FORCE HOOD STAYS HOT ON AND OFF THE TRACK Champion's Daughter Among Route 66 Favorites JOLIET, Ill. - It's been a very good year for Ashley Force Hood, the 27-year-old Californian whose cover girl good looks hide the steely resolve of a woman ...
FORCE HOOD STAYS HOT
ON AND OFF THE TRACK
Champion's Daughter Among Route 66 Favorites
JOLIET, Ill. - It's been a very good year for Ashley Force Hood, the 27-year-old Californian whose cover girl good looks hide the steely resolve of a woman whose day job regularly subjects her to five G's of raw acceleration.
At the wheel of the 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang she drives for John Force Racing, Inc., she already has broken her own world record for Funny Car speed this year by accelerating to 316.38 miles per hour in just 1,000 feet, she's started from the No. 1 qualifying position for the 10th time in her career, she's appeared in two final rounds and she currently is fourth in Full Throttle driver points.
Off the track, she's written articles for newspapers, websites and magazines; penned an entry for a soon-to-be-released book; been featured in the book "Top Dogs and Their Pets" by award-winning photographer David Woo; and produced a video starring her drag racing cats, Simba and Gizmo.
She's served as a spokesperson for the National Association of Letter Carriers' "Stamp Out Hunger" drive that took in a record 77.1 million pounds of food, she's written and illustrated a "Drag Racing 101" primer for younger sister Courtney, who soon will be joining her on the pro tour, and she's conducted more interviews she thought possible including several with Chicago-area TV stations and newspapers leading up to this week's 13th annual United Association Route 66 Nationals.
Nevertheless, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton admits to harboring just a tinge of frustration because she has not been the dominating presence she was at this time a year ago. She's hoping that will all change this week in her return to her adopted home track, Route 66 Raceway.
"My real home track is Auto Club Raceway (in Pomona, Calif.)," said the daughter of drag racing icon John Force, "but my husband, Dan, is from Chicago so this is like my 'other' home track."
Force Hood's car, prepared by crew chiefs Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas, has been typically quick and fast and the former high school cheerleader has driven it well. The problem is that when she has been at her best, the car has stumbled. The reverse also has been true.
As a result, Ashley comes to town this week as the only JFR driver without a win in the season's first nine races. Ironically, she was the only team driver WITH a victory at this time last year.
"Timing is everything in this sport," Ashley said, "and so far our timing has just been a little off. The most important thing is that we know we have a car that will perform in the heat - and that's what we expect to see the next four weeks.
"We race every weekend in June and we expect to be on hot racetracks in summer heat," said the reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion. "We're looking forward to that because we did well in those conditions last year. Plus, it'll be good to get into that weekly racing routine where everything just happens. Sometimes it's best not to have to think. Just take what you've learned and let it work for you."
"It's great to be where we are," said the graduate of Cal State Fullerton. "You want to be in the Top 10 because that's how you get into the Countdown, but you want to finish as high (in the order) as possible. Robert won last year from 10th place, but I don't see that happening again."
Force Hood was third in points entering last year's Countdown to 1. That meant she started the 50 points down to pacesetting Tony Pedregon.
"Just being in the Top 10 is important," she acknowledged, "but position is (important), too. The higher you start, the less ground you have to make up at the end."