Champ's Daughter Aims for Seventh Final Round in 12 Races
SONOMA, Calif. – Ashley Force Hood need only qualify her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang for Sunday's 22nd annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway to become the first John Force Racing driver to lock up one of the 10 starting spots in the NHRA's Countdown to One.
Based on her performance this season, which includes six final round appearances in the last 11 NHRA tour events, Force Hood's participation in the playoffs is a virtual certainty.
Suddenly, though, it is an achievement that's not quite as meaningful as it might have been just three months ago.
The fact is, her team's success has compelled the former high school cheerleader to re-evaluate and redefine her goals and those of her team.
"Usually, you set your goals and then try to achieve them," said the 26-year-old graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, "but I think we've really outdone ourselves this year. I think we went past what we projected. If anything, we were guilty of limiting ourselves.
"When we suddenly found ourselves going rounds every race and going to finals and leading the points, we talked about it and decided that just because we're only a three-year-old team, there's no reason why we can't have dreams for the championship," said the daughter of 14-time champion John Force.
"Maybe some people think that's crazy considering we're racing people who have been racing longer than I've been alive," she said, "(but) sometimes it's not just about how long you've been doing it.
"Obviously that helps a lot, but I think when you have a group that really wants it bad enough that the passion may be a lot more important than the skills.
"I was reading the Michael Jordan book and he said he would always rather play with a group with less skills and more passion than a team of the best players in the world who can't get along together and work together.
"I really think that describes our team. We might have been a newer group to start with, but we so wanted to succeed together that it made our learning curve a lot quicker," said the two-time tour winner, the only Funny Car driver to have led the Full Throttle points each of the last two seasons.
"We want to go after this championship," she said. "There's no reason not to do that. Obviously, you're always trying to win, but I think there was a time when we thought we were a new team and we didn't need to set the bar too high.
"Last season, we were randomly doing good. This season the difference is that we've been consistently doing good and we're seeing other teams struggle to do that and we thought, why not?' So that's our goal; that's what we're going after. We want race wins but, more than anything else, we want round wins because that's what adds up to a championship."
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Did You Know?
– Ashley is the Infineon Raceway record holder at the 1,000 foot distance at 4.094 seconds, a mark she set last year in qualifying No. 1 for the first time in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
– Ashley was the 2008 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year.
– Ashley was a semifinals at Sonoma in 2004 and 2005 in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Ashley's Castrol GTX Mustang was the fastest Funny Car at the 1,000 foot distance in 2008 (310.05 mph) and is the fastest at the same distance this year (312.13 mph).
– Ashley was one of only four Funny Car points leaders last year along with teammate Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson and eventual champion Cruz Pedregon. She's the only Funny Car driver to have led the points each of the last two years.
– Ashley and her husband, Dan Hood, are traveling the Western Swing in a 34-foot Bounder motor home by Fleetwood from El Monte RV Center. The couple will travel approximately 2,115 miles. In support of the Hoods, El Monte RV is offering exclusive discounts to the first 100 fans that rent an El Monte RV at www.elmonterv.com
Off the Track:
– Ashley was recognized in 2008 as the Female Athlete of the Year by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation in Los Angeles.
– Ashley was among a group of drivers and NHRA sponsors who participated in the Opening Bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange on June 10. She was joined by BP/Castrol executive Marci Brand, Regional Vice-President, Automotive Americas, as well as by drivers Antron Brown, Bob Tasca III, Morgan Lucas, Karen Stoffer, Tony Pedregon and Eddie Krawiec.
– Ashley is racing a special edition Castrol GTX Ford Mustang this week in a promotion to help raise awareness of a charity affiliated with BrandSource.
– Ashley was one of the stars of Driving Force, a real life series that aired for two seasons on A&E Network and focused on her development as a race car driver.