Indy ORP: Ashley Force preview

force hood targets indy repeat, 'second season' INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Drawing inspiration from brother-in-law Robert Hight's 2009 playoff run, Ashley Force Hood hopes to take the first step toward a Full Throttle title of her own this week when...

force hood targets indy repeat, 'second season'

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Drawing inspiration from brother-in-law Robert Hight's 2009 playoff run, Ashley Force Hood hopes to take the first step toward a Full Throttle title of her own this week when she defends her Funny Car championship in the 56th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, drag racing's most prestigious single event.

Because Hight was able to orchestrate a worst-to-first drive to the title, starting 10th but winning three of the six races in the Countdown, Force Hood rolls her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang into O'Reilly Raceway Park with a confidence one typically would not expect from someone who has yet to win a race this season.

"If Robert's team can do it, we believe that this year we can too," Force Hood enthused. "We're the same team with the same sponsors, the same driver, the same crew chiefs and the same car (that finished second a year ago while racing in a category high seven final rounds).

"The difference is that things that seemed to go our way last season have gone the other way this year," acknowledged the 2007 Rookie-of-the- Year, "but that's just racing. The Countdown gives us a chance to put all those down races behind us and turn the season around."

Force Hood, who entered last year's playoffs in the No. 3 position, starts from No. 8 this time around, 90 points behind her father, top-seeded John Force.

"I think a lot of people expected us to get down on ourselves after failing to win a race during the regular season," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, "but that's just not us. We're going into Indy with a very positive attitude.

"We've been doing extra team dinners this week just to keep our morale up," joked the former high school cheerleader.

In a season of struggle, Force Hood has been encouraged by a team that she calls the "best in the sport."

"This year has shown me what a great group of crew guys I really have," said the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car race. "It's easy to be a good team when you're doing well. It's when you struggle to go rounds and the pressure to win starts building that you find out who you really are.

"I can tell you that I'd rather have a challenging season with these guys than a perfect season with (anyone else)."

The NHRA national record holder for speed at 316.38 miles per hour, Ashley last year came ever so close to becoming the first woman in 43 years to win the NHRA Funny Car title. That's why this year has been so frustrating.

"Everyone else has run just a little better than us this year," said the woman who, in 2004, earned her first national tour victory when she won the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at Indy "At Charlotte (in the inaugural 4Wide Nationals final), we ran 4.04 and dad ran 4.03," she said. "At Chicago (Joliet, Ill., the UA Route 66 Nationals), we ran 4.04 and Matt (Hagan) ran 4.02. We ran 4.32 at Norwalk (Ohio) and Tim (Wilkerson) ran 4.31. That's just how the season has gone."

In fact, of the 17 races she has lost this season, Force Hood has been beaten by less than .085 of a second in 13 of them.

Now, though, she and her team start with a clean sheet of paper. What happened in the season's first 17 races is of absolutely no consequence.

"It's all about these next six races," she said. "The Countdown gives you a chance - and that's all you can ask for."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force