Dallas: Ashley Force Hood preview

FORCE HO0D COMES OF AGE IN FULL THROTTLE FAST LANE Champ's Daughter One Point Behind Pacesetting Tony Pedregon DALLAS, Texas -- In recounting John Force's career-threatening 2007 crash at the Texas Motorplex, what often is forgotten is that...

FORCE HO0D COMES OF AGE IN FULL THROTTLE FAST LANE
Champ's Daughter One Point Behind Pacesetting Tony Pedregon

DALLAS, Texas -- In recounting John Force's career-threatening 2007 crash at the Texas Motorplex, what often is forgotten is that Ashley Force Hood withdrew from the race to be with her family and, in doing so, sacrificed what at the time was her best shot at a breakthrough victory on what now is the NHRA Full Throttle tour.

Although she posted the quickest time of the entire event (4.786 seconds) and would have had lane choice in a semifinal match with Cruz Pedregon, Force Hood parked her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang after a crash that left her father with multiple fractures to his arms, legs, feet and hands.

It would be another six months before the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton would reach the winners' circle for the first time at a pro at Atlanta, Ga.

Now, no longer a novelty in a Funny Car division that, before her arrival, was considered exclusively a " men's club," Ashley returns this week to Billy Meyer's all-concrete track with an opportunity to fulfill the destiny she abandoned in 2007.

Just one point behind two-time series champ Tony Pedregon entering this week's 24th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals, Force Hood conceivably could roll to the starting line Sunday as the points leader.

Although a woman hasn't won the Funny Car championship in the 40 years that one has been contested in the NHRA series, Ashley appears fully capable of doing so.

After all, she has consistency, momentum and history on her side.

Her Castrol GTX Ford has been the most consistent car on the tour all season long, carrying her to five No. 1 starts, seven finals rounds and two victories.

Momentum? She easily could have arrived in Dallas with a two-race win streak. After becoming the first woman to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., in two different heads-up categories, she just missed victory last week at Charlotte, N.C., where she dropped a narrow semifinal decision to brother-in-law and eventual race winner Robert Hight (by .003 of a second).

As for history, she was the first woman to reach a Funny Car final, the first to win a race, the first to lead the points and the first to qualify for the Countdown. Why couldn't she be the first to win the Full Throttle championship?

The fact is that the former varsity cheerleader at Esperanza High School (Yorba Linda, Calif.) presently is at the top of her game. Even her starting line reaction times, which were an initial cause for concern, have improved dramatically since she changed the way she positions her car at the starting line.

Now, despite the pressure, she admits she's having fun.

"I love being a driver," she said, "but I'm jealous of the fans getting to watch all this go down because it's going to be exciting.

"If you look at all the drivers in our category, there's not one dominant person," she said, "(so) it could be anybody's championship. In this sport, anything can happen. I think we have a great shot at it."

-credit: jfr

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