St. Louis: John Force Racing Saturday notes

FORCES LEAD JFR INTO ELIMINATIONS AT NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS MADISON, IL --- Ashley Force Hood on the heels of her second final round appearance of 2009 will join father and team leader John Force as top half of the field qualifiers at the 13th...


MADISON, IL --- Ashley Force Hood on the heels of her second final round appearance of 2009 will join father and team leader John Force as top half of the field qualifiers at the 13th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway (GIR).

Persistent rains cancelled the first day of qualifying at Gateway International Raceway yesterday giving the Nitro Classes only two shots at setting the qualifying order for tomorrow's race. The two time Funny Car winner battled her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang during qualifying today which was a new experience for the 2007 Rookie of the Year when you consider her Mustang was the most consistent Funny Car in Atlanta and has been a stand out performer all season.

"(My Mustang) has been kind of strange for me this weekend. I don't know if I am sitting in it differently or what but it doesn't feel like the same old car. I asked Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) last round if they changed cars on me. Sometimes as a driver things feel differently. It is the same Mustang. It still has Castrol GTX supporting us. We'll try and do our best in the first round tomorrow. I can't believe it is race day already. I am just excited that tomorrow we will get to race," said Force Hood.

By out qualifying Jack Beckman Force Hood picked up on additional point and enters tomorrow's race tied with him for second place in the Full Throttle point standings. Force Hood will square off with Tony Pedregon in the first round. She beat Pedregon in the semi-finals at the Southern Nationals en route to her second final round appearance of 2009.

14-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force lost traction at about 300 feet on his second qualifying effort so his first pass of the day stood as his best time. He still managed to hold onto the number eight qualifying position and will have lane choice over Jack Beckman. The former full-time drag racing instructor defeated his daughter in the final in Atlanta. Beckman is one of a handful of drivers with a winning record against Force at 7-4 and he carries a three race win streak into tomorrow's first round. Of 121 drivers Force has faced only fifteen have a winning record against him.

An even tougher feat for Beckman will be to pick up that fourth win in a row versus the winningest driver in NHRA history. Only three drivers have every won four rounds or more in a row versus the only driver to win 1000 rounds of racing.

Robert Hight racing the AAA Ford Mustang raced to the No. 12 qualified position for the second race in a row. He will face fellow Ford racer Bob Tasca III in the first round for the first time in his career. For the perennial title contender this new found lack of consistency in a new experience. He still has total confidence in his team and crew chief Jimmy Prock though.

"Jimmy Prock has been working hard just like this whole AAA team has. This is definitely not what we wanted here. We are supporting AAA in Missouri. They are a great group. At least we are qualified. I think we will do better tomorrow," said Hight from the top end of GIR. "I keep saying that I know I have so much faith in these guys but we haven't come onto what is going wrong with this Mustang. We aren't going to quit looking. We are going to keep at it until we get on top where we below."

Ford Drive One Mustang driver Mike Neff will face Tim Wilkerson and his Ford Mustang in the first round. The last and only previous time Neff faced Wilkerson at GIR was last year's final round where he narrowly missed picking up his first career win as a driver. The world champion crew chief is on a two race win streak versus the 2008 Funny Car POWERade championship runner-up after dropping the first five meetings. Neff has visited the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals winner's circle in previous years as the crew chief for Gary Scelzi.


JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.170 seconds, 290.32 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jack Beckman (4-7)

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 7th at 4.162 seconds, 294.95 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tony Pedregon (3-6)

ROBERT HIGHT, 39, AAA Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 12th at 4.294 seconds, 244.21 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Bob Tasca III (0-0)

MIKE NEFF, 41, Drive One Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 11th at 4.222 seconds, 271.35 mph
First Round Opponent (W-L): Tim Wilkerson (2-5)

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Bob Tasca III , Mike Neff