NHRA: Force Hood Expecting First Child, Will Sit Out 2011; Neff Back Behind Wheel
In the most dramatic development in a day of announcements at John Force Racing Inc., Ashley Force Hood, the two-time reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil champion and one of the brightest young stars on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series tour, revealed that this year she is giving up one family car for another.
After she was introduced as the new president of John Force Entertainment, a JFR subsidiary that will develop TV, film, and book projects from new video production facilities at the Yorba Linda, Calif., compound, Force Hood announced that she and husband Dan are expecting their first child in August.
As a result, the former winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award will at least temporarily give up the seat in one of her dad’s 315-mph Castrol Ford Funny Cars for a more conservative family vehicle.
“This past November, after watching my dad clinch his 15th championship, Dan and I decided we would try to start a family,” Force Hood explained. “We knew it was unlikely to happen in such a short amount of time and if it didn’t, [we knew] I could still race the 2011 season, and we’d try again next winter.
“We felt that if God wanted it to happen, it would happen. Well, God didn’t waste any time,” she said. “Dan and I know there is always a risk at the beginning of a pregnancy, so we waited as long as possible to say anything to make sure everything was all right and there were no problems.
“I will be taking off this season, but I will still represent Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource, and Mac Tools; will still be involved in media, commercials, and interviews; and will definitely still be rooting on my teammates to go after that 2011 championship.”
Following Force Hood’s bombshell, Force announced that he would drive his daughter’s car in 2011 with Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Ron Douglas as crew chiefs and Castrol GTX High Mileage again his sponsor and that Mike Neff would drive and tune the Castrol GTX Ford in which Force won last year’s title.
Neff, who made the critical tune-up decisions last season while working with Hall of Fame veterans Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, won his last race as a driver when he took the Ford Drive One Mustang to the winner’s circle at the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona. He tuned Force to six wins in 2011, including clinching victories at the season’s final two races.
Force Hood, who is the NHRA national record holder for speed at 316.38 mph, was a top 10 finisher in each of her four Pro seasons with second- and third-place finishes the last two years. She was a second team Auto Racing All-America selection in 2009.