FORCE HOOD STICKING TO REGULAR ROUTINE U.S. Nationals Champ Tries to Ignore 4-Wide Distractions CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The improved visibility in her new-look 2010 Ford Mustang could prove to be anything but an advantage this week for ...
FORCE HOOD STICKING
TO REGULAR ROUTINE
U.S. Nationals Champ Tries to Ignore 4-Wide Distractions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The improved visibility in her new-look 2010 Ford Mustang could prove to be anything but an advantage this week for reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Funny Car Champion Ashley Force Hood.
In fact, entering the inaugural NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at ZMax Dragway, the 27-year-old phenom believes she would have been better served by the configuration of the Castrol GTX Mustang in which she reached the semifinals of last September's Carolinas Nationals on the same track.
The driver's view from inside that car was so restricted that it made it almost impossible to sense an opponent's position relative to one's own. It was like wearing blinders, said the daughter of drag racing icon John Force, adding that in the four-wide format, that might be a good thing.
"At first you think it is definitely something that is a huge difference from what we are used to doing," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, "(but) really, it's not that different. It goes back to the way you think about it. You can't mentally make it a big deal. As a driver, I am just focusing on following my usual routine.
"You can't think about running three other people," she said. "I think anyone that (over-thinks the presence of two other opponents and) tries to do weird stuff will just mess themselves up."
Instead, Ashley will try to focus on maintaining a "Point A to Point B" approach that last year yielded eight final round appearances, two victories, a category best six No. 1 starts and second place in Full Throttle points behind teammate Robert Hight.
Although the 2007 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year is off to an uncharacteristically slow start this year, she remains confident in a team that is widely regarded as one of the most efficient on the tour.
"I've got the best bunch of guys," she said. "We were in a position to win (last year), but things don't always go like you want them to. Talent, skill, equipment, those things are so important, but sometimes you just need a little bit of luck. That's part of racing as well."
The first woman to reach an NHRA Funny Car final and the first to win a Funny Car race, she has overcome an inherent shyness to star on the same stage as her bigger-than-life father.
Amazingly, the girl who took auto shop and hung at the back of the chorale so she wouldn't have to sing the obligatory solo has found her niche in a 310 mile an hour race car.
"There were times in the past when I just had to go sit down in a dark corner and go 'holy cow, how am I going to get through this weekend and do my job with so many people around?,'" she said.
"But now that I've gotten a little more used to it and it's not so overwhelming for me, it's fun. It's exciting to interact with people, especially all the little girls who come to my ropes. They understand that I can't stop and talk for half-an-hour. It took me awhile to learn that our fans understand that we have a job to do. They're visiting us in our workplace.
"I've always had a nice, protective bubble around me with my father and our team. But I've had a lot of support even from my own competitors. I have people like Tim Wilkerson and Tony Pedregon come over and try to help me out when I need it. That's pretty cool. I don't think it's like that in all types of motor sports."
After failing to win as a Funny Car rookie, Ashley broke through at Atlanta in 2008 when she beat her dad in an all-Castrol final round. She followed that with last year's breakout season which established her as a legitimate title contender whether the competition is two, three or four-wide.