Commerce: Ashley Force Hood preview

Ashley to Defend Title At Southern Nationals; Champ's Daughter Among Full Throttle Point Leaders ATLANTA, Ga. -- Last year, Ashley Force made history when she beat a drag racing legend in the final round of the Summit Southern Nationals at...

Ashley to Defend Title At Southern Nationals; Champ's Daughter Among Full Throttle Point Leaders

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Last year, Ashley Force made history when she beat a drag racing legend in the final round of the Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway to become the first woman to win a race in the NHRA Funny Car division.

This week, when the 26-year-old returns as defending champion, she has another goal in mind.

Sure, she wants to put her Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang back in the winners' circle, but this time she'd actually like to be able to enjoy it.

"Last year, it was raining, it was late (when the final rounds finally were completed) and I really wasn't prepared," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. "I had won races before (in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, in which she won at Atlanta in 2006), but it was nothing like that.

"Plus, I was racing my dad (14-time champion John Force) in the final. It was his 500th race and, if he beat me, it would be his 1,000th (round) win. That meant a lot to him so I knew that he would have mixed emotions. It was all just stressful.

"When we won Houston (last month), it just seemed to happen more how it should," said the 2007 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year. "It was fun."

Force Hood seems destined to have more such fun.

She won the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas, last month, beating three of the four drivers she ousted en route to her Atlanta victory, and has been eliminated in the other four Full Throttle events contested thus far by an AVERAGE margin of .004 of a second.

At the season-opening Winternationals, she fell victim to Jim Head in round two when the journeyman threw out a best-of-the-day .054 reaction time that made his 4.095 a surprise winner against Ashley's 4.059, the second quickest time of eliminations.

At Phoenix, her 4.095 was the quickest losing first round time and, at Gainesville, Fla., she lost a second round match to rookie Matt Hagan by .008 of a second (4.171 to 4.179). Her most recent loss came at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where her first round 4.164 was .008 short of running down Jack Beckman.

The scorecard? Four losses by a grand total of .018 of a second. No wonder the budding star is beginning to feel a little bit snakebit.

"We had a meeting (after Las Vegas) and I told our team that we never (seem to) get any luck; not even a glimmer. We have a really good car, but (in) every close race we seem to be on the losing side.

"In hindsight, I know Guido' and Ron (crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) think they should do stuff differently sometimes, (but) I look at some of our runs and know they were good, solid runs that would have beaten anyone else out there. We just happened to be racing the one guy that could beat us."

That said, Ashley is excited about her return to Atlanta

"We're excited to go back. Maybe (since we didn't win at Las Vegas), we'll go into Atlanta under the radar and hopefully come out on top again."

Under the radar? Fat chance of that.

***

Ashley at Atlanta Dragway:

-- Atlanta Dragway not only is the first track on which Ashley won her first pro race, it also is the track on which she won the last of her five national events in the Top Alcohol Dragster division (2006).

-- In five career appearances in the Summit Southern Nationals (three in Top Alcohol Dragster and two in Funny Car), Ashley never has failed to reach the semifinals.

-- Ashley was the second teammate to whom team owner John Force lost in the final round at the Summit Southern Nationals. The first was Tony Pedregon in 1996.

-- Last year's race was the first in which Ashley ever opposed her father in a final round. The year before, she raced him for the first time ever, beating him in the first round at Atlanta

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , John Force , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Matt Hagan