Las Vegas: Ashley Force Hood preview

Can Houston winner double-up at vegas?; Ashley Has Had Success at The Strip at LVMS LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- On the eve of the 10th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ashley Force Hood is having to deal...

Can Houston winner double-up at vegas?; Ashley Has Had Success at The Strip at LVMS

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- On the eve of the 10th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ashley Force Hood is having to deal with the loss of one of the assets that has served her so well since she first began driving professionally two years ago

After dispatching a cast of All-Stars to win last week's O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas, the former high school cheerleader realizes she no longer can race under the radar. She forever has lost the element of surprise.

The first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car race when she beat her dad, 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, at the 2008 Summit Racing Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga., the 26-year-old applied an exclamation point at Houston where she again beat her father, points leader Ron Capps, Las Vegas betting favorite Del Worsham and, finally, Jack Beckman, her former driving instructor.

"She had a good car, but it didn't dominate," beamed her proud papa. "She had to pedal' it (a finesse technique that involves feathering the throttle to regain traction control) a couple times and another time she had to wrestle it back in the groove. She did it all (and) I couldn't have been prouder of her."

As a result of her Houston success, when she pulls her Castrol GTX0 Ford Mustang to the starting line for the first round of qualifying Friday, she will do so not as a novelty one of only a handful of women competing in what widely is considered a male domain, but as a bona fide contender.

That's because the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton finally has established herself not as just another pretty face, but as a race car driver, which is far more meaningful to her than being voted the "World's Hottest Athlete," as she was in an AOL sports' on-line poll two years ago.

Third in Full Throttle points, the highest placed of the six Ford drivers vying this year for the championship, she is back this week on a track that already has yielded a wealth of special moments for her and a young team led by first time crew chief Dean "Guido" Antonelli and veteran Ron Douglas.

LVMS was the track on which the six-time pro tour finalist earned her Top Alcohol Dragster license, the track on which she earned her Funny Car accreditation, the track on which she became the first woman to reach a Funny Car final (Oct. 28, 2007) and the track on which she has been a finalist in two of four career starts in the Castrol Ford.

"Our team is really looking forward to this weekend," she said. "We have high hopes for a great finish (because we) have done really well at Vegas in the past. (We) haven't gotten a win yet, (but) we're hoping to do it this weekend.

"All of our family, friends and co-workers (at John Force Racing) attend this race (because) it's only a four-hour drive from home and we'd love to celebrate with them in the winners' circle Sunday night."

After her performance at Houston, such a celebration no long can be considered merely wishful thinking.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force