St. Louis: Ashley Force Hood preview

RACING IN DAD'S SHADOW, ASHLEY QUIETLY MOVES UP Force Hood Third in Full Throttle Points Chase MADISON, Ill. -- Ashley Force Hood, the 27-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force, enters this week's 14th annual AAA Insurance Midwest...

RACING IN DAD'S SHADOW, ASHLEY QUIETLY MOVES UP
Force Hood Third in Full Throttle Points Chase

MADISON, Ill. -- Ashley Force Hood, the 27-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force, enters this week's 14th annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals as one of the most popular and highly-publicized drivers on the NHRA Full Throttle tour -- and therein lies a problem.

Unlike her dad, who is the sport's unchallenged king of commentary, Force Hood is inherently shy.

"In high school, I was the only cheerleader who never got out in front to lead a cheer," admitted the driver of the world's fastest Funny Car, a Castrol GTX Ford Mustang that earlier this year was clocked at 316.38 miles per hour. "In choir, I was the only one who never did a solo. I get nervous when there's a big crowd cheering at the ropes. I'm actually relieved when I climb in the car."

Although she's grown more comfortable with the extracurricular scene, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton would prefer to just drive her race car, something that has been much easier this season because of the resurgence of her 60-year-old dad.

With the bulk of the media attention currently focused on her father, who's won three of the season's first six events, Force Hood has been able to race in relative obscurity, quietly placing herself in position to again contend for a Funny Car championship never before won by a woman.

In fact, she rolls into Gateway International Raceway in third place in Full Throttle points, 158 behind her dad but just 38 behind second place Matt Hagan. It's an impressive position for a driver who has yet to appear in a final round after reaching the finals on a category best eight occasions in 2009.

"The car is running really good," she said. "We just haven't had any racing luck. Maybe that will come in St. Louis. The most important thing is that as a team we have a lot of confidence right now. We know we have a car that's capable of running low ET and winning every week."

If she didn't inherit her dad's affinity for the spotlight, Ashley apparently did glom on to the competitive gene that has made him the most prolific winner in history.

"Her dad's blood definitely runs through her veins," admitted crew chief Dean "Guido" Antonelli. "She definitely can handle a Funny Car."

The first woman to reach the final round of an NHRA Funny Car race and the first to win (Atlanta, Ga., 2008), Ashley turned up the juice a year ago when she won drag racing's biggest single event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, on the way to a second place finish behind brother-in-law and teammate Robert "Top Gun" Hight.

While she is portrayed in the media as the new face of high performance, Ashley understands how things really work in the world's fastest sport.

"The thing about drag racing is you can go from hero to zero very quickly," said the 2007 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year. "We know it's a very tough group we race against and, so, you never want to get ahead of yourself. Qualify first, then one round at a time. That's our plan every race."

It's a solid plan, one she hopes will land her in Sunday's final -- against her dad.

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Matt Hagan