Topeka: Ashley Force Hood preview

ASHLEY IN A FAST FORD AT SUMMER NATIONALS Champ's Daughter Among Funny Car Favorites TOPEKA, Kan. -- Ashley Force Hood is a study in contradictions. She's an inherently shy person who plies her trade at the wheel of one of the world's most ...

ASHLEY IN A FAST FORD AT SUMMER NATIONALS
Champ's Daughter Among Funny Car Favorites

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Ashley Force Hood is a study in contradictions. She's an inherently shy person who plies her trade at the wheel of one of the world's most powerful race cars, the 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang she'll show off this week at Heartland Park-Topeka during the 21st renewal of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals.

Force Hood, the 26-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force, hopes to improve her fourth place standing this week as the Countdown to Ten portion of the NHRA playoffs moves into the homestretch.

In just her third full season, Ashley is the highest ranked of the four Team Castrol drivers in the Heartland Park lineup on the strength of a victory earlier this year at Houston, Texas and a runner-up finish at Atlanta, Ga., in the event in which the year before she had become the first woman to win an NHRA tour Funny Car title.

Although she was a cheerleader at Esperanza High School (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Ashley also took courses in auto shop and welding. An admitted tomboy while growing up in Southern California, she was voted the "World's Hottest Athlete" in a 2007 AOL sports on-line poll.

While she enjoys typical female pursuits -- getting her hair done, wearing makeup, sliding into heels and a little black dress -- she spends weekends like this one "with helmet hair and clutch dust all over my face. I'm not at all glamorous," she said.

While that statement is subject to debate, there's no question as to the second generation driver's abilities.

The 2007 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, she quickly became the first woman ever to reach an NHRA Funny Car final (Las Vegas, 2007), the first to win a race (Atlanta, 2008), the first to lead the points (April, 2008), the first to finish in the Top 10 in points (10th, 2007) and the first to make the Countdown (2008).

Now she is focused on becoming the first to win a Funny Car Championship.

Although she was the only varsity cheerleader who declined to lead a cheer and even though she quit choir when she was required to solo, Ashley has found her niche at the wheel of the Castrol Ford.

Her comfort level inside the claustrophobic confines of the 300 mile-an-hour Funny Car has surprised everyone, especially the woman herself.

"We reach 100 miles per hour in less than a second," she said, "but I really feel the speed about halfway down the track. When the clutch engages, it's like getting the wind knocked out of you.

"After a run, I'm sore, achy and feel like I've run a marathon," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. "The human body is not made to do what we do. I never understood how (drivers) could be tired after just four-and-a-half seconds. Now I do."

The No. 1 qualifier at two of the last three Full Throttle tour events, she should be in contention for another straight-line "pole" when qualifying begins Friday.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force