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Force Hood Tops In Norwalk

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010

By John Sturbin/Senior Writer

Ashley Force Hood is the only John Force Racing Funny Car driver without a National Hot Rod Association event victory in 2010, a fact the second generation star aims to amend by the end of this weekend.

Force Hood raced to the qualifying lead late Friday during the delayed second round of time trials for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Force Hood powered her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a track-record time of 4.032-seconds at 311.99 mph to grab the top spot at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

Professional qualifying was pushed back nearly two hours following delays caused by several accidents in Pro Stock and Pro Modified, including a pair of spectacular crashes in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the event.

Tony Pontieri’s 1968 Camaro went out of control and impacted the guard wall and crashed, as did Roger Burgess’ 1963 Corvette, which also hit the wall and barrel-rolled before coming to an upright stop. Both drivers were checked by medical personnel at the track and released.

“It’s always a little tough when you see two of your fellow racers, two of your friends, wreck their cars,” said Raymond Commisso, the provional No. 1 qualifier in Pro Mod. “It kind of takes the excitement out of being No. 1 tonight. Thank God they’re OK. Credit the NHRA Safety Safari, the guys that build these race cars, and all the safety equipment we wear.”

Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also paced qualifying in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

“The track really was perfect conditions, and everybody knew that going up there,” Force Hood said of her best 1,000-foot lap. “We were really excited that we got to run later in the pack, and we wanted to take advantage of it. It was our best run that we ever made. I’m surprised that Matt Hagan (second, 4.043-seconds) and (JFR teammate) Robert Hight (fourth, 4.067-seconds) didn’t go around me. When I saw their flames going right down the track as we were towing back, I was like, ‘If they’re going all the way down, they’re doing it,’ but we managed to hang onto it.”

Force Hood, who won two events in eight final-round appearances last year, will attempt to solidify her No. 1 spot during two rounds of qualifying Saturday in anticipation of Sunday’s finals.

“We have struggled this year, so no one had hard feelings that we went to No. 1,” Force Hood said. “We still have to be focused on Sunday. You don’t want to lose your train of thought. It’s the day runs that are important for Sunday. Being the No. 1 qualifier going into the race is where everyone wants to be. You have confidence going into race day if you have been making good runs.”

Also in Funny Car, Del Worsham posted a track speed record of 313.15 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing Toyota to qualify sixth at 4.087-seconds.

In Top Fuel, series leader and two-time world champion Dixon was quickest after posting a track-record performance of 3.780-seconds at 320.43 in his Al-Anabi Racing Dragster.

“That was a great run by the Al-Anabi team,” Dixon said. “You have to bring it on Friday night to get the pole or to even get close to it. We looked at the computer data after the run, and we definitely got all of it. There wasn’t much left. I’m still learning to drive this car. That was a really nice run. It’s normally a handful on really good runs. It had a lot of grip tonight, though.”

Ohio native Coughlin led Pro Stock with a track-record quarter-mile time of 6.592-seconds at 208.97 mph in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt.

“We made some good runs today,” Coughlin said. “As the track was getting cooler and the sun was going down and that full moon was blaring its head out there, the crew chiefs were back in the pits changing the Pro Stock cars. You could hear the air wrenches flying and just a lot of changes for tonight. The key to tonight was keeping the car in the center of the groove, and really, that’s something we’ve struggled with. But the last four or five races, we’ve got the car running extremely straight and pretty efficient. That was key tonight, and we were able to be the only car in the 6.5s, which was stellar.”

Coughlin is one of eight drivers who will compete for the $50,000 winner’s share during the K&N Horsepower Challenge, a special bonus race for Pro Stock teams on Saturday. He is qualified fifth and will meet Jason Line in the first round.

“This certainly gives us a little shot in the arm, heading into the Challenge,” Coughlin said. “It’s a best-of- the-best shootout. We’ve got a tough road to hoe without question, but today’s run certainly helps us get in the right mindset.”

Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards, winner of the last four races and eight this season, is seeded No. 1 for the Challenge. However, Edwards currently stands 14th for the race at 6.641-seconds and 207.88 mph in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Johnson continued his recent surge by powering his Steve Johnson Racing Suzuki to the top spot with a track-record performance of 6.929-seconds at 193.60 mph.

“The conditions are awesome,” said Johnson, whose only career No. 1 qualifying position came back in 1995 at Atlanta Dragway. “We didn’t want to make another run because we’re on a major budget program and it was going to be hot. But with the situations that had been happening on the track, it got cooler and cooler and cooler, and it was like, ‘Hey, there’s probably going to be a better run,’ plus your first run isn’t going to be your best run. The track’s great, the weather conditions were better, and we had a good tune-up in the motorcycle to make a great run.”

Commisso, who failed to get his Camaro down the track during the day’s first qualifying session, covered the quarter-mile in 5.910-seconds at 248.20 mph in the second session to take the top spot in the 16-car Pro Mod field.

“I do feel fortunate to be the No. 1 qualifier,” Commisso said. “It will probably stay that way because the final round of qualifying will be in the sunshine, so it shouldn’t be as quick. I know every time I step off the clutch in my race car that I can go to the No. 1 spot. We have the horsepower and the people to get it done.”

