Seattle: Ashley Force Hood preview

FORCE HOOD RECALLS 2007 SEATTLE CRASH Points Leader Aims for Seventh Final Round in 11 Races SEATTLE, Wash. -- Officially, Ashley Force Hood has made 338 trips down the track in her first three seasons as driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford ...

FORCE HOOD RECALLS 2007 SEATTLE CRASH
Points Leader Aims for Seventh Final Round in 11 Races

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Officially, Ashley Force Hood has made 338 trips down the track in her first three seasons as driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang.

She's won twice, started from the front of the field seven times and accelerated to the fastest speed ever recorded at the new 1,000 foot distance at which Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters currently compete (312.13 miles per hour).

Significantly, she also has split six races with her famous father, drag racing icon John Force, whom she beat in the final round of the 2008 Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., to become the first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race.

Nevertheless, when asked about her most memorable single lap, the 26-year-old unhesitatingly harks back to her rookie season and her first pro appearance at Pacific Raceways, site of this week's 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.

It was in the second round of the 2007 Northwest Nationals that Force Hood got her baptism of fire, both literally and figuratively. She credits her crash in a second round race with Hall-of-Famer Kenny Bernstein with making her the driver she is today.

"I learned more from that one run than a hundred good runs," Ashley said. "I learned the car's limits and mine, too, and when I was in a situation like that last week at Denver (in the second round of qualifying for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals), I flashed back to Seattle and that experience helped me keep the car off the wall.

"I still have a long way to go, but I know that each different experience makes me better. When you're in the car, it's happening so quickly, your body is just reacting and that all comes from what you've experienced before. Dad says anybody can drive a car when everything is going right. It's when things are going wrong that you really learn how to drive."

Recalling the Seattle incident, she said "I never thought that something would happen on that run. I just remember I was excited about racing Kenny and I'd just seen dad run, so I was pumped up about maybe racing him later."

At the hit of the throttle, the Mustang almost immediately lost traction, the result, a post-mortem analysis would show, of a clutch malfunction. Nevertheless, unaware of the problem, Ashley tried to recover and chase down Bernstein, who was having problems of his own downtrack.

"I saw him down (track)," she said. "I kept reacting, but then it would go up in smoke. Finally, it took off and I thought it was going to go, but then I knew it was gonna hit and I just braced myself."

When the car hit the guardwall, it caused the carbon fiber body to separate from the chassis and hung the throttle wide open although Ashley was able to grab the brake and shut off the fuel before any further damage was incurred.

Since that fateful Seattle event, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton has emerged as the brightest young star on the pro tour. In addition to victories at Atlanta, Ga., and Houston, Texas, she has appeared in nine other final rounds, presently shares the Full Throttle points lead with veteran Ron Capps and is the only Funny Car driver to have led the points each of the last two years.

"We're just trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves," said the former high school cheerleader. "We know everything could change instantly. That's drag racing. We're just working at it and trying to be consistent."

So far, hers has been the most consistent car in the category. Even though she's reached the winners' circle only one time, she shares the lead with Capps, who has won five times already this year. Furthermore, she rolls into Pacific Raceways having gone to the semifinals or beyond in six straight races.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Ron Capps , John Force , Ashley Force