Las Vegas II: Ashley Force-Hood preview

ashley has a winner with queen of hearts LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Might as well go ahead and give Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang the Funny Car trophy at this week's 10th annual Las Vegas Nationals. No need to turn a tire. ...

ashley has a winner with queen of hearts

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Might as well go ahead and give Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang the Funny Car trophy at this week's 10th annual Las Vegas Nationals. No need to turn a tire. How can she lose, anyway?

She's the daughter of drag racing's biggest winner, 14-time champion John Force. She's the 2007 winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the tour's Rookie-of-the-Year, the first woman ever to win an NHRA national Funny Car race, not to mention the first female ever to lead the Funny Car points. Need it be mentioned that she's the back-to-back winner of the biggest drag race on the entire planet, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

More? She's the NHRA national record for Funny Car speed at 316.38 miles per hour, a velocity she achieved last March on the all-concrete supertrack at Charlotte, N.C., and, get this, she is coming this week to the La-La Land that is Las Vegas in a special Queen of Hearts edition of the Castrol Ford, a car maintained by a crew of 11.

That's right, as Ashley rightfully has emphasized all season long "I'm a successful woman driver only because of the 11 guys who work on this car. They're the ones that make it possible for me to do what I do."

That's the essence of the Queen of Hearts paint scheme, one that gives face time to crew chiefs Dean 'Guido' Antonelli and Ron Douglas as well as crew members Matt Archer, Lew Arrington, Brian Benedict, Andy Bissett, Alex Conaway, James Hayes, Dan Hood, Matt Madden and D.J. Minter. That's 11 guys. Count 'em yourself.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with the price of poker in Vegas.

Well, do the math. Queen of Hearts plus 11? It doesn't take a genius to see that that's blackjack, baby. That's 21. On the Vegas Strip, it pays 3-2. On The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the payoff could be much higher, especially with a $500,000 Full Throttle World Champion's bonus still on the table.

Simply stated, it's time to double-down, especially for Force Hood, who rolls into LVMS, the track on which she earned her pro license and on which she appeared in her first professional final (2007), in fourth place, 138 points behind pacesetting Matt Hagan and 74 behind her father, who is battling to win a title for the first time since recovering from injuries suffered in a devastating crash in Dallas, Texas, in Sept. 2007.

The 27-year-old former high school cheerleader has been here before. Last year, she came to Vegas with the championship in sight only to have her title bid trumped by teammate and brother-in-law Robert "Top Gun" Hight in the very first round. Hight would go on to win the title; Force Hood would settle for No. 2.

The culprit was a No. 14 start, her worst of the year; second worst of her entire career. That paired her in the first round with a higher qualifier (Hight). Not surprisingly, the team's first goal this week is to avoid a similar circumstance.

"It all starts with the first session," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. "That sets the order for the rest of the weekend. If you do well in the first session, then you get to run at the back of the pack the next time and see what everyone else is doing. It's really the one run in qualifying where there's the most pressure."

And then there are the bonus points available not only in that first session but in the three others as well. The quickest car in the session earns three points for its driver; the second quickest two and the third quickest one. That's a maximum of 12 available points - 24 over the last two races; the equivalent of winning a whole round.

"We haven't won before at Vegas, but we have run well and that's what we're focusing on," Ashley said.

She could have added "off with their heads," but that's another story.

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Matt Hagan