Thursday, July 9, 2009
Force Hood heads to Bandimere as funny car leader
Ashely Force Hood is atop the National Hot Rod Assn. funny car standings and she still has room to improve.
She has made it to the finals of five of the past nine events, but only has one win to show for it. That came in Houston Raceway Park in March.
Bandimere Speedway in Colorado, site of this weekend’s NHRA races, might not be the best place for her to add to her win total.
Force Hood has only raced at Bandimere twice in her career in funny cars. One time she didn’t qualify for the race. The other time, she didn’t make it past the first round.
Still, she enters the Bandimere races as the top driver in her division.
“We have a car that runs good in the cool, but it also runs good in the heat,” Force Hood said. “You’re not going to win championships being timid (and) my crew chiefs (Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) haven’t been afraid to take chances. Sometimes what they do works; sometimes it doesn’t, but this is the time to learn what the limits are -- before we get to the Countdown.”
One driver who does have a successful record at Bandimere is Jack Beckman. He has come on strong in recent weeks, winning the funny car portion of the event at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, two weeks ago. He won at Bandimere in 2007 and was the runner-up last year.
“Love the track and the Bandimere family,” said Beckman, a driver for Don Schumacher Racing who lives in North Hills. “I went there in 1984 when I was in tech school in Denver for the Air Force. And then I drove 500 miles one way for the next three years from Cannon Air Force base in New Mexico, where I was stationed at the time, to watch that race. It’s always been a phenomenal facility.”
Beckman has two wins on the season and is in fourth place in the funny car standings. He trails Force Hood by 143 points. Tony Pedregon is second in the funny car standings, followed by Ron Capps in third.
Beckman can make up some ground if he has another good run at Bandimere. But Beckman knows there are no guarantees despite his previous performances at the Colorado drag strip.
“You still have to enjoy a little bit of racing luck,” he said. “Even the best cars get beat first round once or twice, so you just shouldn’t get down from those. We need to do our best to make good quality runs and be very strategic with our qualifying.
“If it works to our benefit, we can use one or two qualifying runs to test, but our goal is to qualify in the top half in every race so we go into the first round of eliminations with lane choice and a more favorable pairing. That’s what bit us earlier in the year. We seemed to have turned that around somewhat in Norwalk. We’ll just see if we can continue that momentum.”
Photo: Ashley Force Hood enters the NHRA races at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado as the leader in the funny car standings. Her dad, John Force, has won 14 funny car championships.