ASHLEY FORCE WOWS CHICAGO CROWD WITH PROVISIONAL POLE PERFORMANCE (JOLIET, IL) --- As the air cooled and the sun set at the TORCO Racing Fuels Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., Castrol GTX driver Ashley Force electrified the crowd with a 4.759...
ASHLEY FORCE WOWS CHICAGO CROWD WITH PROVISIONAL POLE PERFORMANCE
(JOLIET, IL) --- As the air cooled and the sun set at the TORCO Racing Fuels Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., Castrol GTX driver Ashley Force electrified the crowd with a 4.759 second run at a booming 329.10 mph. The speed was a career best for the reigning Rookie of the Year and combined with the low ET of the day it has the Yorba Linda, Calif. racer poised to grab another piece of history in her young career.
"We're racers and that speed means something. By far my fastest (speed) by four miles an hour. I haven't had any effects from it (the wind) other than it pushed me around the pit area as you can see by my hairdo going on right now. But, as far as on the track, I couldn't really tell anything. Both lanes seemed good," said Force.
No female has ever qualified No.1 in NHRA Funny Car competition. Adding this record to her resume is not the top priority for the first female to win a Funny Car national event or the first female to hold down the No. 1 position in the Funny Car point standings. Another win and consistency is what Force has her eye on.
"I think it's a matter of time before one of us (Force or Melanie Troxel) is going to get that No. 1 spot, hopefully, because we both have really good teams. It would be nice to do because that would mean that we have a great car for (race day)," said the sophomore driver. "No. 1 qualifier or breaking records for females or whatever, when it comes down to it, we're here to win a race. If you go into race day with good qualifying laps then you just know you've got a better chance of winning."
Team leader and most recent winner 14-time champion John Force used the improved conditions of the second qualifying session to make a dramatic move up the qualifying ladder landing in the No. 5 spot. At the end of the day he was happy to be in the show but his fatherly pride on Ashley's performance was the most noticeable.
"Anytime a woman can be on the top of the heap of the men that is great. Ashley running that 4.75 was awesome for Castrol and Ford. I'm fifth and that has us in good shape unless someone really steps up tomorrow," said the driver who has won 126 national events and at least one Funny Car race each of the last 22 seasons. "With the way it will be in the middle of the day that shouldn't happen. Robert (Hight) is in at 11th. We just have one car Mike Neff and Old Spice to get in and they'll do it. It was a good day."
Auto Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight was in the No. 1 position at the end of the first session with a strong 4.850 run. That run was the only run quick enough to hold up from the first session and it had him sitting in the No. 11 qualifying slot going into the final day of qualifying. Last year Hight was unable to get into the top 16 and was forced to watch the race on Sunday from the side line.
In the second session Hight's Ford Mustang made an uncharacteristic move to the right that had the 2005 Rookie of the Year and former JFR crewman scratching his head.
"That second run was just a strange, strange run. It was like the rear end came over. It just kept going that way (right) it went so amazingly fast out of the groove. There was something strange," said Hight. "We checked the diameter of the tires and they were the same. Maybe one had more traction. I'm not talking a little outside it was out of control."
Rookie sensation Mike Neff and the Old Spice team continued to struggle but Neff feels they will be able to pull together and get into the show tomorrow. They weren't able to take advantage of the cooler temperatures but they are looking at taking advantage of the new qualifying rules tomorrow.
"We did the normal set-up we have when it is a night qualifying session. The conditions were better and we weren't trying to get crazy or anything," said the front runner for 2008 Rookie of the Year honors. "We just didn't have enough traction that we thought it would. The plan for tomorrow is to be the quickest of the other cars. I feel good about it. It was running on all eight. We should be able to rip right down there tomorrow."
The youngest Force racer on the property Courtney Force made a late night run in her BrandSource A Fuel dragster but she was unable to move up with one more qualifying session tomorrow she is looking for continued success in her development as a driver. Her BrandSource A Fueler once again immediately began mixing up cylinders as soon as the car launched.
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 5th at 4.783 seconds, 319.22 mph
Quotable: "Ashley running that 4.75 was awesome for Castrol and Ford. I'm fifth and that has us in good shape unless someone really steps up tomorrow. With the way it will be in the middle of the day that shouldn't happen."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 1st at 4.759 seconds, 329.10 mph
Quotable: ""Dad was so pumped up. He's hit those speeds before. It's exciting when things fall into place and we were able to take advantage of the evening session, the good temperatures, the great track. To take advantage of this great opportunity and do something with it, there's no better feeling and he knows that."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 11th at 4.850 seconds, 293.54 mph
Quotable: "As soon as I launched the car went really right. I had the thing turned and as soon as it came back it blew the tires off. I have no idea what happened. I thought I had a cylinder out it pulled so hard. It immediately went right and it never ever does that."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 19th quickest run of day at 5.267 seconds, 205.44 mph
Quotable: "It was on a really good run during the first session and I think it would have been low of the session but it shook the tires loose. We should be able to rip right down there tomorrow." --
COURTNEY FORCE, 19, BrandSource A Fuel Dragster Friday Qualifying: 27th at 5.724 seconds, 248.43 mph.