Force Hood’s Second Funny Car Win Erases All Doubts

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2009
Photo Courtesy NHRA 


Photo Courtesy NHRA

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Rarely does a driver’s second career victory outshine his or her first. For myriad reasons, including a lingering conspiracy theory, Ashley Force Hood labeled career NHRA Funny Car victory No. 2 at Houston Raceway Park Sunday afternoon a bigger “blast” than her historic first. 

Force Hood marched through a personal “Who’s Who” of drag racing buddies in Baytown en route to a final round victory over Jack Beckman in the 22nd annual O’Reilly Spring Nationals. 

In order, Force Hood disposed of points-leader Ron Capps; father and 14-time champion John Force, Del Worsham and Beckman. Worsham defeated Force Hood in the final of this event last spring. And “Fast Jack” is the man who taught Ashley, her younger sisters and their mother to drive competitively.

Force Hood’s winning pass was recorded in the troublesome right lane. But she left the starting line first and never trailed, posting a 1,000-foot time of 4.122 seconds at 306.19 mph, second-quickest of the day and easily the best in the right lane. Beckman’s Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge  Charger trailed in 4.227 seconds at 303.43 mph.

 “That was a day’s work,” said Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “We really had to earn this win. Sometimes you  get on a roll and things work out. There is no easy draw in Funny Car, but the ones I had beat today had beat me up in the past. They beat me up on the track, they beat me up on the Christmas Tree. So I needed to be on my game and not make any mistakes. All four are good competitors and good friends _ and of course, there’s my dad. But Ron, Del and Jack I’ve known for years. It was a great day for us.”

Also posting victories in the fourth of 24 events on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule were Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Krisher (Pro Stock) and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force Hood scored her historic gender-breaking first NHRA Funny Car victory at Atlanta Dragway late last April by defeating father/car owner John in the final. Nearly one year later, John Force Racing cannot escape the suggestion that father made that win happen for his daughter.

“Atlanta was big…even if it was against me,” John Force told RacinToday.com in a phone interview from the HRP victory stand. “Sometimes people want to question it…but she outran me. This kind of cleans that up. She hit some hitters today. She’s running better than all my cars right now.”

Force Hood squared her record against her dad to 4-4 in Round 2, when she out-pedaled one of the masters of the craft.

“I pedaled it and got back on it…but she pulled the win out and really drove,” said John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang. “The team was good, made no mistakes. But the way she drove…she’s really got her stuff together, finessing it down the track. And that’s what you’ve got to do to win these races. I’m just so excited for her.”

Force Hood remains bemused by the notion she was room-serviced her first win by her dad.

“This win is so much sweeter because we have heard people say that,” said  Force Hood, whose Ford is prepped by crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dean Antonelli. “We knew in our camp it was a heads-up race (at Atlanta) but there’s been a lot of people who have asked about it. It is frustrating because these guys work so hard and to have people think that takes the wind out of our sails. No teammate of ours is a good teammate if they let us win. We have good enough teams that we don’t need that.

“To get another chance – and we did race dad – and finish up against a guy (Beckman) from another team who was really gunning for us, it was a different scene. We definitely had more fun today. Atlanta was such a strange day…so long and it was raining and everyone was exhausted. We really didn’t get excited. We were glad we won but we were happy to survive the day. Today we were able to take it all in and enjoy it.”

Force Hood’s victory over Beckman vaulted her from 10th to third place in the Funny Car standings behind Capps, driver of the NAPA Dodge Charger, who has a 29-point lead over Worsham and his Toyota Solara.

Beckman and crew chief Johnny West were forced to deal with a starting line glitch in the final.

“We’re not quite sure what happened, but at the starting line it started spraying raw fuel out of the right side from the No. 6 pipe…and we all kind of looked at each other with that same thought in our mind at the same time,” Beckman said. “We’re figuring it’s going to puddle fuel under the tire and we’re dead. As soon as the thing moves and the rear tire gets in that fuel the run’s over.

“So, I thought our only shot is for me to deep-stage and maybe it can get her (Force Hood) to red- light. It didn’t work, and they did a great job. And then our car cleaned up. I can’t believe it went down the drag strip on that run.”

 JFR, meanwhile, had not celebrated in the winners’ circle since Robert Hight prevailed last September in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. It was the team’s 180th Funny Car victory overall and 13th at HRP, where John Force previously had won seven times.

Schumacher’s Top Fuel win –a holeshot 3.881 at 314.75 (0.059 RT) in his U.S. Army Dragster to Cory McClenathan’s 3.880 at 313.66 (0.098 RT) in the FRAM Dragster – was his first of the season. It also was the first for the U.S. Army team since parting ways with longtime crew chief Alan Johnson, who tuned the Army dragster to five consecutive Top Fuel world championships.

“Everyone knows we don’t have (Alan Johnson) anymore, and people said we couldn’t win without him. So we had to dig deep, and I love ‘suck it up’ moments –bottom of the ninth, bases loaded – and that’s what we had all day,” said Schumacher, who moved from fifth place in points to second with his 57th career win. Schumacher broke a tie with Joe Amato and is now alone in sixth place on the all-time NHRA wins list.

 The victory celebration was perhaps made a bit sweeter for Schumacher as he used another holeshot to defeat Larry Dixon in Johnson’s Al-Anabi Racing Dragster in the semifinals – 3.895 with a 0.082 RT to Dixon’s 3.889 with a 0.104 RT.

In Pro Stock, Krisher ran a solid 6.587 in his Valvoline Chevy Cobalt to defeat Jeg Coughlin’s struggling 7.051 in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt.

“We did real good all day until the last round,” Krisher said. “I let out the clutch and the car just spun and didn’t go anywhere. We lost about six-hundredths to 60 feet and my light went right away with it. It was shaking and moving around, but I looked over and Jeggie was in worse shape than me so I decided I was going to stick with it.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Treble steered his Team Scream Suzuki to a 6.915 that was more than enough to beat the 7.260 from first-year rider Douglas Horne,  making just his second career start.

New national records were set by Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock). Smith broke Angelle Sampey’s nearly two-year-old record for elapsed time when he ran a 6.865 in a second-round win over defending series champion Eddie Krawiec.

 Edwards set the new record for speed when he became the first Pro Stocker to surpass 212 mph with his 212.03 mph run in his semifinal loss to Krisher.

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Series resumes in a week with the April 2-5 SummitRacing.Com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2009
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