FORCE HOOD HEATS UP IN BID FOR 2010 TITLE In 2nd Place in Points After 2nd Runner-up Finish TOPEKA, Kan. -- Ashley Force Hood has not yet put her Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang in the winners' circle this season, but her current second place ...
FORCE HOOD HEATS UP
IN BID FOR 2010 TITLE
In 2nd Place in Points After 2nd Runner-up Finish
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Ashley Force Hood has not yet put her Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang in the winners' circle this season, but her current second place standing is reason enough to believe that the 27-year-old once again has what it takes to contest the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
The daughter of drag racing icon John Force, one of the drivers against whom she will compete this week in the 22nd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals at Heartland Park-Topeka, Force Hood knows that at this point in the season, it's not as important to win races as it is to lay a foundation for the forthcoming playoffs.
"It's great to be where we are," said the graduate of Cal State Fullerton, "but the most important thing is that we have a car that is good in the cool (weather) and also good in the heat. That's a credit to my tuners (crew chiefs Dean 'Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas) and to my crew.
"We're going to start running a lot of races back-to-back (seven races in eight weeks during June and July), which is good and bad," said the reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion. "It's bad because, if you have something happen to the car, there's not a lot of time to figure it out. But it's good because everyone gets in a routine. You're racing every week and not having to go through your checklist every time. It all becomes second nature."
The $500,000 Full Throttle championship, which just slipped through her fingers a year ago when she was caught up in teammate Robert "Top Gun" Hight's spectacular worst-to-first stretch run, won't be in play for another three months, but Ashley knows that the road to the title is all about position.
"The Top 10 drivers get into the Countdown and Robert won last year from 10th place," said the NHRA world record holder for Funny Car speed (316.38 miles per hour), "but I don't see that happening again, maybe ever. Our goal is to catch dad before we get to Indy (home of the Labor Day U.S. Nationals) and get that No. 1 spot."
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."
Coming off a season in which she started her 8,000 horsepower Ford from the No. 1 qualifying position a category-best six times and reached the finals in fully a third of the 24 races in the series, Force Hood isn't at all intimidated by the hot weather that likely will impact the majority of the events leading up to the Countdown.
"For whatever reason, we kind of get into a groove this time of year," she said, alluding to a 2009 summer stretch during which she went to the finals four times in five events including the Summer Nationals in which she was beaten in the final by Ron Capps after qualifying No. 1 and setting track records for 1,000 foot time and speed.
"It's always exciting to return to a track (where) you've done well at in the past," said the former high school cheerleader. "You do have those memories. You remember that feeling (and) you feel like maybe you have a little bit of an advantage because you have done well (before)."
A three-time tour winner and 2007 Rookie-of-the-Year, Ashley will roll to the starting line Friday aware of the fact that the biggest threat to her Summer Nationals bid may come from those closest to her. She lost last week's Atlanta final to Hight (to whom she finished second in last year's Countdown) and, earlier this year, she was runner-up to her dad in the inaugural 4-Wide Nationals at Charlotte, N.C.