JOHN FORCE/ASHLEY FORCE HOOD
Pre-Race Package for the 25th annual Toyo Tires Nationals
August 21-23, 2009
Maple Grove Raceway
17th event in the Countdown to the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Championship
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Robert Hight is running out of time in his bid to put the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang in the 10-driver field for the NHRA playoffs and John Force has gotten creative in his bid to give his teammate and son-in-law a shot at the $500,000 Full Throttle title.
To wit, Hight will drive the next two races not for crew chief Jimmy Prock, with whom he has been a Top 5 finisher eacch of the last four seasons, but rather for veteran Hall of Fame crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. Force, meanwhile, will move over one pit stop to race a Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford prepared by Prock.
Although Force believes that Prock is on the verge of returning his car to prominence after a season of struggle, he decided that Hight could not afford to wait any longer.
“Robert needs consistency right now and that’s why I moved him over with my crew,” Force said. “He needs to go rounds and he’ll be fine. We need to get the Auto Club car in the Countdown. That’s our No. 1 priority. Ashley (Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford) is already in. I’m not safe, but I’m in pretty good shape after going to the semifinals (last week at Brainerd, Minn.). “Mike Neff is ninth and his car (the Ford Drive One Mustang) has been running good, so Robert is priority.”
Force hasn’t tried to qualify for an NHRA tour event in a Funny Car prepared by anyone but Austin Coil since Oct. 18, 1984. Force has won 999 rounds with Coil; 31 with his other crew chiefs combined including, among others, Larry Frazier and Steve Plueger. Frazier was the last crew chief other than Coil for whom he won a round.
Force comes into the Toyo Tires Nationals, a race he’s won six times, in eighth place in points, 68 points ahead of teammate Neff.
The only Ford or JFR driver to have locked up a Countdown berth is Force Hood, who is in along with points leader Tony Pedregon and Ron Capps.
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JFR RACING HISTORY AT MAPLE GROVE RACEWAY:
Wins – 7, six by John Force for Castrol GTX (1989-90, 1993-94, 1997, 2001); one by Tony Pedregon for Castrol SYNTEC (2002).
Last year – Mike Neff drove all the way to the semifinals before losing to Frank Hawley, beating teammates Ashley Force and Robert Hight along the way. John Force was ousted in round two by Jack Beckman.
Notable #1 – Only at the Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., has John Force appeared in more final rounds than he has in the Toyo Tires Nationals (13).
Notable #2 – Although she hasn't advanced beyond the second round at the wheel of her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, Ashley Force was runner-up to Morgan Lucas for the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at the 2004 Toyo Tires Nationals.
Notable #3 – Although he’s won six times at Maple Grove, John Force has been runner-up in his last three trips to the final round – 2004, 2005 and 2007.
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PRO POINTS (2009 NHRA Full Throttle Series point standings):
Funny Car – *1. Tony Pedregon, Q Racing Chevrolet, 1215; *2. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger, 1187; *3. Ashley Force Hood, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 1090; 4. Jack Beckman, Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, 960; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Ford Mustang, 950; 6. Bob Tasca III, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, 894; 7. Del Worsham, Al-Anabi Toyota Solara, 877; 8. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 846; 9. Mike Neff, Ford Drive One Ford Mustang, 778; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Advance Toyota Solara, 768. Also, 11. Matt Hagan, Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Charger, 738; 12. Robert Hight, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, 708.
Top Fuel – *1. Antron Brown, Matco Tools dragster, 1357; *2. Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster, 1140; *3. Larry Dixon, Al-Anabi dragster, 1132; *4. Brandon Bernstein, Budweiser dragster, 998; *5. Cory McClenathan, Fram dragster, 985; *6. Morgan Lucas, GEICO Insurance dragster, 944; *7. Spencer Massey, US Smokeless Tobacco dragster, 886; *8. Shawn Langdon, Lucas Oil dragster, 859; 9. Doug Kalitta, Kalitta Racing dragster, 732; 10. Clay Millican, Nitrofish dragster, 651.
Pro Stock – *1. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Jeg’s Chevrolet Cobalt, 1325; *2. Jason Line, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, 1298; *3. Mike Edwards, Young Life/Penhall Pontiac, 1291; *4. Greg Anderson, Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, 1165; *5. Allen Johnson, Team Mopar Dodge Stratus, 1066; 6. Greg Stanfield, Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP, 828; 7. Ron Krisher, Valvoline Chevrolet Cobalt, 793; 8. Kurt Johnson, ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt, 752; 9. Rickie Jones, Quarter-Max/RJ Race Cars Dodge Stratus, 711; 10. Warren Johnson, K&N Filters Pontiac GXP, 659.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – *1. Eddie Krawiec, Englishtown, N.J., Harley-Davidson V-Rod, 911; *2. Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley-Davidson V-Rod, 803; *3. Matt Smith, King, N.C., Suzuki, 668; *4. Hector Arana, Milltown, Ind., Buell, 644; *5. Craig Treble, Harvey, La., Suzuki, 641; 6. Douglas Horne, Aberdeen, Md., Buell, 632; 7. Matt Guidera, Loomis, Calif., Buell, 531; 8. Shawn Gann, Stoneville, N.C., Buell, 442; 9. Steve Johnson, Birmingham, Ala., Suzuki, 425; 10. Karen Stoffer, Smith, Nev., Suzuki, 423.
*Clinched a berth in the Countdown to One playoffs.
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TELEVISION (all on ESPN2, all times Eastern Daylight):
Qualifying – Sunday, August 23, 1-3 a.m.; 10-11 a.m.
NHRA RaceDay – Sunday, August 23, 11 a.m.
Race Highlights – Sunday, August 23, 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Repeat race highlights – Wednesday, August 26, 3-5 a.m.
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NEXT EVENTS (2009 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship):
55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Sept. 2-7, Indianapolis, Ind.
2nd annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, Sept. 18-20, Charlotte, N.C.
24th annual O’Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals, Sept. 25-27, Dallas, Texas
22nd annual O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Oct. 2-4, Memphis, Tenn.
4th annual NHRA Virginia Nationals, Oct. 9-11, Richmond, Va.
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FORCE , HIGHT SWAP CREWS
FOR TOYO TIRES NATIONALS
14-Time Champ Will Race for Prock at Maple Grove
READING, Pa. – It's been 25 years since John Force drove a race car for anyone other than Hall of Fame crew chief Austin Coil.
Nevertheless, that streak will end this Friday when the 14-time champion rolls to the starting line to begin qualifying for the 25th annual Toyo Tires Nationals in a Castrol GTX® High Mileage™ Ford prepared by Jimmy Prock.
In a bid to provide a struggling Robert Hight with the best opportunity to make the NHRA's Countdown to One playoffs, Force decided to place the former NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year with the most experienced of the four crews that support the John Force Racing, Inc., Funny Car effort – his own.
As a result, Hight will drive for Coil and Bernie Fedderly this week at Maple Grove Raceway while Force will rely on Prock to lock up a playoff spot of his own.
"We're just trying to shake things up a little and give Robert and Auto Club their best chance to make the Countdown," Force said. "Going to the semifinals last week got me close enough so now we can focus on Robert."
It's the latest in a series of steps taken by the sport's biggest winner in an effort to light a fire under a team that, as a whole, has struggled this season.
"It's one of the things we talked about when I met with the crew chiefs after Norwalk (and the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals)," Force said of the crew swap, "but we couldn't do anything because I wasn't up in the points."
The last time anyone but Coil made the tuning decisions on Force's Funny Car at an NHRA