Joliet: Ashley Force preview

DESPITE HER SHYNESS, ASHLEY A RISING STAR Force's Daughter Second in POWERade Points JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force is a petite one-time tomboy with perfect teeth and a million-dollar smile who spends half her time wrestling an 8,000...

DESPITE HER SHYNESS, ASHLEY A RISING STAR
Force's Daughter Second in POWERade Points

JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force is a petite one-time tomboy with perfect teeth and a million-dollar smile who spends half her time wrestling an 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang to speeds of 320 miles per hour and the other half selling her sport and her sponsors to a diversified motor racing audience more and more heavily populated by women.

Nevertheless, as popular and successful as she has been in a pro career that began just 16 months ago, the 25-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force is surprisingly reluctant to embrace her role as the new face of high performance.

She prefers the "quiet time" she spends inside the cockpit of her 8,000 horsepower hybrid Mustang to the adulation that seems to accompany racing success, whether it's on an oval track, a road course or the straight-line quarter mile on which she will compete this week in the 11th annual TORCO Racing Fuels Route 66 Nationals.

Although she inherited her father's competitive drive, which earlier this year helped her become the first woman in 39 years to win a race in the NHRA's Funny Car division, her natural tendency is to avoid the crowds and the hordes of media to which her father, the Route 66 Raceway record holder, naturally gravitates.

That said, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton fights through her phobias with such skill that only those closest to her recognize the exceedingly shy person beneath the full-face helmet.

Although she was a varsity cheerleader at Esperanza High School (Yorba Linda, Calif.), the second oldest of Force's four daughters never opted to lead a cheer and even though she was talented enough to sing in the choir, she declined to solo.

Furthermore, don't look for her in next year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue ("I'd be too embarrassed and my crew never would let me hear the end of it.") and, even though she won an on-line poll last year as AOL Sports' "World's Hottest Athlete," the contest was well into the third round before she even knew she was in it.

"My friends were texting me and saying, congratulations' and I didn't even know what they were talking about," she said. "Finally, I had to ask."

How, one might ask, can the daughter of the most outrageous personality in motor sports, the man known as "The Elvis of the Asphalt," be so shy? Well, apparently, outside of the race car, her personality is more like that of her mother, Laurie, who quietly raised three daughters while her husband was talking and driving his way to all those championships.

When she's in the car, though, she's the personification of her famous father. In her first pro season, in fact, she almost singlehandedly changed the perception that a woman wasn't strong enough to manhandle a short-wheelbase Funny Car.

In fact, her initial success, which included NHRA Rookie of the Year honors as the winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award, opened the door for Melanie Troxel to move over this year from Top Fuel to Funny Car where, two races ago, she became the second woman winner.

Nevertheless, Ashley is hesitant to declare drag racing a "woman's world."

"I think it's exciting for the fans to finally have female winners in Funny Car," she said, "but I know it's the guys on my team who got me to this point. I'm proud to be in the seat, but it's Guido' and Ron (crew chiefs Dean Guido' Antonelli and Ron Douglas) and my crew guys who really got me here. It's not about gender. We're all just racers."

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel