FORCE HOOD No. 1 AT ATLANTA; HIGHT CHARGING AT No. 2
COMMERCE, GA — Ashley Force Hood held onto the No. 1 qualifying spot, the 10th of her career, at Atlanta Dragway as temperatures soared today. While she will go into eliminations at the 30th annual Summit Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals as the performance leader it might be teammate and No. 2 qualifier Robert Hight who is considered the favorite. Hight made the second quickest run of the morning session and just missed a monster run in the final session according to the 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car champion.
“It was on a run on that last run. It could have run a mid-teen. It had the best split of anybody even Ashley’s 4.10. It was clean from the 60 ft. (timer) to 330 ft. (timer) shortly thereafter it disconnected. It was just right on the edge. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock changed a few things even from St. Louis and it is making it better. We can make finer adjustments,” said Hight.
Hight recorded top two qualifying runs in three of the four qualifying sessions. For a driver who so far this season has been hit or miss by his own admission in qualifying the strong showing gave his team a much needed boost in confidence.
“It is exciting to see his confidence and our team’s confidence. We haven’t been that consistent in qualifying yet this year to go down in the top three on three of the four sessions. That last run was so close to going and it was fast. We were a little over two hundredths quicker than anybody to the 330. It was edgy though. I knew it was skating around a little bit. It was right on the edge. I was doing my best to keep it in the groove. When it is like that you just have to finesse this thing going down the track even though funny cars are hard to finesse. You can go fast in these conditions.”
The most recent national event winner knows that people will be watching to see what kind of number the Auto Club Mustang can put up tomorrow in the first round against Melanie Troxel. A solid effort could force the tuning hands of the rest of the drivers he will face as the day goes on.
“The other guys can look at what we are running and it is going to make them push. If that would have stuck there that would have been unbelievable for a mental advantage tomorrow. That thing could have gone out there and run a 4.17 or so and that would have crushed them. I think we do have a little advantage. Some of the other runs when it ran 4.17 this morning and both runs yesterday we left a lot on the table. Jimmy is just trying to see what he can get away with,” said the 15-time national event winner.
For Hight to have that much confidence does not bode well for the rest of the competition and on the other side of the qualifying ladder is the No. 1 qualifier and championship runner-up Ashley Force Hood. She is also brimming with confidence as a back-to-back finalist at Atlanta Dragway and the 2008 Southern Nationals winner.
“(Atlanta Dragway) is definitely one of the tracks that for whatever reason we have done really well. It is a tricky track. It is surprising based on all the events that this would be one that we would be so good at. My tuners (co-crew chiefs) Ron (Douglas) and Guido (Dean Antonelli) seem to have it figured out. We do well when we come here. Even when we struggle we manage to do well. I hope we can continue that this weekend I think even though we are no. 1 our other runs not making it down I don’t know how much they were testing. Hopefully we can get the car set up tomorrow to go A to B,” said Force Hood.
For her efforts Ashley Force Hood will race journeyman Jeff Diehl for the third time in four races in the opening round of eliminations. Just as important as round wins for the 2007 Rookie of the Year are the bonus points and qualifying points as the top positions from 2-5 are separated by only two points.
“We gained a few points and that is really what we are looking at this weekend. We haven’t run that great we only made it down that one pass but luckily it was that night session and we ran quick enough to get the no. 1 spot. We’ll see what tomorrow brings it should be interesting,” said Force Hood who sits in 5th place two points back from 2nd place.
JFR team leader and NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car points leader John Force struggled in qualifying for the first three session but the champ came out swinging in the final stanza. His Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang recorded the quickest time of the fourth qualifying session running 4.229 seconds. He picked up three valuable qualifying bonus points for his efforts and most importantly he jumped to the No. 9 qualifying position and will race Bob Bode in the first round. Force is 5-0 versus Bode and will race him for the third time in the first round this season.
Force will have extra motivation on race day considering his 25th anniversary Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang will feature visible support from one of his strongest long distance fans. Force’s granddaughter Autumn Hight designed an “Autumn’s Papa Lives Here” yard sign but then realized that Force rarely spends time at his Yorba Linda condo. Force had the sign turned into a decal at Autumn’s request and it adorns his race car behind the side window.
“Autumn asked me to put the sign in my yard in Yorba Linda and of course I said I would do that for her. I’ll do anything for my granddaughter. Then she got kind of sad when she realized I am hardly ever there and she asked me if I could put it on my race car since that is really where I live. That kid is so smart. I just had to do it. Ashley helped get the decal made and we put it on my Mustang right before it left our Brownsburg shop,” said Force.
It was also a stellar qualifying performance for the John Force Racing developed BOSS 500 motor. In three of the four sessions it powered the quickest runs. In carried Hight to the quickest run of the first session, motor customer and fellow Ford racer Bob Tasca III to the quickest run of the third session and Force to the quickest run of the last session. Hight was also the second quickest in the second and third qualifying sessions.
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JOHN FORCE, 61, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 9th with a 4.229 at 291.45 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q4)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Bob Bode (5-0)
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 27, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Friday Qualifying: 1st with a 4.104 at 304.60 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q2)
First Round Opponent (W-L): Jeff Diehl (2-0)
Quotable: “Our car runs good in the heat so hopefully tomorrow we can just go A to B. Even if you are not running fast but you are going A to B you have a really good shot at doing well at the event.” – ASHLEY FORCE HOOD