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Ashley Out; Neff In; Big Changes in the John Force Racing squad…

Ashley Force HoodPRESS RELEASE

Yorba Linda, Calif. — Because maternity and muscle cars don’t mix, one of drag racing’s brightest young stars at least temporarily is climbing out of the cockpit of the world’s fastest Ford to focus instead on family.

Ashley Force Hood, the 28-year-old daughter of reigning NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, confirmed during a Tuesday press conference convened to announce sweeping changes at John Force Racing Inc., that she and husband Dan are expecting their first child in August.

As a result, the driver of the 316.38 mile per hour Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will not compete for the 2011 Full Throttle Championship, concentrating instead on her family and on her duties as the new president of John Force Entertainment, a JFR subsidiary that will develop television, film and book projects.

Although on numerous occasions she had said that she and her husband were anxious to start a family, Force Hood’s announcement was nevertheless unexpected.

The graduate of Cal State-Fullerton is coming off back-to-back seasons in which she finished second and third in points and won consecutive Funny Car titles in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Clermont, Ind., the NHRA most prestigious single event.

“This past November, Dan and I decided we would try to start a family,” Force Hood saud. “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,” 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,” she said, “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.”

Working with Brent Travers, the former director of Driving Force, the Force family reality series that aired on A&E Network in 2006 and ‘07, Force Hood hopes to complete a variety of projects in her first year as president of John Force Entertainment including a biography of her father, an interactive “day at the races” pop-up book she authored for children, the first installments of a graphic novel featuring a superhero version of her dad fighting evil in a parallel universe, a John Force documentary and a new television series focusing on youngest sister Courtney’s development as a driver.

At her disposal, Force Hood will have newly-constructed state-of-the-art audio and video studios within JFR’s California compound that will utilize Red Digital Cinema cameras developed by Oakley founder Jim Jannard. Plans are not only to develop JFR projects but to make the studio facilities including a 50-seat theater, sound stages and seven edit bays available for lease.

While Force Hood’s announcement was the day’s most dramatic, Force revealed that in the wake of his daughter’s pregnancy, he will climb into the car she vacated and drive this season for crew chiefs Dean Guido Antonelli and Ron Douglas in a Ford sponsored by Castrol GTX High Mileage.

“Guido worked under Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly for 12 years,” Force said. “Now he’s got me back. When we parked one of our Mustangs last year because of the economy, I promised Mike Neff [who had driven the Drive One Ford to consecutive Top 10 finishes] that if a seat opened up, he’d get it.

“So I’m putting him in the car I drove last year when he was crew chief with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly,” Force said. “This year, he’ll drive the car and he’ll tune the car. He’s done it before. But he’ll also start teaching the Next Generation, Danny Hood, the crew chief business.”

The third of the Ford drivers, 2009 NHRA Champion Robert Top Gun Hight, also was the subject of a announcement. The driver of the Auto Club of Southern California Mustang was introduced as the new president of JFR. He, in turn, introduced Antonelli, who was named General Manager of the JFR shop and the Eric Medlen project in Brownsburg, Ind., a formality, Hight said, since he has been doing that job almost since the 150,000 foot facility became operational.

Force, who will become CEO in the re-organization, also outlined his plans for a JFR traveling road show that will take the drag racing experience to malls, movie theaters, car dealerships, trade shows and store openings. Rolling stock will include two specially-outfitted 18-wheeler transporters and 3-5 functional show cars including the BrandSource Ford Mustang Funny Car in which 22-year-old Courtney Force will be testing all season long.

Force said that in addition to show cars, the traveling road show will include an apparel trailer, interactive displays and self-contained audio and video presentations.

“I love this sport and I want as many people to see my hot rods as possible,” Force said. “Last year, we added a sponsor trailer to help our sponsors like Ford, Castrol, Auto Club, Mac Tools and BrandSource activate at the track with us. I want to take it to the next level and activate for my sponsors away from the track in the cities where we are racing.

“I know once fans see my Mustangs and maybe watch a video, they will want to see more. We have a great sport and NHRA is a great partner. I want to do everything I can so my sponsors, my drivers and our sport can continue to succeed,” Force said.

In most instances, the JFR Road Show will set up on Wednesday or Thursday and be open at no cost to the public through the race weekend. On Sunday night or early Monday morning, the trailers will load up, Force said, and “just like the Barnum and Bailey Circus,” will leave town.

The competitive Force Mustangs, including Courtney’s BrandSource Ford, will undergo initial shakedowns in pre-season testing, Feb. 4-9, at Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida.

The first race of the new season will be the 51st annual Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals, Feb. 24-27, at Pomona, Calif., a race in which Force is the defending Funny Car champion.

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