Ashley Force Hood having a baby

Updated: January 25, 2011, 7:08 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Having a baby and driving a Funny Car at 300 mph do not mix.

Ashley Force Hood, one of the most popular drivers in the NHRA, will give up her driving duties for at least one season because she is expecting her first child this summer.

Hood, 28, finished third in the 2010 Funny Car standings while her legendary father, John Force, won his 15th championship.

This is the only job I've ever had. I want to get back in the car at some point. But I don't really know what it's going to be like being a mother, so we'll see how it goes and figure all that out later.

-- NHRA driver Ashley Force Hood on whether she'll return to Funny Car after having her first baby

The pregnancy came as quite a surprise to almost everyone at John Force Racing, including Ashley's dad.

"But I knew all along this was going to happen at some point," Force said Tuesday from his race shop at Yorba Linda, Calif. "She is 12 weeks along, but she didn't tell me until a few days ago because she wanted to make sure everything was OK with the pregnancy.

"But that doesn't surprise me. Her mother [Laurie Force] did the same thing all three times she was pregnant. I'm the last to know."

However, Force had Plan B ready to go if he found out Ashley was with child.

Force will move to his daughter's team while Mike Neff returns as a driver for JFR with the team Force had in 2010. Neff will continue his duties as the crew chief while also driving the car.

Neff drove for JFR in 2008 and 2009 before taking over the tuning duties for John's car last season. Dan Hood, Ashley's husband, will move to Neff's car this season to help tune that car.

"It's a little crazy around here right now,'' Ashley said Tuesday. "Dan and I have wanted to start a family for a while now, but you can't really plan these things."

Most NHRA followers thought the plan was for Ashley to drive in 2011 while younger sister, Courtney Force, 22, learned the ropes as a test driver for JFR this season. Courtney would replace Ashley in 2012.

"That never was the plan,'' Ashley said. "Courtney's timetable for moving to Funny Car really is her own and had nothing to do with me. The two things are completely separate. We never wanted to put that kind of pressure on her."

Ashley wants to make it clear she is not retiring from drag racing.

"This is the only job I've ever had," she said. "I want to get back in the car at some point. But I don't really know what it's going to be like being a mother, so we'll see how it goes and figure all that out later."

It also was announced Tuesday that Ashley will become president of John Force Entertainment, which is producing a reality show centered on Courtney's training to race in Funny Car.

Robert Hight, the 2009 NHRA champion who drives the other JFR Funny Car, will become the president of JFR while Force takes the title of CEO. Hight is John's son-in-law, married to his oldest daughter, Adria.

Ashley Force Hood became the first women to win an NHRA Funny Car event in 2008. She also is the NHRA national record holder for speed at 316.38 mph.

Former JFR driver Eric Medlen was killed in a testing accident in 2007. Ashley, who always said she thought of Medlen as a brother, is due on Aug. 13th, Medlen's birthday.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter