Pregnancy Sends Force Hood To Sidelines

Ashley Force Hood will miss the 2011 NHRA season because she is expecting her first child. Mike Neff will replace her. (Rhonda McCole photo).
Ashley Force Hood will miss the 2011 NHRA season because she is expecting her first child. Mike Neff will replace her. (Rhonda McCole photo)

YORBA LINDA, Calif. — Six months ago, National Hot Rod Ass’n Funny Car driver Ashley Force Hood might have said that winning back-to-back  Mac Tools U.S. Nationals titles was a dream come true, a feat that vaulted her to her greatest achievement and cemented her “Next Generation” drag-racing ambassador status.

But 2011 will deliver even bigger responsibility and a test of her talents. And none of it will happen from the seat of her John Force Racing-owned Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

Force Hood — 2007 Rookie of the Year, runner-up to brother-in-law Robert Hight for the 2009 championship, and third behind her father this past year — will sit out the 2011 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season. As part of Tuesday’s torrent of news from Yorba Linda, Calif., Force Hood announced that she and husband Dan are expecting their first child.

Not only will she have her hands full with motherhood, but Force Hood, 28, has taken on new responsibilities as president of John Force Entertainment. The newly established full-service media company is designed to expand the JFR brand on a variety of new and existing platforms.

John Force Entertainment already is developing a new reality television show (not a continuation of A&E’s “Driving Force” program), a John Force biography, and plans to turn the biography into a feature-length film and documentary. She also said she plans to write a book for children.

Force Hood still owns the NHRA Funny Car national speed record at 316.38 miles per hour. And her life still is moving at a nitro-powered pace. She told reporters at the organization’s Southern California and hundreds of media members and fans watching live on the Internet about her family plans just moments after informing members of her Castrol GTX team of the news via satellite hook-up at the John Force Racing East facility at Brownsburg, Ind.

“This past November, after watching my dad clinch his 15th championship, Dan and I decided we would try to start a family,” she said. “We knew it was unlikely to happen in such a short amount of time and if it didn’t, 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, and I am pregnant and due at the end of the summer,” Force Hood 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.”

Mike Neff, the 2008 Rookie of the Year who won the final race of his driving stint in November 2009, will rejoin Hight and John Force as a driver. Neff will drive the car in which Force won the 2010 title and will serve as his own crew chief. That will keep intact the team that prepped Force to his record 15th championship. Dan Hood will assist with the tune-up as part of his development as a “Next Generation” crew chief.

Force will drive his daughter’s car, with Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Ron Douglas his crew chiefs.

The development represents a hiatus only for Force Hood.

“She wants that championship. She’s just got a little detour,” her father said.

She said she won’t be in the background, that she just won’t be in the driver’s seat: “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.”

Force Hood graduated from Cal State-Fullerton with a degree in Radio, TV, and Film. She said she’s excited to put her studies to maximum use as president of John Force Entertainment.