Ashley Force Hood became the first woman to win the U.S. Nationals in the National Hot Rod Assn. funny car division on Monday.
She beat John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight in the final of the funny car portion of the races in Indianapolis.
Force Hood joins Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey as the only women to win an NHRA U.S. Nationals championship. Muldowney won in top fuel and Sampey won in pro stock motorcycle.
It was the second win of the season for Force Hood, who is third in the funny car standings.
“I am really excited. This has been a great weekend for Team Force,” said Force Hood. “Winning the race couldn’t get any better for me. We have struggled in the summer and haven’t done as well as we’d hoped we would. Two weeks ago in Reading (Penn.) we really had a tough one. We came into this racing looking to get back into our groove. Let’s do what we know we can do. Let’s go rounds. Let’s get this car down the track.”
The Countdown to One, the six-event playoffs to determine the NHRA champions on top fuel, funny car, pro stock and pro stock motorcycle begin on Sept. 17 in North Carolina. Force Hood will be the third-seeded driver in the Countdown behind Tony Pedregon, the leader in the funny car standings, and Ron Capps.
“I can’t give (co-crew chiefs) Ron (Douglas) and Guido (Dean Antonelli) enough credit,” Force Hood said after winning in Indianapolis. “They have had a lot on their shoulders this weekend. They were trying to figure out the track and working really hard. My team is the best bunch of guys out here. I couldn’t ask for any more from them. I am just so proud to have won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Again I just can’t believe it happened.”
Even though Hight, the winner in Indianapolis a year ago, lost in the final to Force Hood, he was able to secure the 10th and final spot in the Countdown.
“It is unbelievable,” Hight said. “At the beginning of every season your biggest fear is to not make this Countdown. When you look at the class and the field of these funny cars and how good the cars are that are out there it is not that easy to make this top 10. Cruz Pedregon is a great racer, reigning world champ. He is an awesome driver. They have a great team over there. It just shows you how tough this is. We just pulled this out. What is best though is we are getting to go to the finals against our teammate Ashley Force Hood so a John Force Mustang will win this race. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Hight passed Cruz Pedregon and Matt Hagan to get into 10th place in the funny car standings at the U.S. Nationals this weekend.
In other divisions, Tony Schumacher defeated Larry Dixon in the top fuel final to win his eighth U.S. Nationals championship. He Schumacher tied “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for the most top fuel U.S. Nationals wins.
“I’m a little speechless right now,” said Schumacher. “It’s a little tough to comprehend just what we’ve accomplished here today.”
Karen Stoffer, a graduate of St. Genevieve High School in Sun Valley, was eliminated in the second round of the pro stock motorcycle division, but secured enough points for 10th place in the pro stock motorcycle standings. She earned the 10th and final seed in the pro stock motorcycle Countdown.
Photo: Ashley Force Hood became the first women to win the NHRA funny car U.S. Nationals. She is only the third women driver to win an NHRA U.S. Nationals championship. Shirley Muldowney won in top fuel and Angelle Sampey won in pro stock motorcycle.