Vying for Championship with Hight, Pedregon, Others
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – It is impossible to succeed in this town without a little bit of luck.
Whether you're into high stakes poker at The Palms, playing the slots at the Monte
Carlo or driving an 8,000 horsepower race car at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor
Speedway, site of this week's ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, you need
something more than mere skill to attain your goals.
Ashley Force Hood understands that and accepts it. Two years removed from her
Rookie-of-the-Year season, she just considers herself lucky to be one of those in
contention for the NHRA's $500,000 Full Throttle Funny Car Championship.
"We're really pumped," said the 26-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John
Force. "We've had a really great season and we're right where we want to be (in
second place, one round behind teammate Robert Hight).
"It's easy to get caught up in the stress of it all," acknowledged the driver of the
national record-holding, 312.13 mile-per-hour Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, "but we're
trying to look at it from another point of view.
"Here we are in just our third year (as a team) and we're battling for the NHRA
championship," she said. "That's a pretty neat spot to be in (and) we're trying to enjoy it
and not let the (pressure) take away the fun of it."
It's being an integral part of a high-functioning, top-of-the-line racing team that most
appeals to the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, who is poised to become the first
woman in the 40-year history of the NHRA Funny Car class to win the championship.
It's an accomplishment she tries to downplay, with very little success.
"It's not a big deal to me," she said, "and I think the reason is because I had nothing
to do with being a female. I'm just a race car driver. I have a team of men that work on
my car (and) if you've ever seen me work on an automobile, you know I wouldn't be
second in points if I was on the crew. It's them and me, together as a team. We are
the ones going for that championship, not just me as an individual.
"Now, some day, if we could get an all-female team, the mechanics, tuners and
driver, that would be pretty amazing," she continued. "I think that will happen in my
lifetime because there are more and more women moving up in the ranks and there are
so many girls in junior drag racing and sportsman categories."
Right now, though, the former high school cheerleader considers herself very lucky
to be the woman in the driver's seat.
"I've made plenty of mistakes, but it's been a big advantage that I've had a team that
has supported me and I've had the (resources that kept me from) having to learn to
drive a car while it's having motor problems and parts failures," she said. " Guido' (crew
chief Dean Antonelli) and Ron (Douglas) and the team have given me such a good race
car, it really shortened the learning curve for me, I think."
The reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion and the No. 1 qualifier a class best
five times this season, Ashley will start this week's competition 13 points behind Hight
and 35 ahead of third place Tony Pedregon.
"If we can just keep doing what we've been doing and have nothing go wrong no
mistakes, no mess-ups, no bad luck, we have a really great chance," she said.
* * * *
Off the Track:
– 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,
– Ashley and her cat, Simba, are featured in a coffee table book devoted to celebrities
and their pets created by photographer David Woo.
– Ashley will be signing autographs at Team Ford, 5445 Drexel Road, Las Vegas, from
5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29.
Did You Know?
– Ashley is one of only two Funny Car drivers, along with brother-in-law Robert Hight, to
have led the Funny Car points each of the last two years.
– Ashley was named 2008 Female Athlete of the Year by the Los Angeles-based Jim
Murray Memorial Foundation.
– 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 again this year at 312.13 mph, a speed NHRA
now recognizes as the official national record at 1,000 feet.