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HOUSTON -- Last year, Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car clinched her second Funny Car win during the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. Heading back to Houston this weekend, Force Hood looks to keep the momentum going from her runner-up finish in Charlotte and to repeat last year’s Houston success.
Q. HOW DO YOU FEEL HEADING INTO HOUSTON AS THE DEFENDING SPRING NATIONALS CHAMP?
A. We’re excited to go back. It’s always exciting to go back to an event where you’ve done well in the past at. This time of year, in the last few years, we’ve just kind of stepped up and our car always runs good this time of year. I don’t know if it’s the tracks that we race at or if it’s the temperature, or a combination, but for some reason the spring time has kind of always been our time of year where our car starts to perform well and we kind of grab onto some points. We’ve always struggled at the beginning of the year, and I don’t know the reason for that but it’s the pattern that we’ve had. We’ve improved the last race in Charlotte and we were able to get runner-up, so we’re hoping that we’ll get back on a roll. It’s springtime again and it’s good to return to Houston. We are excited to get back in that area. Texas always is a really good turnout of fans, a lot of excited fans across the board for all the racers. Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout there this weekend. It sounds like it’s going to be really beautiful weather which will be great for everybody.
Q. IS IT BITTER SWEET COMING IN RUNNER-UP BEHIND YOUR DAD IN CHARLOTTE?
A. It was a very different race for everybody. The toughest part about it was that we didn’t know who had won, who was runner-up. It was just something for everyone to get used to it. That was a bit of a bummer because I actually thought we had won because the light had come on in my lane. It was just actually showing that I had won on my track, between the guy next to me and me, I had won between the two of us, but I didn’t win the whole race. It was a little confusing. When you look at the big picture, to come in one and two at the Charlotte race, that was our team goal going into the race, to have as many of our teams in the final four. Only one person can win the race and to be able to come in second with all of the extra stress and craziness that Charlotte had we were pretty excited that we were able to do that.
Q. YOU RAN SOME FAST NUMBERS IN CHARLOTTE. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
A. I think it’s a combination of things. The body, everything has gone really well with using the new body this season. We’ve used it for a few races and we haven’t had any issues with any adjustments or it fitting right or anything. As far as the speed, I know that they had made a couple changes to the car, the tuners had, at the last race. There was something that wasn’t working out earlier in the year and they decided to go back to how we had it last year and fortunately for us it worked and the car was back to the car we were used to having. That definitely helped us out a lot. Also, there were a lot of variables that played into having good speeds like the temperature was just right in Charlotte. The track conditions were good. The track surface was good. Everything was there, it was just which team would be able to utilize that. We were able to, Dad was able to, and we both had really good speeds in the final round. Hopefully we’ll continue that. You can’t run those speeds at every track. It really depends on a lot of different things, but when you have the right situation then you definitely want to try to push it and see what it can do and Charlotte was the one for us.
Q. OVERALL WHAT WAS YOUR OPINION ON THE FOUR-WIDE RACE FORMAT?
A. It was fun. I wouldn’t want it at every event. I think the biggest negative about it, and there weren’t that many negatives about it because it is spectacular to watch and amazing the sound and power and everything, but it really shortened the rounds. The fans really enjoy going up into the stands and that’s what you really look forward to during your day at the track. You spend a lot of down time walking through the pits and doing a lot of other activities, but the main part of the show is going up into the stands and watching the cars go down the track. All of the professional rounds were so short. I went up to watch Motorcycle and Pro Stock just to get an idea of other people doing the staging before I had to do it in qualifying and they were over just in a snap. It seemed like by the time I walked up there, they were almost done with their whole session. That would be the one negative. I think it would be neat for it to be a special race maybe. We used to have a special race once a year where the top eight qualifiers got to do a special event where there was a grand money prize but it didn’t count for points and it was an exciting extra race that you got to be in. If I had my choice that’s how I would set it up. Doing it at every event, I don’t think it would add anything to the season. Watching two cars go down the track is pretty impressive as it is.