If she were a super hero, former NHRA star Ashley Force Hood would be Cat Woman

1 Comment

If former drag racer Ashley Force Hood were a superhero, she’d definitely be Cat Woman.

Detailing her fondness for cats, particularly her own Simba and Gizmo – who love to go to the race track with her – Force Hood was featured recently in a lengthy story on Catster.com.

The daughter of 16-time National Hot Rod Association champion John Force, sister of current NHRA stars Brittany and Courtney and a former Funny Car star herself (she recently renewed her NHRA competition license after a three-year layoff), Force Hood proudly states she has been an avid cat lover her entire life.

When asked, she quickly rattled off names of all the cats she’s ever owned: Taffy, Caramel, Licorice, Licorice #2, Coco, Caramel Corn, Sierra, Snowy, Timber and her current cats, Simba and Gizmo (named after the Gremlins movie by husband Dan).

“Simba was a birthday gift to me from my husband the year we got married in 2008, and then we got Gizmo the following year so Simba would have a buddy,” Force Hood said. “Both Simba and Gizmo are American Bobtails.

“We have had several kinds of cats over the years, but what I like most about the American Bobtails is they are so beautiful, very personable, and good around kids. At the time I had a little niece and we knew there were going to be kids around so after researching cat breeds we knew the American Bobtails would be good with kids.

“Our cats want to be on your neck when you wake up in the morning. They will push your face with their faces. It’s the most adorable thing. I’ve never had a cat that is as personable as Simba, almost too much, as you’re like, “I need my space, you’re in my bubble.” He so wants to be near you.

“Gizmo is a little more crazy. He just wants to run around and be a cat. Sometimes he will come over to you but he is definitely more of the crazy one. It’s amazing that they are both American Bobtails, because personality-wise they couldn’t be more different.”

Force Hood recalled one instance where she took her cats to a race and disaster almost struck.

“I’m not actively competing right now, as we have two young sons,” Force Hood said. “But when I was on the circuit we were traveling a lot and would take the cats on the road with us.

“Being on the road with them was a lot of fun. However, one time were at a race in Seattle and we had our RV set up with all of the other racers. Gizmo somehow got out and under the trailer. We were really close to the track, and it would have been really bad if Gizmo had gotten onto the track as the cars are going 320 miles per hour.

“We had all the racers and their wives trying to get under the trailer to get Gizmo out, and he kept going from underneath one trailer to the next — having the time of his life being chased, of course. We finally got him and put him back in the RV, and we’re like, ‘Okay, we have to be careful with this door!'”

Her current cats even have their own fan following, Force Hood said.

“I have a lot of young fans, and I swear I have gotten more attention because of the cats than anything I have done during a race,” she said. “People will make poster signs for them.

“One time I was doing an interview on ESPN and in the crowd someone was holding up a sign that said ‘Simba and Gizmo.’ It was funny. I even briefly started a blog for them. The fans really love them.

“I think the fans really like that I have cats. There are a lot of racers, and I think me having cats is something the fans can relate to. People will bring them little goodies and gifts, and even though they may not have a lot in common with a race-car driver, they do with someone who has cats. I have a lot of people who will bring me pictures of their cats; it’s neat and interesting. You don’t think of cats and puppies necessarily when you think of the drag racing crowd, so it’s something that is a little different.”

If you’re a cat lover and want to read more of Force Hood’s interview, click here.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.