FUNNY CAR DEBUT CAN WAIT, ASHLEY ENJOYING DRAGSTER Castrol Driver Seeks O'Reilly Fall Nationals Victory ENNIS, Texas -- Ashley Force WON'T drive a Castrol Ford Funny Car in this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals...
FUNNY CAR DEBUT CAN WAIT,
ASHLEY ENJOYING DRAGSTER
Castrol Driver Seeks O'Reilly Fall Nationals Victory
ENNIS, Texas -- Ashley Force WON'T drive a Castrol Ford Funny Car in this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC. However, the 23-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force WILL drive one of the 8,000 horsepower hybrids on the all-concrete quarter mile at Texas Motorplex.
That apparent contradiction is a product of timing.
Ashley will strap into one of her father's Funny Cars next Monday, a day after the completion of the Fall Nationals, to resume a testing and orientation program designed to prepare her for an eventual move up in classification.
Before that Monday test, however, the graduate of California State University- Fullerton, will assume a more familiar racing perspective behind the wheel of the Castrol A/Fuel dragster in which she will try to duplicate her 2004 Fall Nationals victory.
A two-time winner already this year (Gainesville, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga.) in a car owned and maintained by Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, Ashley rolls into Texas in third place in Lucas Sportsman Series national Top Alcohol Dragster points.
Nevertheless, it seems like the only thing anyone wants to discuss are her Funny Car plans. Rumors that she would make her pro debut this week at The Motorplex or next month at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway added fuel to the fire.
As a result, the fact that she won't drive the Funny Car until Monday may be considered bad timing by those who can't wait to get a woman driver back in a category in which none has ever won an NHRA tour event.
However, if you're a doting father who wants to make sure his daughter has all the information and experience she needs before racing competitively at 330 miles per hour, it's great timing.
"I'm real comfortable right now in the dragster," Ashley said. "After almost three years, everything it does is something I've felt several times before, so there are no surprises. I think that's the feeling dad wants me to have in the Funny Car. "
Although the dragster attains finish line speeds that are 50 miles per hour slower than the Funny Car, that's not a issue for the one-time high school cheerleader.
"I like both of them in different ways," she said of her two totally dissimilar rides. "I'm a Funny Car girl. They're what I grew up with, but I like the A/Fuel dragster, too. They're entirely different animals.
"The thing is, there's no rush (to move up). Even though I can't wait to race against my dad, I still have a lot to learn. I've only been racing for five years and so far it's all been in dragsters (including an entry level Super Comp dragster like those now driven by sisters Brittany, 20, and Courtney, 18)."
The next test for the second oldest or Force's four daughters will be an adjustment to an even more restricted view from inside the cockpit.
That's a product of an upgrade just completed by crew chief-to-be Dean Antonelli in which the 8,000 horsepower engine in Ashley's Mustang was mounted with a new, larger injector like those on the cars driven by Force, Eric Medlen and Robert Hight.
"We made the change so that we could use the data from the other three cars in our tune-up," Antonelli said, "but a by-product is that he sight lines will be narrower. She'll handle that just fine. She's got a natural feel for the car, just like her dad."
It's an intuition that works just as well in the dragster.
"The car has been running really well lately," Ashley said of her green-and-red dragster, "so we're looking forward to a good weekend and a good Monday, too."