NHRA flashback: 10 years ago, Ashley Force became first woman to win a Funny Car race

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This weekend’s race at Atlanta Dragway marks a significant milestone in the world of drag racing: the 10th anniversary of Ashley Force Hood becoming the first woman to ever win an NHRA Funny Car event.

Force Hood earned her first career win in perhaps the hardest way of all: she defeated her father, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, in the final round of the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Force’s second-oldest daughter, Ashley not only laid the groundwork for sisters Brittany and Courtney, she also helped advance the success for female drag racers in general, particularly on the professional level in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Ashley’s NHRA tenure, however, was fairly short-lived: she retired from the sport following the 2010 season to start a family. Her career scorecard shows four professional-level wins in 16 final round appearances, including back-to-back triumphs in the sport’s biggest race of the year, the U.S. Nationals.

Today, she serves as a vice president of her father’s company, John Force Racing.

“Winning Atlanta in 2008 was a huge deal for me personally, for many different reasons,” Ashley Force Hood said in a recent interview. “It was my first win as a Funny Car driver, and I was the first female to win in that category which was special, but it also followed a very difficult 2007 season, losing our teammate Eric (Medlen) and my dad’s crash (at Texas in October of that year).

“To have a really happy moment at the track with my team, that is what made that day most special. And to get to compete against my father in the final round was really exciting. There wasn’t the nervousness or pressure that usually comes with a final round because JFR had already won the race. I remember being in the lanes with his team and mine, joking with each other and it was just a really great night.”

For Force Hood, she recalls the Atlanta win — the actual date was April 27, 2018 — as if it was yesterday with great recall.

“One unique memory about the win that not many people know is that I actually got really upset with my father on the starting line before the final,” Force Hood said. “We had done our burnouts and then it started to sprinkle and they shut us off.

“At the time we all had radios between teams and dad was freaking out on the radio about the safety of the track and if it was dry downtrack. Meanwhile I was trying to stay focused in my car.

“Looking back, I know yelling over the radio and talking nonstop was his way of keeping his energy up during the delay. But this was really distracting to me. I even remember wondering if he was trying to mess with me. I finally ripped the earplugs right out of my helmet. So I was actually really amped up and irritated by the time we started our cars and made the final run.”

Ashley Force Hood

Since Force Hood’s win, three other females have won in the Funny Car class, led by her sister, Courtney, who has gone on to become the winningest female driver in Funny Car history.

And other sister, Brittany, won the Top Fuel championship last season.

“I’m so proud of how well my sisters are doing in their careers, not only the driving part, but also handling the pressures that come along with it,” Force Hood said. “There’s so much more that goes into being a racer driver than just driving down a track.

“I’ve been especially proud of how they’ve handled this season, with the crashes we’ve had. That could easily get into a driver’s head and affect them but they’ve both won races despite the distractions and are having great seasons.

“And most importantly, they are enjoying it. They both are very close to their teams, have great relationships with their sponsors and really enjoy interacting with fans whether at a race or through social media.”


Female Funny Car wins since Ashley Force Hood’s first victory:

In the modern era of NHRA racing (1970 forward), there was not a woman Funny Car winner in 569 events. Since Force Hood’s win, women have won 19 of the last 231 Funny Car races.

1. April 27, 2008 Atlanta: Ashley Force defeated John Force

2. May 18, 2008 Bristol, Tenn.: Melanie Troxel defeated Mike Neff

3. March 29, 2009 Houston: Ashley Force Hood defeated Jack Beckman

4. Sept. 7, 2009 Indianapolis: Ashley Force Hood defeated Robert Hight

5. Sept. 6, 2010 Indianapolis: Ashley Force Hood defeated John Force

6. August 5, 2012 Seattle: Courtney Force defeated Matt Hagan

7. Feb. 17, 2013 Pomona, Calif.: Courtney Force defeated Ron Capps

8. June 23, 2013 Epping, N.H.: Courtney Force defeated John Force

9. Feb. 23, 2014  Phoenix: Alexis DeJoria defeated Robert Hight

10. March 30, 2014 Las Vegas: Alexis DeJoria defeated Robert Hight

11. May 25, 2014 Topeka, Kan.: Courtney Force defeated Cruz Pedregon*

12. July 27, 2014 Sonoma, Calif.: Courtney Force defeated John Force

13. Sept. 1, 2014 Indianapolis: Alexis DeJoria defeated John Force

14. Sept. 21, 2014 Dallas: Courtney Force defeated Del Worsham

15. Sept. 28, 2104 St. Louis: Courtney Force defeated Matt Hagan

16. April 3, 2016 Las Vegas: Alexis DeJoria defeated Del Worsham

17. May 1, 2016 Houston: Courtney Force defeated Tim Wilkerson

18. Aug. 20, 2017 Brainerd, Minn.: Alexis DeJoria defeated Tommy Johnson Jr.

19. Feb. 24, 2018 Phoenix: Courtney Force defeated Tommy Johnson Jr.

*100th win for women (in all pro classes) in the NHRA series.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead


With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.

In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list