Melanie Troxel was second in her new In-N-Out ’67 Camaro with a 5.940-second pass at 245.40 mph. Three-time tour winner and current series points leader Von Smith was third in his Al-Anabi Racing/Dr. Moon ’68 Camaro at 5.951/245.05. Veteran racer Pat Musi, who topped the first session in his 2009 Dodge Stratus, moved to fourth at 5.961/229.98.

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the fourth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, 13th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel – 1. Larry Dixon, 3.780 seconds, 320.43 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.795, 318.99; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 3.848, 312.42; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.872, 308.50; 5. Cory McClenathan, 3.889, 308.57; 6. Doug Foley, 3.896, 314.24; 7. David Grubnic, 3.898, 309.42; 8. Morgan Lucas, 3.904, 305.70; 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.920, 308.92; 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.931, 305.91; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.940, 313.00; 12. Steve Torrence, 3.950, 305.49.

Not Qualified: 13. Tim Cullinan, 3.988, 278.75; 14. Terry McMillen, 4.031, 291.63; 15. Luigi Novelli, 4.073, 282.54; 16. Scott Palmer, 4.923, 144.35; 17. Terry Haddock, 6.102, 106.32; 18. Troy Buff, 6.271, 97.13; 19. Pat Dakin, 7.524, 88.16.

Funny Car – 1. Ashley Force Hood, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 311.99; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.043, 307.09; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.060, 310.27; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.067, 310.05; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.069, 306.40; 6. Del Worsham, Toyota Solara, 4.087, 313.15; 7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.110, 304.46; 8. Paul Lee, Chevy Impala SS, 4.124, 300.26; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.135, 293.28; 10. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.140, 297.16; 11. Bob Bode, Impala SS, 4.191, 295.46; 12. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.233, 291.95.

Not Qualified: 13. John Force, 4.256, 291.89; 14. Cruz Pedregon, 4.396, 208.07; 15. Jeff Diehl, 4.829, 172.32; 16. Jim Head, 10.199, 75.22; 17. Justin Schriefer, 12.690, 62.66.

Pro Stock – 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Chevy Cobalt, 6.592, 208.97; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.602, 209.30; 3. Ron Krisher, Cobalt, 6.602, 209.17; 4. Warren Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 6.609, 208.68; 5. Jason Line, GXP, 6.620, 208.62; 6. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.620, 208.17; 7. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.620, 207.85; 8. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.623, 208.23; 9. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.627, 208.42; 10. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.631, 207.27; 11. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.634, 208.17; 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.636, 207.69.

Not Qualified: 13. Rickie Jones, 6.636, 206.80; 14. Mike Edwards, 6.641, 207.88; 15. Rodger Brogdon, 6.648, 207.59; 16. Shane Gray, 6.656, 207.27; 17. Justin Humphreys, 6.659, 206.76; 18. Erica Enders, 6.663, 206.39; 19. Vinnie Deceglie, 6.692, 206.80; 20. Bob Benza, 6.750, 204.17; 21. John Gaydosh Jr., 6.843, 200.35; 22. Jim Cunningham, 13.881, 60.98.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 193.60; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.953, 191.38; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.959, 194.49; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.973, 192.82; 5. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.973, 190.19; 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.974, 191.24; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.982, 192.71; 8. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.993, 191.08; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.028, 189.28; 10. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.036, 188.60; 11. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.047, 191.46; 12. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.052, 192.91.

Not Qualified: 13. David Hope, 7.068, 191.32; 14. Joe DeSantis, 7.140, 186.28; 15. Junior Pippin, 7.141, 189.36; 16. Wesley Wells, 7.236, 185.46; 17. Mike Berry, 7.432, 181.30.

Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series results Friday after the first two of three rounds of qualifying at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

Pro Modified – 1. Raymond Commisso, Chevy Camaro, 5.910, 248.20; 2. Melanie Troxel, Camaro, 5.940, 245.40; 3. Von Smith, Camaro, 5.951, 245.05; 4. Pat Musi, Dodge Stratus, 5.961, 229.98; 5. Ed Hoover, Camaro, 5.963, 239.02; 6. Joe Baker, Pontiac Firebird, 5.976, 239.48; 7. Scott Ray, Chevy Corvette, 5.989, 238.30; 8. Burton Auxier, Firebird, 5.989, 237.30; 9. Mike Knowles, Corvette, 5.990, 242.54; 10. Troy Coughlin, Camaro, 6.018, 235.43; 11. Brad Personett, Camaro, 6.020, 250.55; 12. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 6.027, 235.10; 13. Mike Janis, Ford Mustang, 6.046, 241.50; 14. Kenny Lang, Corvette, 6.073, 237.75; 15. Rick Stivers, Stratus, 6.096, 240.25; 16. Chuck Cheeseman, Corvette, 6.116, 235.19.

Not Qualified: 17. Chip King, 6.466, 165.09; 18. Dennis Radford, 7.718, 112.82; 19. Roger Burgess, 8.108, 145.89; 20. Jay Payne, 9.151, 98.90; 21. Mike Castellana, 9.505, 91.49; 22. Danny Rowe, 10.387, 104.54; 23. Tony Pontieri, broke.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010
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