Ashley Force Hood showed she still has it after renewing her NHRA drag racing license behind the wheel of younger sister Courtney's Funny Car. (Photo courtesy Gary Nastase Photography)

After three-year layoff, Ashley Force Hood may be eyeing NHRA comeback

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Former NHRA Funny Car driver Ashley Force may be on the verge of reigniting her drag racing career.

Force last raced in the 2010 World Finals, essentially retiring at the height of her career and popularity to start a family with husband Danny. Now known as Ashley Force Hood, she has watched as younger sisters Brittany and Courtney have begun carving out their own respective niches in the drag racing world.

Could it be Ashley didn’t want her little sisters to have all the fun? Or could she be mounting a comeback to potentially take over the legendary Funny Car of equally legendary father and a record 16-time NHRA champ John Force, who turns 65 next month (and is rumored to possibly be switching to Top Fuel in 2015)?

Force Hood spent Monday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway renewing her NHRA license.

And by the looks of things, it’s pretty clear the two-time U.S. Nationals Funny Car winner hasn’t lost anything in her three-year layoff from the quartermile wars.

Borrowing Courtney’s Traxxas Ford Mustang, Force Hood came close to sub-four second territory, clicking off four excellent runs of (in order) 4.11, 4.04, 4.01 and 4.05 seconds.

“Everything went better than I was expecting actually,” Force Hood said after her first run in a media release from John Force Racing. “It was nice, but it was nerve-racking. I feel like I have added five years to my life. I am glad the first one is out of the way.

“For the most part it is not that much different from when I drove. I know when I got done with the burnout I went over all my routine about three times because the reverse and the fuel are close together and I was just so scared I was going to grab the wrong one. You just don’t want to make one little mistake that will ruin the whole run.

“I just wanted to do everything right and not mess them up or mess the car up. It was weird to be in Courtney’s seat and get tips from her.”

But from Courtney’s perspective, there were very few tips she could give to her big sis.

“It was a little crazy,” Courtney Force told “(Ashley) obviously knows what she is doing out there. She has more experience than me, but it has been a few years since she was in the car.

“She ran a 4.11 on the first pass, and she clicked it a little early. That run was a little unexpected for everybody. She still has it.”

Now the question is what did Monday’s licensing renewal mean in the long run?

“There is no timetable or schedule for Force Hood to return to full-time or part-time racing,” a statement put out by John Force Racing read. “The goal of the test session was not just to renew Force Hood’s license but to also provide the 18-time Funny Car championship team with an in-house experienced driver in the event a current driver was unable to participate in an NHRA national event.”

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Porsche wins, champs crowned in rain-shortened Petit Le Mans

Photo: IMSA
Photo: IMSA

BRASELTON, Ga. – One of the more bizarre races in recent sports car history was called just prior to the eight-hour mark, as IMSA Race Director Beaux Barfield made the decision to end the 2015 edition of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda early.

It produced a surprise winner, as the GT Le Mans class No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR secured an overall victory courtesy of a storming drive from Nick Tandy and co-driver Patrick Pilet. Third driver Richard Lietz did not get to drive in the race.

Pilet has now secured the GTLM class championship, too, as a result.

Meanwhile Action Express Racing stormed from behind to win its second consecutive Prototype class championship.

The No. 5 Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais finished third overall – behind both the No. 911 car and No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE – but the result was enough to give it a class win and the class championship.

Other class champions include Jon Bennett and Colin Braun in Prototype Challenge in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia in GT Daytona. Like the Action Express pairing, Bell and Sweedler came from behind to win the title.

Other race winners were the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 of Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Guasch and Andrew Palmer in PC and the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America of Spencer Pumpelly, Patrick Lindsey and Madison Snow in GTD.

The race was slowed by 10 full-course cautions and a number of accidents, spins, and other off-course excursions.

It also featured a red flag of one hour and five minutes during the race, but the race was resumed.

Barfield explained the decision to call the race when he did in a post-race press conference with assembled reporters:

“So a big part of reconnecting with the drivers and competitors in this paddock has been really open communication,” Barfield said.

“For the basis of this decision, I go back to Watkins Glen. At Watkins Glen because of the imminent weather we had coming there and how it ended up being managed, we encouraged more open dialogue to gather as much information as possible for our decision process.

“As it turned out that was very successful how they communicated real time.

“So going into this event, with the weather being similarly predictably bad, we reestablished that. How we communicated and went about it the same way.

“Today was really similar to that with our attention to our attention to what was going on the track and on the TV screeens, and with looking at the radar. With my knowledge of this track having spent a lot of time here in the past. Having a quick car availbel for recon laps during the vents. All of our decisions were for gathering information from those different directions.

“Fast forward to the very end of the race, the last restart, I felt in my gut that with the visibility issues, you have to think about these issues that produce two problems.

“One is the grip, hydroplaning – whatever part of the world you’re from – where issues where drivers have less control. An often forgotten major issue is the visibility. Cars with downforce shoot up such a spray, it’s hard to see around.

“The grip issue was one and dealt with but we had some daylight. The visibility was a problem. But not as it great as it became in the last hour when we lost sunlight.

“The light with the track conditions gave me no comfort level to go back green that is. What I saw on track, the visibility issues I had with a Porsche on track, you had the speed they had, you’d have to drop into night with a sunset, I felt like I’d be putting driver out there completely blind.

“So this decision was made to pull the plug and do the checkered flag.”

Bottas: Williams turning focus to 2016 car

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car to set the third fastest time during the qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Belgium, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. The Belgium Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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Valtteri Bottas has explained how Williams is beginning to turn its attention to the development of its car for the 2016 Formula 1 season as the team settles into third place in the constructors’ championship.

Williams has struggled to put up much of a fight to Mercedes and Ferrari at the front of the field in 2015, picking up just three podium finishes.

With five races to go in the season, the team sits comfortably in third place in the constructors’ standings, knowing that neither the 129 point gap to Ferrari ahead or the 69 point difference to Red Bull behind are likely to be bridged.

As a result, the team is now turning attention to its 2016 car, the FW38, as explained by Bottas in his post-Japanese Grand Prix blog.

“As we get to this stage of the season some of the focus is switching to next year’s car and for sure we’ve been developing the FW38 for a long time,” Bottas said.

“That’s the target until the end of the season – to look ahead and put us in the best place for 2016. But if we can also find something that benefits this year’s car then we’ll use it as we would like to get more podiums before the season finishes. And if we can get closer to Ferrari then all the better.”

Williams has looked most comfortable at the high-speed tracks so far this season, and with the likes of the Circuit of The Americas, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and the Yas Marina Circuit all to come, the team should be in good stead for the final leg of the year.

“Most of the tracks we’re still going to this year should be good for us, so that’s very positive,” Bottas said. “I believe the upgrades we introduced for Singapore gave us more downforce and worked well, so they definitively worked here too.

“We ran the same bits on the car at Suzuka and were competitive but, obviously, Red Bull and Ferrari have made improvements too and they’ll be very difficult to beat in the coming races.”