FORCE HOOD BATTLES LONG DAY TO HOLD ONTO NO. 1 LAS VEGAS, NV -- In a day that could only be described as excruciating Ashley Force Hood held onto the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 10th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. The Strip at Las Vegas ...
FORCE HOOD BATTLES LONG DAY TO HOLD ONTO NO. 1
LAS VEGAS, NV -- In a day that could only be described as excruciating Ashley Force Hood held onto the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 10th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is recognized as one of the premier racing surfaces in the country, turning out record times but today track clean up vehicles got equal time as the 300 mph Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars. An unbelievable amount of oil downs extended the first nitro qualify session to over four hours. The second session was delayed for almost two hours by persistent oil downs and a spectacular accident by Funny Car driver Jeff Diehl.
At the end of the day Force Hood and her Queen of Hearts Castrol GTX Ford Mustang were able to rise to the occasion and grab her 14th career No. 1 qualifier which ties her with Chuck Etchells for 10th all-time in the Funny Car class. She also has the second most No. 1s for any female professional. The delays taxed everyone's patience.
"I was most nervous because I did not know what the conditions earlier would do. We were hoping for a little delay to get to run in that cool temperature. Then we were really, really delayed and I was worried if it was getting too cold. You hate to wait all that time and then go ten feet on your run. I was really excited because I knew it was on a really good run," said Force Hood of her final run.
"I am surprised that more cars did not step up and run quicker. I really think it was up to the tuners to figure this race track and these conditions out. That is a long time to wait and the conditions were changing. I was really proud of my team the in spite of all those distractions and issues we still managed to have a really good run tonight."
The innumerable delays forced all the teams to get creative and a bit mischievous to fill the time.
"I stole a Goodyear banner of the fence for (Top Alcohol Dragster tuner) Jerry Darien. We just tried to have fun back there in the pits. It was such a long delay that we were back there so far in the lanes we just had to keep ourselves busy and entertained. My sisters were in the car. It was way too long a time for our group to be serious. We told jokes and played some pranks," confessed Force Hood.
"I came out to watch Robert (Hight) of course. To see that pair was really upsetting on both ends. To see Robert not make the show and then to see Diehl's accident was scary and I am so glad he is OK. I have never been in this long of a session. You get past the point of being worried about it. It is what it is and I am glad a handful of fans stuck it out and watched until the end. I was just glad we made a good pass that was worth waiting around for. It made it worth the wait."
In the media center Force Hood recognized the unsung heroes of the day, the track workers.
"The people that work on the Safety Safari and keep the track up are out there working when we are back in the pits having down time. They are out there working during the other categories. It is just amazing. It seems like these last few races we have put them through so crap. It seems like between the weather and then the on track incidents it is like they never get a break. They did a great job to have the final two pairs have two cars run right down there no problem. It showed that this was a perfectly good track in spite of all those obstacles."
As the No. 1 qualifier Force Hood won Michelle Scharrer of Henderson, Nevada, a Whirlpool washer and dryer set through the BrandSource sponsored Win with Force promotion. If Force Hood or John Force wins the race tomorrow another fan would win a 52" Mitsubishi flat screen TV.
While Force Hood was blazing a trail at the top of the qualifying standings picking up six qualifying bonus points and moving within 33 points (less than two rounds of racing) of Jack Beckman her father was also gobbling up his fair share of bonus points in an effort to make up rounds on points leader Matt Hagan.
John Force entered the event 64 points behind Hagan or the equivalent of four rounds of racing. The points he earned as the No. 2 qualifier along with his five qualifying bonus points moved him within 57 points or three rounds of racing. Going into race day Force is up for the challenge.
"You have to win rounds. The guys here (crew chiefs Mike) Neff,(Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) gave me a good race car. We'll just see what happens. We got some bonus points and every point makes you feel more positive. We'll go out here and see what happens," said Force.
"You are supposed to be excited about race day. That is what it is all about. That is why we do this. I am going to get up tomorrow and get hopped up. I'll get a good night's sleep and we'll see if our race car can run like it did today. It made a couple good runs but this has been an up and down race track all weekend. At the end of the day this builds a little confidence but we have a long ways to go. (Matt) Hagan is a good racer and he has a great team with good financial backing. He is ahead now so he has to stay secure and we can run. We'll see what happens."
In a terrible turn of events Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang smoked the tires both runs today and he wound up with the 19th quickest time and will not be racing on Sunday. This DNQ essentially ends the 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champions bid to repeat. This was Hight's lone DNQ of 2010 and only the 6th of his career.