Pomona: Ashley Force Hood preview

THE NAME HAS CHANGED, BUT SHE'S STILL A FORCE Champ's Daughter Launches 2009 Title Bid at Pomona POMONA, Calif. -- Despite an off-season name change recognizing her December marriage to Daniel Hood, there's no doubt that the woman in the ...

THE NAME HAS CHANGED, BUT SHE'S STILL A FORCE
Champ's Daughter Launches 2009 Title Bid at Pomona

POMONA, Calif. -- Despite an off-season name change recognizing her December marriage to Daniel Hood, there's no doubt that the woman in the high-powered green-and-white Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang competing this week at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is all Force.

Ashley Force Hood, the daughter of 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, shares her father's broad smile, his love of movies and his aggressive driving style, qualities that have helped make her a star and an aspiring champion in the NHRA Full Throttle drag racing series.

The first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car race, the first to lead the points and the first to finish in the Top 10, Ashley launches her latest bid to become the first to win a Funny Car championship when she competes this week in the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly Winternationals.

Although her resume includes just 45 pro races, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton is exceedingly comfortable entering the season-opener, a race in which she made her Funny Car debut in 2007 and in which she reached the semifinals last year.

The 2007 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, Ashley finished 10th in driver points her first year; sixth in 2008.

She hopes to improve this year in an 8,000 horsepower Castrol Ford that was the fastest on the 1,000 foot course in 2008; the only Funny Car to reach 310 miles per hour (310.05 mph).

Although her only victory of 2008 came at Atlanta, Ga., where she beat her dad to win the Summit Southern Nationals, Ashley was runner-up at three other events, twice started from the No. 1 qualifying position, was the No. 1 seed for the U.S. Smokeless Showdown Funny Car bonus race and was one of just four drivers to lead the Funny Car points (with Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight).

"We're still a really young team," she said. "We've made some mistakes but we've learned from them. We just want to continue to improve. I'm just really excited to get back into the racing routine."

Anchored by crew chiefs Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas, the Castrol GTX team won the 2008 Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge which rewards qualifying consistency.

"I've got the best crew," Ashley said. "My guys make sure that every time I go out there I've got the best possible race car. That really gives you confidence as a driver. I don't have to worry about the car. I just have to worry about doing my job."

Ashley's success in what once was considered the last bastion of male dominance has not gone unnoticed. Last year, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight