ASHLEY FORCE HOOD PROVISIONAL NO.1 AT READING -Mustang Swap Works on Day One, Hight No. 2- READING, PA --- On a day when the weather kept everyone waiting and restless, John Force Racing came out of the gate like a herd of wild Mustangs that had...
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD PROVISIONAL NO.1 AT READING
-Mustang Swap Works on Day One, Hight No. 2-
READING, PA --- On a day when the weather kept everyone waiting and restless, John Force Racing came out of the gate like a herd of wild Mustangs that had been cooped up for too long at the 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals. On a cool Maple Grove Raceway track Ashley Force Hood bested her brother-in-law Robert Hight to grab the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot at a critical juncture in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
Robert Hight piloting an Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly tuned Auto Club Ford Mustang raced to the top of the pack with an impressive 4.137 second pass at 293.66 mph at the beginning of the session. An emotionally charged Hight raved at the top end after his first pass but was also cautiously optimistic that his former crew chief was up the task with team leader John Force.
"I feel like a brand new driver with all the pressure and just wanting to get up there and do a good job for AAA. We know Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly) and they can make a car go down the track. I'll tell you what though we have to watch ole Jimmy Prock because he is coming behind us and we definitely know he can play hardball," said Hight. "It has been a long time since I have looked out the window and not seen Jimmy but I'll tell you what it is cool to look out see a 16-time champ like Austin Coil too."
As the session came to a close Hight was still on the top of the leader board until his sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Mustang blasted to the top of the pack with an impressive 4.114 second run at a top speed of 301.47 mph. Force Hood was battling the elements, starting with a blurry burnout thanks to dropping temperatures and a foggy windshield.
"I have had problems with my visor (fogging) before but I have never had any problems with my windshield. That was the issue on that run. Fortunately it wasn't dark yet. (My team) put down the body for the burn out and it looked like you smeared gel on the windshield. That is a really uncomfortable feeling to have in a 300 mph race car," said Force Hood.
"I got on the radio and I was telling them about it as I was backing up. It just throws in a bunch more distractions from your normal routine. I thought I hadn't backed up right. I was looking at what was one the windshield and (my crew guys) were all trying to clean it. It was one of those fiasco runs. I didn't know how it was going to turnout. I felt safe but not as comfortable as I usually do. Robert (Hight) said he had the same issue."
The run was a huge boost for the young driver considering there were a number of distractions in the John Force Racing camp this weekend. Most of the discussion centered around the car swap of 14-time champion John Force and perennial championship contender Robert Hight. Force Hood and her team able to block that out and make the best run of the day.
"For the team and the crew guys to just get back to work was good. We all want to do the best that we can do. You don't want to get distracted and get into all the other stuff. When it comes down to it you just want to go out on the track and not lose one round," said the 2007 rookie of the year. "We are out there trying to move up into the number one spot. With everything else that is going on in the category it is nice that my team can go into our cocoon and work on what we do. That is the best part off drag racing is there is always something going on."
Team leader John Force was pleased with the results from all four of his teams. He knew that he was making a risky but strategic decision when he stepped out of his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and moved Hight over to his team.
"You have to have confidence in your people. I have always believed in Jimmy Prock and I have always believed in Austin Coil. We made the switch mainly because of the Countdown. Coil's car was a little better but Prock was right there. At the end of the day we just put an old guy like me with the young guys just to shake it up a little with Jimmy. We put a young guy like Robert with an older guy like Austin. We just wanted to see what change would do," said the winningest driver in NHRA history.
"Sometimes (to change) attitudes and being aggressive you have to do something when you get in a rut. We made a change and so far so good. It is too early to tell but all four of my Mustangs ran good. Mike Neff is right outside the top half. Ashley was low and Robert was right with her. We are doing the best we can for Castrol, Ford, and Auto Club. I am excited about today. You never know if you make a change if it is going to hurt you. It hasn't hurt us yet. I don't want to hurt this team by making some decision."
The only driver to win 1,000 rounds of racing, 999 of them with Austin Coil, was nostalgic as he looked out the windshield for the first time in almost 25 years to see someone besides Coil making the final adjustments to his race car.
"It was kind of sad. I am with Austin and I'll go back to Austin and Bernie. They are who I will finish my career with. This is just for right now. When the countdown starts I'll be back with Austin and Bernie," said Force.