Force Hood Is P1 In Vegas
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
A mischievous Ashley Force Hood retained the No. 1 spot during Funny Car qualifications for the 10th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals Saturday, when an inordinate amount of oil-downs on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway tested the stamina of competitors and fans.
Force Hood posted her fifth pole of the season and 14th of her career when she drove the Queen of Hearts Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 4.032-second pass at 309.70 mph. She will face Paul Lee in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.
While The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is recognized as one of the premier racing surfaces in the country, a run of oil-downs extended the first nitro qualifying session to over four hours. The second session was delayed for almost two hours by persistent oil-downs and a spectacular accident involving Funny Car driver Jeff Diehl.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into eliminations at the penultimate event of the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series’ Countdown to the Championship.
“I was most nervous because I did not know what the conditions earlier would do,” said Force Hood, who tied Chuck Etchells for 10th all-time on the Funny Car qualifications list. “We were hoping for a little delay to get to run in that cool temperature. Then we were really, really delayed and I was worried if it was getting too cold. You hate to wait all that time and then go 10 feet on your run. I was excited because I knew it was on a good run.”
The delays forced all the teams to get creative to fill the down-time.
“I stole a Goodyear banner off the fence for (Top Alcohol Dragster tuner) Jerry Darien,” Force Hood said. “We just tried to have fun back there in the pits. It was way too long a time for our group to be serious. I have never been in this long of a session. It is what it is and I’m glad a handful of fans stuck it out and watched until the end. I was just glad we made a good pass that was worth waiting around for.”
Meanwhile, Robert Hight – Force Hood’s John Force Racing teammate – failed to qualify for the event after smoking the tires on both of his runs in the Auto Club Mustang. Hight, the 2009 world champion, wound up 19th on the ladder, failing to qualify for the first time this season and only the sixth time of his career.
Hight was racing opposite rookie Diehl, whose Rimz One Chevy Monte Carlso SS veered right and crashed into the guard rail shortly after its launch. The impact separated the car’s body from its chassis, which momentarily caught fire while rolling to a halt down track. Diehl, 46, who was uninjured, wound up 17th.
Funny Car leader Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing qualified fourth in his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T and will face two-time world champ Tony Pedregon in the first round. Second-place John Force, a 14-time world champion, qualified second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang and will race Jeff Arend in the opening round. Force entered the event 64 points behind Hagan. The points Force earned as No. 2 qualifier, along with his five qualifying bonus points, moved him to within 57 points.
Schumacher claimed his second No. 1 of the season and 60th of his career in Top Fuel, powering his U.S. Army Dragster to a 3.812-second pass at a national record speed of 325.14 mph for 1,000 feet. “I wouldn’t want to race against my car (Sunday),” said Schumacher, a seven-time world champion. “We have an incredible car. The guys are doing an incredible job, and we definitely have the right tune-up for this track and these conditions.”
Schumacher sits third in points and will need a strong outing if he’s going to climb back into the championship hunt with series leader Larry Dixon of Al-Anabi Racing and second-place Cory McClenathan. Dixon, who led McClenathan by 89 points coming into the race, will race Troy Buff in the first round. McClenathan, of DSR, will meet Mark Mariani.
Johnson claimed his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Pro Stock, covering the quarter-mile distance in 6.646-seconds at 207.82 mph in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
“We knew that this run was going to be the best one (in terms of conditions) after the four-hour delay,” Johnson said. “When the sun goes down, the track gets awesome here. We stepped it up and it’s the second race in a row now where the Dodges have qualified one-two. We’re not going to change our tune-up much for Sunday, when we have to run behind the Fuel cars instead of ahead of them. Maybe a little bit, but not a lot. We’re still going to be pressing hard on the kill button.”
