NHRA Funny Car Drivers Ashley Force Hood, Tony Pedregon Fall in First Round Sunday

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 12, 2009

The battle for the NHRA's funny car title took another wild turn Sunday at Virginia Motorsports Park in Petersburg, Va., where points leader Ashley Force Hood was beaten in the first round by Jeff Arend.

Both drivers smoked their tires, costing themselves precious fractions of a second as their cars lost traction. But Arend salvaged his run a bit better to beat Force Hood to the finish, 4.515 seconds to her 5.169.

With two races remaining in the NHRA season, Force Hood dropped to second in the standings, overtaken by day's end by her teammate and brother-in-law, Robert Hight.

Her tumble could have been worse had Tony Pedregon, who entered the weekend third in the standings, not stumbled in the first round as well, losing to another member of the John Force Racing stable, Mike Neff.

Force Hood, 26, is bidding to become the first woman to win an NHRA funny car title. After a stop in Las Vegas, the season concludes in Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 15.

Hight leads the standings with 2,362 points. Force Hood is 13 points in arrears. Pedregon is in third, 48 points behind.

"We'll be testing tomorrow," Force Hood vowed afterward. The first-round race "was one of those things where a couple [of] things went wrong, and when you added them all together it made for one big wrong."

On a day that saw many of the title contenders in drag-racing's two nitro-powered classes struggle, Del Worsham roared off with the funny-car victory, beating Tim Wilkerson in the final round.

In top fuel, Brandon Bernstein took the honors with a pass of 3.84 seconds (307.09 mph) in the final round. But Tony Schumacher retained the lead, heading into the final two races with a 47-point cushion over Larry Dixon

In pro stock, Mike Edwards all but sealed his title.

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