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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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III