FORCE HOOD WINS SECOND MAC TOOLS US NATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- When the historians close the book on the driving career of Ashley Force Hood they might look back to the 56th annual Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals as a career turning point.
FORCE HOOD WINS SECOND MAC TOOLS US NATIONALS
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- When the historians close the book on the driving career of Ashley Force Hood they might look back to the 56th annual Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals as a career turning point. Heading into the biggest race of the 2010 Full Throttle season Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang team had struggled for the first seventeen races but they knew that their championship aspirations could turn around with a strong race day. The Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuned Mustang exercised a season of race demons in four rounds of racing culminating in a dominant final round win over 4-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion John Force.
With the win Force Hood won her first race of the 2010 season and fourth of her career. She also solidified her position as a serious threat for the Full Throttle Funny Car championship jumping from 8th place to 4th place in the point standings.
As Force Hood walked to the front of the assembled media at O'Reilly Raceway Park Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Top Fuel champion and veteran driver Larry Dixon paid the fourth year Funny Car driver a tremendous compliment with an impromptu introduction.
"In all the times I have been to Indy there is one thing I have never (done) which is win back-to-back (pause) and up next someone who deserves everything she gets," said the two-time Top Fuel world champion.
"This has just been an amazing day. This win might be bigger than last year's win because we struggled this year. Last year at this point in the season we were on a roll. We had been to finals and we had won some races. We were up high in the points going into the Countdown. This year we have been at the complete other end of the spectrum. We have struggled. We couldn't get past first round or second round," said Force Hood.
"We got into the Countdown in the 8th spot. My team has stayed positive. We were hating the points structure last year but we are loving it this year. You get a second start to your season. We went into this race saying let's put the past behind us. Let's see what we can do here and kick off the Countdown how we want the rest of the season to go. We have had one of those days where we were not on the losing end of the luck thing."
"At one of the races Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) said we are not going to win the championship on luck. We are going to win it on consistency and doing our job from one end of the track to the other. Today we didn't have any luck. We had hard races and tough conditions. We had a consistent good running car. My lights were better than they have been in the past. When you put those two things together you have a really good shot to win. Today was our day."
In the opening round Force Hood dispatched veteran driver and Countdown contender Del Worsham. She then took out Paul Lee and in the semis she faced her former racing instructor Jack Beckman, driver for Don Schumacher Racing. That race for Force Hood was bigger than the final.
"For me personally I think running Jack; that was big for me. He was my teacher back when I was sixteen and I went to Frank Hawley's drag racing school. He taught me in a Super Comp car. He is a good family friend of ours. That Schumacher team is our arch rival and to have him and (Matt) Hagan against me and dad in the semis that is one of those ideal stories. It could have gone either way. It just happened to fall on our side."
Heading into the final versus teammate and father John Force the pressure was lifted off the 27 year old. She knew there was no downside to the outcome of the race.
"The pressure really is off when you run your teammates. When you run them later in the day that is the best. (Teammate) Robert (Hight) and I were able to get to the final last year here and this year it was me and dad. We went up there and we were having fun. The hardest part was the semis. We were so excited to win that round and then to have dad win right behind us was really the final round for our team. We could go up there and whatever happens would happen. We are going to end up 1 and 2 not in the points but in the Indy finish. It is just fun. It takes off all that pressure."
The Force versus Force Hood was the 33rd all John Force Racing final and the second straight all JFR final at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. This was the ninth win at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals for JFR and it is the third year in a row that a JFR driver has won the biggest and most prestigious drag race. John Force Racing has won six of the last nine U.S. Nationals.
In the final John Force launched his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang but it immediately began to slow as Force Hood pulled away from the 14-time Funny Car champion. After a big win in the semi-finals over Matt Hagan when both drivers smoked the tires and muscled their fuel coupes to the finish line Force was surprised by the outcome.
"When we looked at the video replay of the final round, the injector was only part way open. It looked like I wasn't stepping on the gas. It had broken off up at the injector. It was obviously bent on the run before against Hagan, when I had to pedal it (feather the throttle to regain traction)," said Force.
"The car was real weak when it went out there and it just shut off. The cameras showed that the injector that was attached to the throttle was broken. You can see it. It is just one of those things. What was really funny was that it was bent leaving but it would let the injector open (slightly), which is why it was so slow leaving. Then (it) broke off."
The sting of defeat was lessened slightly for the proud father as he recounted the success of his oldest racing daughter.
"I know no woman has ever won two in a row and I don't know if a man has. I think Don Prudhomme has for sure and if you are doing what Prudhomme accomplished that is big. He is my hero. He is the man. I am just proud of her as a driver. I am proud of (co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas. What they have put together is special as team. She had a .061 light against me in the final. Credit goes to that team and to the driver on a day when it needed to get done. If you won no other race Indy is the one to win," said the winningest driver in NHRA history.
Force Hood's crew chiefs gave the team concept all the credit but they did not attribute today's success to anything new the team was doing.
"(Winning Indy) was part of the plan honestly. It doesn't matter if we were in Indy or Charlotte or Dallas whatever the first race of the Countdown was our goal was to win that race. We had a good weekend and a good car. We are very happy," said Ron Douglas
"It is two seasons. It doesn't matter where the win was it just happened to be the grand daddy of them all. We get to go back-to-back and obviously it is an awesome feeling but it is all about the points chase and the Countdown. Our guys have been together all season. It has been a trying season the car has run good she has driven good and we just haven't been able to put it all together. The guys believed in Ron and I as well as Ashley and kept giving us a good Mustang. You can't ask for anything more than that," added Dean Antonelli.
The biggest surprise of the day happened when 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang smoked the tires in their first round match-up with Paul Lee. Hight's Mustang had been arguably the baddest Funny Car of the weekend picking up nine qualifying bonus points. He also had experience on his side racing to the past four Mac Tools U.S. Nationals finals in a row, the second longest streak in U.S. Nationals Funny Car history.
"We had a clutch malfunction and it just got too much clutch. It got a lot of clutch all at once and it couldn't take it. It doesn't make a difference when it happens. A first round loss is a first round loss. It is not good. Points are points. When you add the points up it doesn't matter where you lost first round whether it was the first race the middle race or the last it doesn't matter. All we can do is get ready for Charlotte. I have all the confidence in Jimmy and my guys. We will be ready for Charlotte," said a dejected Hight at the end of the day.
John Force Racing will head to the second race of the Countdown to 1 with three teams in the top five lead by John Force in the No. 1 spot with a 60 point lead (three rounds) over No. 2 driver Jack Beckman. Force Hood holds down the No. 4 spot and Hight is in the No. 5 position. In two weeks the teams will race at Bruton Smith's zMax Dragway in Charlotte with Hight entering the event at the defending champion.