TOUGH START TO WESTERN SWING FOR JFR -Racing action suspended following fatal on-track accident- SEATTLE, WA --- The 2010 Western Swing got off to an inauspicious start for John Force Racing today at the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals as...
TOUGH START TO WESTERN SWING FOR JFR
-Racing action suspended following fatal on-track accident-
SEATTLE, WA --- The 2010 Western Swing got off to an inauspicious start for John Force Racing today at the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals as none of the three JFR Ford Mustangs advanced out of the second round. 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion Robert Hight and 2009 Full Throttle championship runner-up Ashley Force Hood raced to the second round before losing to the Don Schumacher owned Funny Cars driven by Jack Beckman and Ron Capps, respectively.
Racing action was suspended when the tragic death of Top Alcohol Dragster driver Mark Niver was confirmed before the Top Fuel and Funny Car finals at the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Niver, 60, a veteran sportsman racer from Phoenix, Ariz., suffered fatal injuries when an apparent malfunction of the braking parachutes sent him into the catch net at Pacific Raceways at an extremely high rate of speed during the semi-finals. Competition subsequently was suspended and the local sound curfew was extended two hours so racing action could be completed.
Earlier in the day 14-time champion John Force dropped a tire smoking pedalfest to Jack Beckman in the opening round when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang crossed the centerline resulting in an immediate disqualification. Before the run Force knew that he could have his hands full since his Mustang was not 100 percent. Ironically, Force was out in front of Beckman and could have possibly coasted across the finish line for the win.
"I knew it had a clutch problem before I ran. I was just going to go up there and do the best I could. I put the top bulb out on Beckman. I was trying everything. We took off and I didn't see him. I didn't know he was having problems so when I smoked the tires I got back in it. I crossed the centerline and Beckman goes to the next round," said the 130-time tour winner.
Even though Force's day ended early he started on a high note when he was recognized as the first Funny Car competitor to clinch a spot in the 2010 Countdown.
"I am glad to be in the Countdown. Someone asked me if I was happy to be in the Countdown and was I going to take it easy now. I told them no way. I am going to try and get as many points as possible. We want to have that top spot going into Indy. That is what we are going to fight for. We want all the points we can get."
Ashley Force Hood was the first JFR driver to hit the track on Sunday morning. She quickly dispatched veteran Gary Densham in the first round. Her 4.128 second pass was her quickest of the weekend and showed that the cool cloudy day at Pacific Raceway could yield impressive runs in the first round. At the top end Force Hood was all smiles to get a round win in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
"That run was really a credit to Ron and Guido. After two days in Seattle tuning for that heat and we get a totally different day today with the clouds and cooler weather. For Castrol, Auto Club, Mac Tools, Ford we are very excited to have a nice clean A to B run. I am sure people will be running better than a 4.12 but I will definitely take it. It is exciting to have Gary Densham back here. He is a good family friend of ours. It is good to beat him. I don't care who is in the other lane we just want to get some runs out here," said Force Hood.
2009 Funny Car world champion Robert Hight defeated journeyman Jeff Diehl in the first round. It was not a dominant Hight performance and Diehl's red-light start threw off the Auto Club Mustang driver giving him a flashback to his last elimination round in Norwalk.
"I had a flashback to Norwalk. I didn't know what happened and then I saw that red lit. I was glad to see that red light this time. We probably had the clutch coming a little too hard for these conditions and we smoked the tires out there in the middle. We really dodged a bullet with this Auto Club Ford Mustang. Jimmy will fix it and we'll be back ready for either Beckman or hopefully Force," said Hight.
Unfortunately for JFR Hight's second round opponent was jack Beckman and Hight smoked the tires and ended his bid for his first Seattle win and a possible run at the Western Swing sweep.
"That was a tough loss. We qualified well and Jimmy has a real good handle on this Auto Club Ford Mustang. We are still in good shape for the Countdown. I am glad there are only three days until we start racing again. I can't wait to get to Sonoma, I'll tell you that. We got some qualifying bonus points this race and we qualified No. 1. We won the first round. Those are all positives. We want to win every round. We'll be ready for Sonoma," said Hight.
Brittany Force also fell in the second round as her BrandSource A Fuel dragster was overpowered by Shawn Cowie. Brittany stepped up with a 5.352 second run at 265.85 mph unfortunately Cowie made the second quickest run of the session an impressive 5.297 seconds at 269.89 mph.
The 2009 Top Alcohol Dragster winner Courtney Force was on the sidelines today after she lost in the first round to Mike Austin. The loss was easily the most eventful run of her young career as her Ford Racing A Fuel Dragster lost its right rear tire just before the finish line, destroying part of the rear wing. Force wrestled the dragster to a stop without hitting the guard wall or crossing over into Austin's lane. It was a universally recognized tremendous driving job by the third year TAD driver.
"I am trying to come back to Seattle and get another win under my belt. I was hoping this was my lucky track but maybe not. We always have fun coming out here and racing. Once I hit the throttle and went down the track I was so close to the finish line and I was trying to get around Mike Austin," said Force." I thought I was coming close and then I thought, 'Man I am having some really bad tire shake.' I let off (the throttle) and I realized my tire was off. I instantly knew my tire had come off. I could smell it. I was tilted sideways in the cockpit of my car and I was just driving it with one arm, getting my chutes out and shutting everything off. I was pulling on the brake to get it stopped as fast as I could. I didn't want to go over into his lane and I didn't want to hit the wall. I was doing the best I could."
Forces dragster was all over her lane but never crossed the center line or came close to the guard wall. It appeared to be totally under control for Force as she battled to avert disaster.
"It pulled it hard once the tire came off. As soon as I realized what happened I pulled it to the left but I didn't want to pull it so hard that it took me into the wall. I know that is something that can easily happen. You have to know how far to turn it before you are headed for the wall. I had to pull it just enough. I am not that great of a driver. I think my instincts took over and I just did what I could. I am just glad no one got hurt," said Force.
By the time the 22 year old Cal State Fullerton Communications major stopped at the top end and hopped out here 14-time championship father and her mother pulled up beside her thanks to a near record setting run on Force' omnipresent scooter.
"I think my dad clocked out the (scooter). The next thing I know I am getting out of the car and he is already down there. I was telling him I was fine. I am fine. My poor mom this is what I get her for her birthday."
"For the seat time we are getting considering we are still in school it is hard. Dad will tell us about tire shake and what happens in an emergency but you can't do anything until you have been through it. Honestly I was waiting for my time. All my sisters and my dad have all had crashes. I just have to know what to do when something goes wrong. I thought that I did."
When a reporter questioned her self-deprecating description of her driving skills Force was quick to clarify.
"I am not horrible I just think that I am not a professional out here. I haven't been doing it for 30 years. I am still new to it. I am still learning. I think everything that I have learned and everything that my dad and sister have taught. It all set in the second I had a problem. I have been around these cars to know so I can imagine what things feel like but you just have to figure it out when it happens as quickly as possible."
The JFR Ford Mustang Funny Cars will be back on the track at Infineon Raceway for the 23rd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals next weekend.