FULL FORCE EFFORT AT ST LOUIS (ST LOUIS) --- Castrol GTX driver Ashley Force continued her dominant ways today at Gateway International Raceway. Both of her qualifying runs -- one in each lane -- were nearly flawless and kept her right at the...
FULL FORCE EFFORT AT ST LOUIS
(ST LOUIS) --- Castrol GTX driver Ashley Force continued her dominant ways today at Gateway International Raceway. Both of her qualifying runs -- one in each lane -- were nearly flawless and kept her right at the top of another strong Funny Car field.
After the firsts session Force was in the No. 2 position and she slipped one spot in the second session when fellow female flopper driver Melanie Troxel out distanced her in a spectacular side by side match-up. Getting two good runs back to back on the heels of her first win has given the sophomore driver a big boost in confidence heading into Saturday.
"We are excited with both our runs today. Usually our pattern has seemed to be our first run on Friday isn't that great and then we step it up. To get a great run in the first session today and wind up No. 2 and then to get another great run in the other lane gives us a lot of confidence. The guys were excited and I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said the 2007 Rookie of the Year. "We are pretty secure in the field so that gives Guido and Ron (crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) the chance to be more daring if they want. If we smoke the tires we still have another shot and we should still be in good shape."
Team leader John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang team took a much more aggressive approach to the second session and unfortunately the gamble did not pay off as the 14-time champion smoked the tires to wrap up his first day of qualifying.
"We just amped up my Castrol Mustang for that second run and it wouldn't go for us. The conditions were changing really fast and we just didn't get it exactly right," said the winningest driver in NHRA history."
The Castrol GTX High Mileage team had made an impressive run in the first session and it was strong enough to keep the 1996 Driver of the Year in the critical Top 12 as he races for his 1,000th round win on Sunday.
"We are excited to be in the show and racing with AAA Missouri on our hot rod. Ashley is doing good and Mike Neff is in the show. Robert and Auto Club will be all right. We'll go out and get them tomorrow," added Force.
Rookie of the Year contender Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang made a major move up the ladder jumping from 17th to 11th after two rounds of qualifying. Neff is trying to keep his qualifying streak - currently a team leading eight straight events -- alive.
"The second session was better but not as good as we wanted. It was on a lot better run than that. I felt something down there and I lifted," said the former world champion crew chief turned driver. "It felt like it quit pulling and it kind of started to nose over and I lifted. We brought it back and looked at the computer but it looked OK. It wasn't perfect but I think I should have stayed with it."
"With the conditions improving tomorrow I think we can step it up. Everything is running good and I think I might have been a little gun shy because of what happened in Atlanta. I'll stay in it next time for sure."
Unfortunately Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang are on the outside looking in at the top twelve qualified Funny Cars. His first run of the day was quick enough to stand as the 13th quickest at 4.897 seconds, 302.28 mph but in the second run his fuel coupe experienced a near instantaneous explosion after it launched and he was unable to improve his performance.
The new qualifying structure for the professional classes will put pressure on Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock to have one of the four quickest runs during Saturday's final two qualifying runs.
"With cooler temperatures tomorrow we should be fine. You still have to go out there and not shake. There are lots of things that can go wrong so we have to better than the guys thirteen down. You could go to the No. 1 spot tomorrow," said the owner of the two quickest runs in Funny Car history. "We aren't in any position to try that but we also can't be scared because we'll shake. If the weather forecast is right the track is going to be better, the air conditions will be better, and the motor will be zippier so we have to get after it."
JOHN FORCE, 58. Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 10th at 4.869 seconds, 306.19 mph
Quotable: "We just amped up my Castrol Mustang for that second run and it wouldn't go for us. We are excited to be in the show and racing with AAA Missouri on our hot rod. Ashley is doing good and Mike Neff is in the show. We'll go out and get them tomorrow."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 3rd at 4.813 seconds, 321.04 mph
Quotable: "The guys were excited and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We are pretty secure on the field so that gives Guido and Ron the chance to be more daring if they want."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: Ran 13th quickest run of day at 4.897 seconds, 302.28 mph
Quotable: "I feel bad for the fans and the racers behind us that we oiled it. We are going to throw it on a AAA truck and it fixed."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 11th at 4.882 seconds, 272.01 mph
Quotable: "With the conditions improving tomorrow I think we can step it up. Everything is running good and I think I might have been a little gun shy because of what happened in Atlanta (first round explosion). I'll stay in it next time for sure."