Season Rewind: 2010 U.S. Nationals
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published Sept. 8, 2010.
CLERMONT, Ind. — Ashley Force Hood scored back-to-back Indianapolis triumphs in the Funny Car class at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, taking the victory at the expense of father John Force in an all-Castol Ford Mustang final Monday afternoon at O’Reilly Raceway Park.
Meanwhile, Larry Dixon blazed to his 10th Top Fuel triumph in as many final rounds this year and his fourth at the storied track that’s a stone’s throw from his adopted home in Avon.
Force Hood and Dixon were joined by Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock) and L.E. Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the winner’s circle.
Force Hood broke from her winless slump. A few weeks ago, the Yorba Linda, Calif., contender had been perturbed, saying she and her team, “for some reason…are just having a crappy year. We are just in the biggest slump we’ve ever been in.”
John Force has led the points all season except when teammate and current champion Robert Hight grabbed it for a couple of races. The sport’s most successful driver entered as the top-seeded Countdown driver in his mission to earn a record 15th series crown.
But Force Hood has learned to conquer the pressure of Indianapolis and ignore all its distractions, thanks to a 2004 victory in the Top Alcohol Dragster class and her victory last year overshadowed by her teammate Hight’s desperation dash to make the Countdown and her own dad’s much-publicized shouting match with Tony Pedregon.
“I think there is such a big deal made about Indy that if you have already been there and won it then you have this pressure lifted off your shoulders,” Force Hood said. “We have cleared the slate and this is the second start to the season.”
Force Hood ran a 4.141-second, 308.07-mile-per-hour pass while her father coasted home at 7.246 seconds/91.61 mph.
Dixon faced Cory McClenathan, who ended his teammate Tony Schumacher’s hopes of winning a record ninth U.S. Nationals titlein the semi-final round, for all the marbles. In the closest race of the finals, Dixon’s Jason McCulloch-tuned Al-Anabi dragster produced a 3.838-second elapsed time and 319.60 mph speed to McClenathan’s 3.870 e.t./319.82 mph.
Dixon has won each of the six races in which he qualified No. 1 this year.
“It just means so much to me personally. Indy is big.” He said in his 20 years with Don Prudhomme’s team he understood the race’s significance, but racing for Qatar’s Sheik Khalid Al-Thani makes it special, too.
Thinking back to Blaine Johnson’s death here in 1996, Dixon said, “And now with Alan Johnson and the Johnson family, I know how much they’ve sacrificed for this race.”
Stanfield, of Bossier City, La., was runner-up here last year to Jeg Coughlin and lost to Mike Edwards in his only other final since April 18 at Las Vegas. Determined not to be No. 2 Monday, Stanfield used a holeshot in Kenny Koretsky’s Nitro Fish Apparel Pontiac GXP to notch his fourth career victory with a 6.665-second e.t. at 207.59 mph.
Edwards, the reigning series champion and uninterrupted point leader this season, ran a quicker and faster 6.627 seconds at 208.75 mph. The eight-time winner this year was trying to win from his 12th No. 1 start in the K&N/Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.
In the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, the 20-year-old Tonglet made a huge statement in his quest for NHRA Rookie of the Year honors by not only winning the U.S. Nationals but in derailing the streaking Andrew Hines. Tonglet won aboard his GT Motorsports Suzuki with a 6.869-second e.t. at a track-record 195.22 mph.
Hines, of Avon, a three-time series champion still seeking his first Indianapolis victory, countered with a 6.962/194.13 from the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod.