LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER: ASHLEY A FAVORITE AT VEGAS Points Leader Following a Force-ful Path LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It took Ashley Force half a season to get really comfortable in the cockpit of the 275 mile-an-hour Castrol/Hot Wheels ...
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER: ASHLEY A FAVORITE AT VEGAS
Points Leader Following a Force-ful Path
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It took Ashley Force half a season to get really comfortable in the cockpit of the 275 mile-an-hour Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster she began driving last season for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, the driver development specialists whose alumni include current NHRA professionals Gary Scelzi, Brandon Bernstein, Frank Pedregon and Morgan Lucas.
Once she achieved a comfort level, however, the 22-year-old daughter of drag racing legend John Force began winning with her father's documented precision.
The upshot is that the former high school cheerleader no longer can sign her autograph cards, "Ashley Force, zero wins," a takeoff on her dad's habit of personalizing his own cards with the number of current victories in his record-breaking resume.
In fact, at her present pace, she might one day eclipse the elder Force's imposing records for tour victories (115) and series championships (13 and counting).
After all, Force didn't win his first race until he was 37. His daughter rolls into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for this week's sixth annual SummitRacing.com Nationals having already won three NHRA national events, albeit it in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, the drag racing equivalent of NASCAR's Busch Series.
Like her father, she comes into the race as the national points leader in her class. Nevertheless, despite her expanding performance portfolio (she has gone to the finals in five of the last eight POWERade tour events she has run), the future Force is in no hurry to move up in classification; nor is her dad anxious for her to do so.
"She still needs seat time," Force said. "Anybody can drive a car from A to B when everything's perfect. The key is to be able to drive in trouble and that's what she's learning with Darien and Meadows. She's learning how to pedal (feather the throttle to regain traction) and how far she can drive it without getting in trouble.
"(The Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster) is a serious race car," he continued. "They're going faster than I was when I won my first Funny Car race (at Montreal, Canada in 1987). So I want her to get all the experience she can."
Nevertheless, there likely will come a day when the college graduate with the Barbie doll good looks climbs into the seat of one of her father's 300 mile-an-hour Castrol Funny Cars.
While her father is somewhat apprehensive about that transition, his daughter is looking forward to it.
"Dad always says that to be the best you have to beat the best," Ashley said, "so I think it would be a shame if I didn't get to race a against him in a Funny Car. He has the advantage of experience, but I know he'd be so worried about his little girl that he probably wouldn't pay enough attention to what he needed to do and I'd be gone."
And if her father were incensed enough by such a victory to order her out of the car?
"I know my mom would just hire me back," she laughed.
Indeed, racing has come full circle for the Forces. What began as a family effort in the 1980s when John and wife Laurie toured together with a series of largely unremarkable Funny Cars, has become even more so with Ashley's rapid development in Top Alcohol and the interest shown by younger daughters Brittany (18) and Courtney (16), who both now are licensed in Super Comp.
Even mom can talk from a driver's standpoint now that she has completed her licensing runs through Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School.
"Drag racing took my kids away from me," said the family patriarch, "because I was never home. I was always chasing my dream. But now it's given them back to me."