Funny Car Showdown preview

ASHLEY FORCE LEADS NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN QUALIFIERS IN PURSUIT OF $100,000; FIRST WOMAN TO QUALIFY FOR FC BONUS EVENT CLERMONT, Ind. - Funny Car driver Ashley Force will start from the No. 1 position in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown on...

ASHLEY FORCE LEADS NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN QUALIFIERS IN PURSUIT OF $100,000; FIRST WOMAN TO QUALIFY FOR FC BONUS EVENT

CLERMONT, Ind. - Funny Car driver Ashley Force will start from the No. 1 position in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown on Aug. 31 at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, as she goes for her first victory in the special bonus event for qualified Funny Car drivers.

Force is the first female driver to qualify for the Funny Car bonus event in NHRA history.

The NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown, a high-stakes, high-speed race featuring the eight quickest and most consistent Funny Car teams from the last season, is a lucrative race within a race held during the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's most prestigious drag race.

The winner of the 27th annual NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown will earn a $100,000 bonus from U.S. Tobacco. Any driver who can win the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals will earn a $50,000 'Double-Up' bonus from NHRA.

A race day purse of $147,000 is available for the eight drivers competing in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown. The Showdown runner-up will earn $15,000, while the two semifinalists will earn $6,000 each. The four first round finishers will earn $5,000 apiece.

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., was the No. 1 qualifier twice in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the 23 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events that make up the 2008 NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown. It is Force's first career appearance in the Showdown and it extends to 19 the number of years that a John Force Racing car has held the top seed for the event.

Some intriguing first round meetings are scheduled, two of which feature family rivalries. Ashley will face her father John in the opening round. John, a six-time winner of the Showdown, qualified for the eight-car field at the last instant in Reading to make his 24th consecutive appearance and 25th overall in the bonus event. Brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon also will meet in the first round. Tony won the event in 2003 and was runner-up in 1997 and '99. Cruz finished as runner-up in '93, '95, '96 and '98. Robert Hight, who led the field with No. 1 qualifying positions at five, and Del Worsham, who doubled up by winning the Showdown and Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2005, will meet in the opening round, as will three-time Showdown winner Ron Capps and POWERade Series points leader Tim Wilkerson.

Drivers accumulated points for the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown at 23 NHRA national events between last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals up to the 2008 Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa. A $4,000 bonus was awarded to the No. 1 qualifier at each of those races.

Last year Jack Beckman raced to victory for his first win in the Showdown. Beckman will not be able to defend his crown as the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge driver failed to qualify for the event this season.

Other past winners of the event include Gary Densham, Frank Pedregon, Kenji Okazaki, Al Hofmann, Jim White, Don Prudhomme, Mark Oswald, Kenny Bernstein, Tom McEwen and Frank Hawley.

NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown rounds are scheduled for 12:30, 3:30 and 5 p.m. on Aug. 31.

2008 NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN FINAL STANDINGS
1. Ashley Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang 2,945
2. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang 2,930
3. Tony Pedregon, Detroit, Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS 2,895
4. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS 2,870
5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger 2,770
6. Cruz Pedregon, Indianapolis, Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara 2,615
7. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS 2,385
8. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang 2,370

2008 NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN ROUND PAIRINGS:

FIRST ROUND
Ashley Force vs. John Force
Robert Hight vs. Del Worsham
Tony Pedregon vs. Cruz Pedregon
Tim Wilkerson vs. Ron Capps

SEMIFINALS
A. Force-J. Force winner vs. Wilkerson-Capps winner
High-Worsham winner vs. T. Pedregon-C. Pedregon winner

FINAL (5 p.m., Aug. 31)

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Don Prudhomme , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Frank Hawley