Joliet: Ashley Force Hood preview

ASHLEY RIDES MOMENTUM INTO ROUTE 66 NATIONALS Champ's Daughter Third in Full Throttle Points JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force Hood already can claim most of drag racing's gender specific Funny Car records. She was the first woman to reach an...

ASHLEY RIDES MOMENTUM INTO ROUTE 66 NATIONALS
Champ's Daughter Third in Full Throttle Points

JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force Hood already can claim most of drag racing's gender specific Funny Car records. She was the first woman to reach an NHRA final round in a Funny Car, the first to win a race, the first to finish in the Top 10, the first to win multiple events and the first to qualify for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.

But for Force Hood, it never was about being a woman in a man's sport. It was about being a driver in a sport in which she literally grew up. That's why, even though she comes into this week's 12th annual United Association Route 66 Nationals in third place in Full Throttle points, she knows that there still is work to be done this season.

"It was great to move up to third place (after a runner-up finish last week at Topeka, Kan.)," she said, "but we're not satisfied. We're gonna keep our sights set on that No. 1 spot. I don't think it's out of our reach. We just need to stay focused and keep fighting the fight."

Outside of points leader Ron Capps, who already has won four times, Ashley is the hottest driver in a Funny Car division that at one time was thought to be too physically challenging for a woman to master.

In fact, until Ashley came along, there hadn't been a woman behind the wheel of a Funny Car since Cristen Powell in 2000.

However, the landscape forever changed when the 26-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force moved up from the Top Alcohol Dragster class. In her very first year, the former high school cheerleader went to the final round of the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, finished 10th in points and was introduced as the winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the 2007 Rookie of the Year.

Now, just eight points out of second place, she is poised to make even more history if she can join her father as champion.

While the elder Force and teammates Robert Hight and Mike Neff have struggled this year, sharing one No. 1 start and one final round between them, Ashley has started three of the last four races from the top of the qualifying order and has gone to the finals three times in the last six events.

With her April victory in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas, she became just the seventh woman to win multiple pro events, a select list that includes Shirley Muldowney, Angelle Sampey, Lori Johns, Karen Stoffer, Shelly Payne and Melanie Troxel.

For Ashley, the most important thing isn"t that her car has run well in the best of conditions, recording the fastest speed in the history of 1,000 foot racing (312.18 mph at Houston), but that it also has been competitive when things have been less than ideal.

"We're getting into summer," she said, "and we're going to see track temperatures more like Topeka (130 and above) than Vegas. Hopefully we got some good data (in the Topeka heat) that we can share with the other crew chiefs.

"Whether it's hot or cold this week, we'll be ready to race," she said. In Ashley's vocabulary, "race" is the operative word.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Ron Capps , John Force , Karen Stoffer , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Robert Hight , Angelle Sampey , Mike Neff , Lori Johns , Cristen Powell