Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, is in third place in the standings heading into this weekend's event in Brainerd, Minn. Force Hood, who won at Houston earlier this season, talks about being the most successful...
Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, is in third place in the standings heading into this weekend's event in Brainerd, Minn. Force Hood, who won at Houston earlier this season, talks about being the most successful team at the John Force Racing this season, and the possibility of winning a championship.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS SEASON? "We're really excited about this season. Of course, every year you try and you hope that you do well, and some years you do, and some years you struggle, but we've really had a great season all year long. We've kind of gotten on this roll. Sometimes it does take a little luck in drag racing and we seemed to have had it this year. We're hoping to continue that, and continue keeping up high in the points, finish off strong, and try to get that number one spot back from Tony."
CAN YOU PUT YOUR FINGER ON WHY YOU HAVE BEEN THE DOMINANT TEAM AMONG THE FOUR IN JOHN FORCE RACING? "Well, I think the biggest part of that is because we haven't changed that much this year. The beginning of the season the NHRA made a decision to limit testing, and that is something that we have always really utilized. We tested all the time, almost after every race. If we were able to, we would stay and we would test, and this year not having that ability to do so, of course nobody is able to have unlimited testing, it really changed things. I don't know if we realized how it would affect what we do. Instead of getting to test and then go out and race, we have to do testing during the race. It's really caused some of the teams to struggle that like to do new things, and try out different things, like John Medlen, Jimmy Prock, and Austin and Bernie. It's been a struggle for them because where they were used to getting all those kinks worked out Monday after a race, now they're having to do that during their event. With my team, we haven't been on a testing run at all. We basically stayed with the same things as we had in 2007 when we started in Funny Car. My crew chiefs, Guido and Ron, decided if it ain't broke don't fix it. They've wanted to keep with that. It's just a matter of the difference in how people tune. We haven't been trying new things, we're running the same combination we always have, where the other three teams in our camp, they do want to try new things and there is a learning curve with that."
AS A DRIVER, EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE SUCH A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME WHEN YOU'RE IN THE CAR, DO THINGS START TO BECOME AUTOMATIC? "It does, especially in the event of something going wrong, and those are the times when you do need your experience the most. You need those 100 good runs when you went through the lights, you hit the parachute and you hit the fuel for that one run when you're on fire going through the lights and you can't see anything. Instead of panicking, your body can kind of take over for you and can go I still know what I need to do, no matter what's going on. I need my parachutes out, I need my fuel locked, and doing those things. I've been fortunate that I've raced a lot of years in a lot of different categories and never really had any big incidents until I got into the Funny Car class, but I think it was all those years in the other categories, and getting to know those basics, and having it become a routine that helped. It's a sad thing when you see a driver in any form of motorsport, that's a newer driver who's thrown into a situation that they don't have that much experience. You're under a lot of pressure, a lot of things are going on, you can't expect them to just be able to make the right decision. My dad, who is an experienced driver, when I was first starting out, he would have me practice having my eyes closed and doing all my steps, because he said someday I would be in a fire, I'd be in smoke and I wouldn't be able to see anything, and you need to still know what you need to do. He said you never know how it's going to happen, when that time comes, you don't know if you'll go right into your routine, and you don't know if you'll be in shock. You never know quite how you'll react in any kind of a stressful situation like that, but I've been lucky that I have enough years under my belt that when I did get in a couple of those instances, with the fire and with the Seattle crash, that I was able to calm myself down in that moment and stop worrying about what's happening and do what I needed to do to get this car safe and stopped."
THERE ARE NINE RACES LEFT IN THE SEASON, WHICH IS STILL A LOT. HAVE YOU ALLOWED YOURSELF TO THINK ABOUT WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP? "Yeah, my team and I have talked about it a lot. We're really excited about this year, especially with the points how they are. Anybody can be a champion in this class. Its not that we have any dominant person in our category. There's certain people that excel at certain things or have certain parts of the year that they'll get on a roll, but really it's a pretty even class. If you look at all the drivers in our category, it could be anybody's win. That's exciting for us, because we are a newer team. You wouldn't think that we would be thinking about a championship going up against certain teams, people who have been driving longer than I've been alive, including my father, but I think in our sport, anything can happen. Its not impossible, and we definitely have the car this year to do if we can just keep maintaining how we've been doing, and not make mistakes. I think we have a great chance at it."
-credit: ford racing