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 NHRA.com. “(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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Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.