ASHLEY TRIES TO CHANGE LUCK AT RACEWAY PARK Castrol GTX Driver Seeking First Win of the Season ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Who could blame Ashley Force Hood if she started wondering what a girl has to do to get a break in this man's sport. The ...
ASHLEY TRIES TO CHANGE
LUCK AT RACEWAY PARK
Castrol GTX Driver Seeking First Win of the Season
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Who could blame Ashley Force Hood if she started wondering what a girl has to do to get a break in this man's sport.
The dominant driver in Funny Car drag racing last year before brother- in-law Robert Hight mounted a late season rally to beat her to the Full Throttle Championship, Force Hood rolls into Old Bridge Township Raceway Park for this week's 41st annual NHRA SuperNationals still looking for her first win of the season.
To say she's been close would be an understatement of epic proportions.
She and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang have lost nine times this year by an average margin of .067 of a second. The only race in which the decision wasn't in question at the finish was the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., where a loss of traction in the first round decided the issue early-on.
Otherwise, it's been a "close but no cigar" season for the 27-year- old who two years ago became the first woman to win a Funny Car race and the first to lead the driver standings.
It's not bad enough that she dropped a 4.218-4.222 decision to Bob Tasca III at Madison, Ill., or lost to Del Worsham on a hole shot at Topeka, Kan. (despite a track time quicker by .02 of a second), or ran 4.044, just .004 off her career best, in a semifinal loss last week to Matt Hagan, who had to set an NHRA national record (4.022 seconds) to hold her off.
The pill that's been hardest to swallow is that she's lost two final rounds to family members; her only two finals of the year.
She lost to her dad, 14-time series champion John Force, by .006 of a second (4.042 to 4.036) at the inaugural 4-Wide Nationals at Charlotte, N.C., and to Hight, the father of her favorite niece, Autumn, by a 4.185-4.232 difference at the Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.
Despite the plethora of near misses, the graduate of Cal State- Fullerton has managed to remain, for the most part, upbeat and she is particularly excited about this week's return to Raceway Park where, after qualifying No. 1, she was runner-up to two-time former champion Tony Pedregon a year ago.
"Last weekend might not have been our weekend or Robert's or dad's," said the three-time tour winner, "but that doesn't mean it can't be our championship. I think (the semifinal and final round losses) lit a fire under everybody and with another race this week, there's no time for that feeling to fade.
"I just feel bad for my crew chiefs, 'Guido' (Dean Antonelli) and Ron (Douglas), and for my team. Those guys worked so hard. They did a great job but it just wasn't our day. But I do believe that day is coming. You just have to stay positive.
"We'll go out and do our best and hopefully New Jersey will be our weekend," said the former high school cheerleader. "I have no idea what to even think about weather. I thought (last week) was going to be a hot, humid, muggy weekend and we all wound up in coats dodging big rain storms.
"Whatever (the weather) is, it's the same for everyone and the good thing is that we know we have a car that can run in the heat or run in the cool."
Despite her failure to reach the winners' circle, Ashley is solidly in contention for the championship which again will be decided in a six- race playoff beginning in September. She presently is tied for third in points despite the fact that she is the only driver in the Top 5 who has not yet won a race. She's done everything else including qualifying No. 1 and setting a national speed record (316.38 mph).