Las Vegas II: Ashley Force Hood preview

FORCE HOOD HANGS TOUGH IN BID FOR FUNNY CAR TITLE Vying for Championship with Hight, Pedregon, Others LAS VEGAS, Nev. ^0x0274 is impossible to succeed in this town without a little bit of luck. Whether you're into high stakes poker at The...

FORCE HOOD HANGS TOUGH IN BID FOR FUNNY CAR TITLE
Vying for Championship with Hight, Pedregon, Others

LAS VEGAS, Nev. ^0x0274 is impossible to succeed in this town without a little bit of luck. Whether you're into high stakes poker at The Palms, playing the slots at the Monte Carlo or driving an 8,000 horsepower race car at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of this week's ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, you need something more than mere skill to attain your goals.

Ashley Force Hood understands that and accepts it. Two years removed from her Rookie-of-the-Year season, she just considers herself lucky to be one of those in contention for the NHRA's $500,000 Full Throttle Funny Car Championship.

"We're really pumped," said the 26-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force. "We've had a really great season and we're right where we want to be (in second place, one round behind teammate Robert Hight).

"It's easy to get caught up in the stress of it all," acknowledged the driver of the national record-holding, 312.13 mile-per-hour Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, "but we're trying to look at it from another point of view.

"Here we are in just our third year (as a team) and we're battling for the NHRA championship," she said. "That's a pretty neat spot to be in (and) we're trying to enjoy it and not let the (pressure) take away the fun of it."

It's being an integral part of a high-functioning, top-of-the-line racing team that most appeals to the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, who is poised to become the first woman in the 40-year history of the NHRA Funny Car class to win the championship. It's an accomplishment she tries to downplay, with very little success.

"It's not a big deal to me," she said, "and I think the reason is because I had nothing to do with being a female. I'm just a race car driver. I have a team of men that work on my car (and) if you've ever seen me work on an automobile, you know I wouldn't be second in points if I was on the crew. It's them and me, together as a team. We are the ones going for that championship, not just me as an individual.

"Now, some day, if we could get an all-female team, the mechanics, tuners and driver, that would be pretty amazing," she continued. "I think that will happen in my lifetime because there are more and more women moving up in the ranks and there are so many girls in junior drag racing and sportsman categories."

Right now, though, the former high school cheerleader considers herself very lucky to be the woman in the driver's seat.

"I've made plenty of mistakes, but it's been a big advantage that I've had a team that has supported me and I've had the (resources that kept me from) having to learn to drive a car while it's having motor problems and parts failures," she said. " Guido' (crew chief Dean Antonelli) and Ron (Douglas) and the team have given me such a good race car, it really shortened the learning curve for me, I think."

The reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion and the No. 1 qualifier a class best five times this season, Ashley will start this week's competition 13 points behind Hight and 35 ahead of third place Tony Pedregon.

"If we can just keep doing what we've been doing and have nothing go wrong no mistakes, no mess-ups, no bad luck, we have a really great chance," she said.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ashley Force , Robert Hight