Series leader Greg Anderson, a three-time world champion, qualified 11th in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP and will race Rodger Brogdon in the first round. Reigning world champ Mike Edwards, who is second in points, qualified ninth in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac and will meet championship challenger Greg Stanfield in a huge opening round.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, 2009 world champion Arana posted a track-record time of 6.909-seconds at 193.60 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell to take his sixth pole of the season and 15th of his career. Championship contenders Andrew Hines, a three-time world champion, and runnerup LE Tonglet qualified seventh and ninth, respectively. Hines, rider of the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod, will meet Craig Treble in Round 1. Rookie Tonglet will open eliminations on his Nitro Fish Suzuki against Bailey Whitaker.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 10th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 22nd of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the fifth of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.812 seconds, 325.14 mph vs. 16. Bob Vandergriff, 3.996, 291.32; 2. Cory McClenathan, 3.822, 321.50 vs. 15. Mark Mariani, 3.986, 297.81; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.825, 318.99 vs. 14. Troy Buff, 3.973, 289.51; 4. David Grubnic, 3.838, 318.32 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 3.963, 296.70; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.841, 314.09 vs. 12. Chris Karamesines, 3.949, 308.50; 6. Clay Millican, 3.878, 309.77 vs. 11. Dom Lagana, 3.928, 309.27; 7. T.J. Zizzo, 3.884, 312.21 vs. 10. Antron Brown, 3.911, 311.27; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 3.885, 302.55 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.891, 315.19. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Strasburg, 4.067, 305.98; 18. Doug Kalitta, 4.086, 301.20; 19. Morgan Lucas, 4.106, 299.93; 20. Steven Chrisman, 4.141, 281.01; 21. Stig Neergaard, 4.160, 257.87; 22.Terry McMillen, 4.356, 193.65; 23. Rob Passey, 4.556, 206.61; 24. Steve Faria, 5.427, 216.03; 25. Ron August, 14.040, 88.99; 26. Tim Boychuk, broke.
Funny Car — 1. Ashley Force Hood, Ford Mustang, 4.032, 309.70 vs. 16. Paul Lee, Chevy Impala SS, 4.222, 289.82; 2. John Force, Mustang, 4.050, 311.92 vs. 15. Jeff Arend, Toyota Solara, 4.218, 301.33; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.082, 309.06 vs. 14. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.212, 291.13; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.087, 304.67 vs. 13. Jim Head, Solara, 4.187, 277.03; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.090, 304.53 vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Impala SS, 4.185, 302.69; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.092, 309.20 vs. 11. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.161, 281.83; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.117, 304.53 vs. 10. Melanie Troxel, Charger, 4.128, 306.88; 8. Bob Bode, Impala SS, 4.122, 302.08 vs. 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.124, 306.74. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.427, 245.27; 18. Terry Haddock, 4.496, 272.39; 19. Robert Hight, 5.003, 270.75; 20. Justin Schriefer, 6.979, 79.10; 21. James Day, 11.108, 111.94.
Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.646, 207.82 vs. 16. Johnny Gray, Pontiac GXP, 6.700, 206.20; 2. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.651, 206.89 vs. 15. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.698, 205.66; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Cobalt, 6.657, 206.54 vs. 14. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.689, 207.15; 4. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.660, 206.70 vs. 13. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.687, 206.51; 5. Jason Line, GXP, 6.664, 207.30 vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.685, 206.16; 6. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.665, 206.80 vs. 11. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.677, 207.15; 7. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.665, 206.64 vs. 10. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.675, 206.42; 8. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.665, 206.51 vs. 9. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.667, 207.02. Did Not Qualify: 17. Vinnie Deceglie, 6.701, 206.64; 18. Warren Johnson, 6.710, 206.01; 19. Erica Enders, 6.718, 204.42; 20. Richard Freeman, 6.721, 205.47; 21. Bob Glidden, 6.745, 204.17; 22. Gordie Rivera, 6.808, 202.61; 23. Steve Kalkowski, 6.865, 197.91.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.909, 193.60 vs. 16. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.102, 186.77; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 196.02 vs. 15. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.079, 186.79; 3. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.950, 193.13 vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.062, 190.81; 4. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.954, 193.99 vs. 13. David Hope, Buell, 7.044, 188.78; 5. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.968, 190.97 vs. 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.034, 186.48; 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.985, 190.67 vs. 11. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.030, 191.02; 7. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.986, 194.21 vs. 10. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.026, 192.14; 8. Bailey Whitaker, Buell, 7.014, 188.75 vs. 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.021, 192.74. Did Not Qualify: 17. Redell Harris, 7.128, 186.41; 18. James Surber, 7.161, 186.59; 19. Joe DeSantis, 7.164, 187.55; 20. Freddie Camarena, 7.167, 188.91; 21. Mike Berry, 7.177, 183.12; 22. Rhett Lougheed, 7.188, 187.23; 23. Katie Sullivan, 7.223, 186.59; 24. Chris MacLaurin, 7.342, 183.47; 25. Dawn Matthews-Baugues, 7.791, 175.34.No Comment