Dallas: Ashley Force preview

COUNTDOWN BATTLE ISN'T JUST MAN'S GAME ANYMORE Ashley Force Among Challengers at Texas Motorplex DALLAS, Texas - Although she lost in the second round of last week's opening event in the NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs, Ashley Force rolls...

COUNTDOWN BATTLE ISN'T JUST MAN'S GAME ANYMORE
Ashley Force Among Challengers at Texas Motorplex

DALLAS, Texas - Although she lost in the second round of last week's opening event in the NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs, Ashley Force rolls into Texas this week more confident than ever that she has a race car and a team capable not only of contending for but, as blasphemous as it may sound, actually winning the NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.

No longer is the NHRA's most extreme category exclusively a men's club.

In just two seasons at the wheel of a Ford Mustang bearing the familiar green-and-white Castrol GTX ® paint so long identified with her famous father, 14-time NHRA champion John Force, Ashley has debunked all the myths and called into question all the stereotypes.

After one season of baby steps during which she still managed to earn the Auto Club of Southern California's 2007 Road to the Future Award as the NHRA's top rookie, the former high school cheerleader has enjoyed a breakout year, becoming the first woman to win an NHRA tour event in the Funny Car division, the first to lead the points, the first to qualify for the U.S. Smokeless Showdown bonus race and the first to make the Countdown.

As a result, just 36 races into her professional career, she is contending for the championship with an all-star cast that, among others, includes her dad and John Force Racing teammates Robert Hight and Mike Neff.

The graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, who won at the Texas Motorplex in 2004 in the Top Alcohol Dragster category, enters this week's 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC not only as a fan favorite, but as a legitimate contender.

In fact, she is hoping to take up at the Motorplex where she so abruptly left off a year ago when she opted to withdraw from competition following the crash that severely injured her father.

Before that accident, she had recorded the quickest times in each of the first two rounds of racing (including a first round 4.786 that stood as the quickest run of the weekend) and was poised to race Cruz Pedregon in the semifinals.

She returns to Dallas after a narrow loss last week at Charlotte. After beating season-long points leader Tim Wilkerson in the first round of the Carolina Nationals, she was so fired up that she made a mistake that ultimately proved decisive.

"I was just so amped up," she said. "I just went right in and lit both the pre-stage and the stage lights and I was like, Oh, crap.' I screwed up (but) I'm thankful I didn't screw up more. Fortunately I gathered myself (up) and I remembered to get my foot off the clutch. That at least gave us a chance. If I the clutch had over-heated, Guido' (crew chief Dean Antonelli) said it would have been over right there at the start."

Instead, she recorded the quickest time of the round at 4.116 seconds, losing by a scant .025 of a second to the same aforementioned Cruz Pedregon.

"Cruz was on his game and he ran really well," she said, "but I think we showed that we've got a great team, too. My guys stepped it right up. It was just driver error. I know better than to change my routine. It was just something that happened and, when it does, you just have to try to make the best of it.

"We don't want to be the ones who look back at one bad race that cost us a chance at winning the championship," she said, "so (this week) we just want to go out and do what we've been doing all season. If we just keep doing what we've been doing, I think it will pay off."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight