Friday, August 28, 2009

Force Hood back on track

Five days after her car exploded at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Ashley Force Hood was back on the track, testing and preparing for the National Hot Rod Assn. U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend.
The U.S. Nationals are the last race before the NHRA playoffs begin. The Countdown to One kicks off at zMax Dragway in North Carolina on Sept. 17.
Force Hood is one of three drivers from John Force Racing already qualified for the Countdown.
However, in the races at Reading, her car blew up in the qualifying rounds and led to an early exit in the elimination rounds. She was the No. 1 qualifier at Reading, but her team spent most the final round preparing her back-up car after her primary car exploded.
The entire John Force Racing team was testing Thursday at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis in preparation for the U.S. Nationals, which begin Sept. 2.
“Our entire team feels great that we were able to get some laps on this new Mustang,” said Force Hood, who is in third place in the NHRA funny car standings. “I wasn’t too fond of the car after changing to it for one round in Reading, but I feel 100 percent more comfortable after testing. It’s great to go into an event, especially the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, after such a positive test day. I think the most important thing is the quality of runs we had with the new car, I know myself and my team feel a little more prepared and confident going into the weekend.”

Photo: Ashely Force Hood is in third place in the NHRA funny car standings heading into the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Teammates John Force, Force Hood’s father, and Mike Neff are in the top 10 in the funny car standings. The top-10 drivers will qualify for the Countdown.
Robert Hight is the only John Force Racing driver outside the top 10. He is in 12th place, 38 points behind Cruz Pedregon, the 10th place driver in the funny car standings.
Hight was the second-fastest driver in testing in Indianapolis, but smoked his tires during one of his runs. For the second race in a row, Hight will have Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly tuning his car. The team made a change in crew after the races at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
“We won’t press so hard next week, and had we not done that (smoked the tires) we might have pressed it that hard during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and smoked the tire there instead,” Hight said. “So we’re way ahead. Already in the six runs we made, Austin feels that it’s shown more promise and that it responds to what he does better than it has all year.”
Hight will have to leap frog Matt Hagan from Don Schumacher Racing and hope Pedregon has an off day at Indianapolis to qualify for the Countdown.
The races for the last Countdown spots are even tighter in the top fuel, pro stock and pro stock motorcycle divisions.
Joe Hartley is three points behind Clay Millican for 10th place in the top fuel standings.
Antron Brown secured the top spot in the top fuel standings after the races in Reading. Larry Dixon, a Van Nuys High graduate and winner of five top fuel events this year, is second in the top fuel standings.
In the pro stock standings, Johnny Gray is nine points behind Warren Johnson for 10th place. Jeg Coughlin is the leader in the pro stock standings.
In the pro stock motorcycle standings, Karen Stoffer, a graduate of St. Genevieve High School in Sun Valley, has a two-point edge over Steve Johnson for 10th place. Ed Krawiec leads the pro stock motorcycle standings.

Photo: Larry Dixon is second in the NHRA top fuel standings and has won five events this year.

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