ASHLEY FORCE NO. 1 AT SONOMA -Ashley Grabs First Career Top Spot, All Four JFR Mustangs Race on Sunday- (SONOMA, CA) --- As qualifying concluded at the 21st FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals Ashley Force made a little more history in her young ...
ASHLEY FORCE NO. 1 AT SONOMA
-Ashley Grabs First Career Top Spot, All Four JFR Mustangs Race on Sunday-
(SONOMA, CA) --- As qualifying concluded at the 21st FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals Ashley Force made a little more history in her young career grabbing her first No. 1 qualifying spot and the 200th overall for John Force Racing.
"The conditions weren't quite there (to improve). Friday night, that was the time to do. But you never know in drag racing, anything can happen. I just wanted to finish the round and then celebrate and be happy about No. 1," said the reigning Rookie of the Year.
The sophomore Funny Car driver made the quickest run on Friday night and backed that performance advantage up making the quickest run each qualifying session on Saturday. Her Castrol GTX team was rewarded with the Full Throttle Award, which is presented each race to one team per professional category that runs with the most consistency and highest performance during qualifying.
"I already knew I had a great team but it really shows that it's not a fluke that you made it down the track one time in good conditions. I think most people would agree that they'd rather get four good runs down the track than one awesome run and three where you had problems," said Force. "On race day, if you have a car that's gone A to B every qualifying run, you know you've got a good chance. It gives you that much more confidence on Sunday."
Ashley was not the only person to immediately benefit from her No. 1 qualifying effort. Pauline Hann of Vacaville, Calif., won a drawing through Team Force sponsor BrandSource which awards a brand new Whirlpool washer and dryer to a lucky fan if a member of the John Force Racing family is the No. 1 qualifier.
While Ashley's No. 1 qualifying position was never in jeopardy due to higher temperatures on Saturday there was more than enough drama in the Old Spice pits as Mike Neff and his team were sitting on the outside of the sixteen car field when their Ford Mustang pulled up to the starting line.
The front runner for the 2008 Rookie of the Year honors and a legitimate title contender knew that a DNQ would doom his chances of make improvement with only three races left before the Countdown.
"That run was huge. The pressure was intense. Nothing could go wrong on that run. We had to make a really good run to make sure we got in the show and keep trying to rack up those points. There was a lot of pressure right there."
Getting one more solid run under his belt also gave the former world champion crew chief additional confidence heading into eliminations.
"I really do feel confident about that run because we were having some trouble when the track was hot," said Neff. "We tried something different and it really looked good. I really do feel good about that run."
Team leader John Force took a number of positives from the outcome today especially in light of the fact it was just one week ago his Castrol GTX High Mileage team was the 17th quickest car in a sixteen car field. He understands more than any driver in the NHRA that this is a performance based business and with four Funny Car teams and three high profile sponsors the pressure to succeed in this economy is intense
"It's important to get all four cars in. That is what Ford, Castrol, Old Spice and Auto Club pay us to do. We've worked really hard with Old Spice to build that program for 2009. They just made a big investment in NASCAR with Tony Stewart so they are spending money," said the only driver to have won 1,000 rounds."It is very important that we deliver and putting our Old Spice car in the show and giving it a shot at the championship that is what they pay us to do. That is what will help our program go longer."
Once again he was able to witness a milestone for his daughter Ashley and the defending event champion was happy to see her continued success and the development of her team.
"She set a milestone right there. I'm excited about that. I'm just very proud of her to drive her car. They made a lot of changes. Last week she was having trouble staying in the groove and whatever they did in the cockpit worked because this weekend she was driving it straight down the race track every day."
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team were unable to improve on their time from the first session on Friday but that run was good enough to position them 11th. Hight knows that there was a benefit to getting down the track on Friday as well as one last time on Saturday afternoon but he laments the missed opportunity which cost him a run last night.
"We missed a great chance to run a low ET on Friday night which was disappointing. I am happy that Ashley got the No. 1 qualifying position. To get four cars in the show just shows you how competitive we are here at John Force Racing," said the fastest Funny Car driver to win 100 rounds. "Anyone of us could win the race tomorrow. I know my Auto Club Ford Mustang will be ready and I'll be ready too. This is a great facility and I'd like to go some rounds to try and get that number one position in points."
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 4th at 4.119 seconds, 298.80 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jack Beckman (4-4)
Quotable: "I feel very confident. I've raced here for years. I've done well at this race track. If we can win it because of Eric Medlen at his home track that would just be icing on the cake. We are just going to give it our best shot in the heat."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 1st at 4.096 seconds, 301.60 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tommy Johnson, Jr. (2-1)
Quotable: "Today we were able to push it a little more and the track seemed to take it. I really don't have anything to do with the tuning but somehow Guido and Ron tune the car. They'll probably just set it up like today."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 11th at 4.194 seconds, 298.57 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Del Worsham (10-4)
Quotable: "Anyone of us could win the race tomorrow. I know my Auto Club Ford Mustang will be ready and I'll be ready too. This is a great facility and I'd like to go some rounds to try and get that number one position in points."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Saturday Qualifying: 14th at 4.238 290.51 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Cruz Pedregon (0-1)
Quotable: "I really do feel confident about that run because we were having some trouble when the track was hot. We tried something different and it really looked good. I really do feel good about that run."
COURTNEY FORCE, 20, BrandSource Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying: 10th at 5.583 seconds, 258.47 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Brandon Johnson (0-0)
Race Results: Lost to Brandon Johnson.