Pomona II: Ashley Force Hood preview

ashley aiming for 'payback' at auto club finals POMONA, Calif. - Paybacks usually are hell, but at this week's 46th annual Auto Club of Southern California Finals, the concluding event in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Series, atonement could be...

ashley aiming for 'payback' at auto club finals

POMONA, Calif. - Paybacks usually are hell, but at this week's 46th annual Auto Club of Southern California Finals, the concluding event in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Series, atonement could be heaven for drag racing icon John Force.

In a pressure cooker environment in which he needs a little help if he is to win his 15th NHRA Funny Car Championship, Force has a secret weapon this week in the form of his 27-year-old daughter, Ashley Force Hood.

"I owe all my racing success to dad," said Force Hood, the fourth year driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang. "Maybe I can start paying him back this week."

The two-time reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Champion, the NHRA national record holder for Funny Car speed at 316.38 miles per hour and first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race, Force Hood is focused on one thing this week at Auto Club Raceway and that is winning rounds.

Her perfect scenario would be to qualify at the top of the field as she did a year ago, beat points leader Matt Hagan in one of the early rounds, thus putting her father's fate back in his own hands, and win the race at what she proudly calls "our home track."

Although her bid to become the first woman to win the Funny Car title will fall just short for a second straight season (a year ago she was runner-up to teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight), Force Hood is motivated this week beyond her desire to provide positive payback to her dad.

First of all, there is her personal rivalry with Hagan, another 27- something who enjoys a 4-2 round win advantage after beating her in three consecutive semifinal matches, the most recent last month at Las Vegas.

Then there's her battle for third place with the man who first taught her to drive a race car, "Fast Jack" Beckman who, ironically, is Hagan's Don Schumacher Racing teammate. The former driving instructor currently occupies the No. 3 position but comes in only 13 points ahead of Force Hood - one racing round.

"Our goal is to finish as high as we can (in the final order)," said the former high school cheerleader. "We can't control who we race. All we can do is try to go rounds.

"I've got a great team and a good race car," said the tour's 2007 Rookie-of-the-Year, "and the winter is so much shorter when you finish strong like we did last year (when she was runner-up at the Finals to teammate Mike Neff, now one of her dad's crew chiefs)."

Winning at Auto Club Raceway would be especially sweet for the Cal State-Fullerton alum who grew up just down the road in Yorba Linda.

Although she has four tour victories to her credit since climbing behind the wheel of the Castrol Ford, her biggest success at Auto Club Raceway was her 2004 Auto Club Finals win in Jerry Darien's Top Alcohol Dragster which allowed her to share the winners' circle with the Funny Car champion, her dad.

It was an historic drag racing double, the first involving a father and daughter. This week, though, the two conceivably could once again share the podium, she as the Funny Car winner of the Auto Club Finals; he as the Funny Car champion of the world.

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Mike Neff