and then a 4.08. Our consistency has been right on. That is what we are going for. We weren't the quickest but I think we were one of the most consistent. I haven't seen everyone times but we feel pretty good going into tomorrow. If we can keep making runs like that I think we have a pretty good shot at going some rounds," said the 2006 Gatornationals Top Alcohol Dragster winner.

Force Hood has won the prestigious Mac Tools US Nationals in both Top Alcohol Dragster and Nitro Funny Car. A win tomorrow for Force Hood would give her a unique double double adding a Nitro Funny Car Gatornationals "Wally" to her trophy case alongside her TAD Wally from the storied event. The 2007 Rookie of the Year knows that past success is no guarantee of future performance but she feels the previous wins do give her a slight mental edge.

"We've had good memories here in the winner's circle. You can picture that it could happen again because you have been there before. The car doesn't know anything about winning here obviously and we still have to do everything right. I do think for whatever reason in your subconscious it does give you a little better feeling that maybe you have a little bit of an advantage because we have done it here before. It is possible. It is still a whole different ball game in the Funny Car versus my A Fuel Dragster," said Force Hood.

"You want to win every event. It is nice when you can win ones that are kind of big for a region. This is a huge race for the East Coast since they haven't had a race out here for many, many months," said the two-time Gatornationals finalist (2005 and 2006). "This is the first time the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series gets over here in 2010. There is a really good fan turnout and the weather was great today. Tomorrow would be a great day if we can end up in the winner's circle."

If Force Hood wants to get another historic win she is going to have to overpower Melanie Troxel in the first round for the second race in a row. In the first round of the NHRA Arizona Nationals Force Hood defeated Troxel to even her career record at 1-1 versus the only other female driver in the category.

As much as Force Hood wants to get her second win at the Gatornationals, 2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight is even hungrier for his first Gatornationals win. Hight was the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday night and no one ran quicker than him on Saturday but Matt Hagan bested his mile per hour speed and moved around him on the qualifying ladder. Dropping back a spot was not part of Hight's plan but the champ looked at the bright side going into eliminations.

"Being No. 1 isn't a guarantee. Hagan got us by speed. We were No. 1 in Pomona and lost first round. No matter where you are at you have to win rounds. We'll go up there and do our best. Hopefully we'll go a bunch of rounds tomorrow," said Hight.

"This is one I want to win and we are going to do everything we can to get the win. My lights (reaction time) have been awesome. I had the best light in that last session," said the 14-time national event winner. "There was nobody else under a .100. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) says the car is reacting really. All my lights have been good. In the first round you aren't thinking you go up there relaxed, you get staged, and hopefully you win and get lane choice. You don't worry you just go up there and go through your routine."

In the last session Hight watched as Hagan moved around him and moments later his Auto Club Ford Mustang was on a monster run until just past half track.

"It was on a good run. It got slowed down bad by the rear end. It ate a rear end out of it. You can see it on the G meter. I told Jimmy that through the middle it was pulling and I thought, 'Here we go.' Then it slowed down and had a lot of drag. When the chutes went out it started hopping and skipping past the finish line. We ran two 4.0s and we are No. 2 qualifier. We are right up where we are supposed to be," said Hight.

Team leader John Force has the eye of the tiger and that could spell doom for his two teammates. The seven-time Gatornationals winner wants to continue his strong start. Force has two final round appearances in the first two races including a win at the 50th annual NHRA Winternationals. The attitude throughout his pit has ramped up with the addition of Mike Neff to crew chief mix of Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly.

"Our style is different now. We used to be laid back and get the job done by being consistent. We'd stay in the show and get in the Countdown. This Mustang wants to run hungry every round. I am hungry too," said Force. "That is the way Jimmy Prock runs his Auto Club Mustang. That is the way Guido (Antonelli) and Ron (Douglas) run Ashley's Castrol Mustang. Me and (Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) just had a different approach. We have always been about consistency and getting us wins. The competition is too tight now. You can't just be consistent you have to beat them. You have to out run them," said Force.

In the first round Force will face veteran Bob Bode. Bode a journeyman racer on the Full Throttle Drag Racing tour is not a driver anyone can take lightly. The winningest driver in NHRA history knows he will need to be on top of his game on Sunday morning.

"He (Bode) is a very talented guy. We have to gobble up rounds to stay on top of this thing. All three of our Ford Mustangs are running good," said Force. "I'd like to say congratulations to the DieHard team with John Medlen over there. They got low ET. That is a good race car too. It will only get better but so will we. John Medlen knows that we love him. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

Earlier in the day, Hagan's Don Schumacher Racing-owned team announced that former John Force Racing crew chief John Medlen had joined his team and would be working alongside Tommy DeLago as co-crew chief.

John Force told Attitude's that, "John Medlen is the man who gives you more than a day's worth of work. He lives it. He's sacrificed more than anyone. John and his son saved my life. I didn't want to lose him and I tried hard to keep him. John Medlen had his reasons. He's still my friend and I will hug him, regardless of who he is with. I will tell them they have got a good man."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Bob Bode , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Austin Coil , John Medlen