Atlanta: Ashley Force Hood preview

COMFORT LEVEL, CONFIDENCE SOAR WITH ATLANTA RETURN Ashley Seeks Old Magic in Summit Southern Nationals COMMERCE, Ga. -- She's yet to start this season from the front of the pack and has not yet taken her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a...

COMFORT LEVEL, CONFIDENCE SOAR WITH ATLANTA RETURN
Ashley Seeks Old Magic in Summit Southern Nationals

COMMERCE, Ga. -- She's yet to start this season from the front of the pack and has not yet taken her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a single final round but, despite all that, it is a confident Ashley Force Hood who returns this week to Atlanta Dragway for the 30th renewal of the Summit Southern Nationals.

Coming off a season in which she started her Castrol GTX Ford from the No. 1 qualifying position a category-best six times, in which appeared in eight finals rounds, in which she won the sport's oldest, richest and most prestigious single event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, and in which she finished second in driver points behind brother-in-law and teammate Robert Hight, Force Hood hasn't yet hit her stride.

That said, the 27-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force is feeling really good about her return this week to a track on which, over the last four years, she has had more success than anyone else.

It was at Atlanta Dragway in 2006 that Force Hood earned the last of her five victories in the Top Alcohol Dragster division and it was at the same track two years later that she became the first woman in history to win an NHRA Funny Car race. But for vision problems last year in a nighttime final with former driving instructor Jack Beckman, she would have won again. Instead, she had to settle for being the No. 1 qualifier, establishing a pair of track records and earning a runner-up finish.

"This time of year is when we seem to do really well," Ashley said. "In the past, it's where we got into stride, went rounds (and) were consistent (so) we're going to try to take advantage of that.

"It's always exciting to return to a trackhon which)you've done well at in the past," said the former high school cheerleader. "You do have those memories. You remember that feeling. You feel like maybe you have a little bit of an advantage because you have done well there (before)."

As for last year's final round misstep, Ashley attributes it to inexperience.

"It was an evening run," she recalled, "(and) I think the problem was I just hadn't been in that situation before. We're usually not running at that time of day (but) there were some rain delays.

"So, when I was going down the track, I couldn't see. We pinpointed it to a reflection on the track. Maybe (it was) the spotlights at the end of the track that were there to help everyone see (but), if you were looking at it from the right angle, it could kind of blind you.

"I was on probably one of our best runs ever (she stopped the 1,000 foot timers in 4.157 seconds at only 248 miles per hour, fully 55 mph off the pace she established in qualifying and in the first three rounds), but when you can't see, you don't want to risk crossing a center line or hitting a wall, (so) I decided to lift.

"(At the time), I was really bummed (but) when I went back and talked to my team, they backed me up for what I did," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. "'There's always another race,' they told me. 'If you can't see or feel uncomfortable, shut it off. They said they would have been mad at me if I hadn't (shut it off)."

A three-time tour winner, Ashley enters the season's eighth event in fifth place in Full Throttle points, one of five drivers separated by just 38 points for positions 2-6.

"I never had any problems (at Atlanta) before; just that one run," the 2007 winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award (Rookie of the Year) explained. "Hopefully we won't get into that situation again (and) maybe we can have a better outcome."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight