Author: Waldron, Steve
Date published: February 11, 2011
After starring on drag racing's biggest stage for the last four years, Ashley Force Hood is going behind the scenes. The two-time reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion, who recently announced that she and husband Dan are expecting their first child in August and that she will not compete in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series this year, is busy preparing for her new role as president of John Force Entertainment. Instead of her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang that she drove to top-three finishes in each of the last two seasons, Force Hood is now the driving force behind a fullservice entertainment company.
"Even before I started racing Funny Cars, I had a passion for moviemaking and photography," said Force Hood, a radio, TV, and film graduate of California State University, Fullerton. "This will be an exciting opportunity to develop some of my own projects as well as projects that John Force Racing has been trying to get off the ground for some time."
In her new role, the oldest of drag racing icon John Force's three racing daughters will oversee a variety of multimedia projects, including a new reality TV show, a John Force biography and feature-length film, a graphic novel, and an interactive children's book.
"It really fulfills a vision that Dad's had," she said. "He wants to build this company beyond just racing. He wants to bring unique exposure to the sponsors, excitement to the fans, and, now with this production studio, bring Hollywood closer to home."
Force has spared no expense to fulfill his vision. Once home to its racing operations, now headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., the team's Yorba Linda, Calif., shop has been transformed into a full production center. Capable of everything from shooting to post-production, the center includes production studios, sound rooms, edit bays, and a 50-seat theater.
Force hired TV producer Brent Travers to work with Force Hood, primarily on the development of a new reality show. Travers oversaw the development and production of Driving Force, the A&E reality series that focused on Force and his three racing daughters.
"Six years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Forces with the idea of doing a documentary series, and from there, we went on to do Driving Force," said Travers. "Since then, I've learned of Ashley's love for film, and I saw this deeply inspired person, a person so creative and with great natural instincts. So when I was approached by John and Ashley to join them in December, I decided to help out."
Travers said that the new reality show will not be another Driving Force. Instead, it will focus on Courtney, the youngest of the Force sisters, as she begins her Funny Car career.
"We are looking to develop a show around Courtney Force as she learns the ropes racing a Mustang Funny Car under the tutelage of her successful older sister Ashley, brother-in-law Robert [Hight], and her 15-time Funny Car champion father," said Travers.
Although Courtney will not compete in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series until possibly late in the season, she will attend all 22 events, making promotional appearances for sponsor BrandSource and testing on Monday after select races.
"It's not going to be so much about the family and learning from Dad, it's going to be about a young girl who has a goal and the process she has to go through to get there," said Force Hood. "You see racers on TV that are already established, but I'm always asked, 'How do you get to this spot?' So I think with Courtney it will be more of a journey. [Driving Force] was more about the family dynamic and the personal stuff, and this will really show what it takes to be a race car driver and what you go through in the learning process."
Force has invested in the same Red Digital Cinema technology, developed by Oakley founder Jim Jannard, that Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson is using on The Hobbit and that directors Steven Soderbergh (Che) and David Fincher (The Social Network) have used.
"We can't wait to see what we can do with it filming race cars," said Force Hood.
In addition to the reality show, John Force Entertainment is developing a variety of media projects that range from mobile applications to feature-length films. One of those projects is a series of graphic novels featuring a Force-inspired super hero.
"I've often marveled at all that Dad has accomplished over the years, and, more importantly, what he's overcome, and it has crossed my mind that he might have super powers," said Force Hood. "The fun part about this is that we're basing all the characters and storylines on people and stories from Dad's past. It's been really fun working on this project, to go back in time with Dad. I've learned so much about him and the funny and amazing situations that's been in over the years. As Dad always says, he never lies, he just embellishes."
And who better to write a children's book about drag racing than one who has lived it.
"I grew up at the races, so I thought it would be really fun to put together an interactive book for kids that really teaches them about the sport," said Force Hood. "What are the different categories? What's a crew chief? What's a Christmas Tree? That's a tough one to explain to a little kid. There will be pop-ups, sounds, and places for them to practice their autograph."
Also in the offing is a Force biography and a feature-length film.
"[Force] came from a family that migrated here from the dust bowl during the Great Depression," said Travers. "He struggled with polio in his leg, and throughout his youth overcame what would have been insurmountable odds for anyone else. He pursued his dream and has built this championship organization. When you think about movies like Rudy, The Blind Side, and Seabiscut, it leaves little doubt in my mind that we have a truly inspirational story to tell."
John Force Racing is also going mobile. A mobile application for the iPhone and Android phone systems will provide John Force Racing race fans with news, highlights, sound and video clips, and provide a gateway for all John Force Racing sponsors. A John Force Racing game for the latest smartphones is also being developed.
"There is a virtual treasure chest of content opportunities here, and my goal is to work with Ashley to maximize our efforts," said Travers.
Although she won't be as visible, Force Hood won't be spending all her time behind the scenes.
"I won't be attending all the events, especially as it gets closer to summertime," she said. "I don't think I'll be flying, but I'll go to the events close to home, the ones that I'm able to drive to, and other stuff away from the track. We do a lot of sponsorship shows and autograph signings and stuff, and I can do that. I've never been in this spot before, so I don't know what the rules and regulations are for everything. I won't be standing next to any cars when they're warming up or anything like that, but I don't see why we can't make it work.
"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 for the 2011 championship. I don't know why my team can't win Indy for the third year straight even if I am off in labor while they're doing it, and I'm excited for my sister Courtney. I'm very interested in seeing how she deals with Dad. I've already told her driving an 8,000- horsepower Funny Car will be a piece of cake compared to dealing with Dad."
As for a return to racing, Force Hood hasn't ruled it out.
"It's hard to think that far ahead," she said. "I don't know what it's like after you have a baby, so I think we're just going to go through the year and see how everything goes. Obviously, we can change things very quickly if we want to, but I don't want to make any promises.
"I can't imagine not coming back. This is what I do. Obviously, I don't know what it's like to have a child. I've talked to other female drivers who have raced, and they said it might change how I feel. It's a dangerous line of work, and that's something that might become an issue. But I grew up around it, I do it, and I feel safe in my race car, so it's hard to say at this point in time."