Las Vegas II: Ashley Force preview

ASHLEY NEEDS VEGAS LUCK TO STAY IN FUNNY CAR RACE Champ's Daughter Sixth in NHRA Countdown to 1 LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- With her longshot bid to become the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car Championship in peril, there's no place Ashley Ford...

ASHLEY NEEDS VEGAS LUCK TO STAY IN FUNNY CAR RACE
Champ's Daughter Sixth in NHRA Countdown to 1

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- With her longshot bid to become the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car Championship in peril, there's no place Ashley Ford would rather be than The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site this week of the eigth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, the next-to-last race in the NHRA's Countdown to 1.

After all, LVMS was the track on which the 25-year-old became the first woman to race for an NHRA Funny Car victory when she reached the final round of last year's ACDelco Nationals. She followed up by going to the final round of last April's SummitRacing.com Nationals and this week will try to make it three straight trips to the money round at the wheel of her Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang.

Even though she lost the aforementioned finals, the first to evenual 2007 champion Tony Pedregon and the latter to current points leader Tim Wilkerson, the daughter of drag racing icon John Force returns to LVMS with confidence.

"After being off two weeks (since racing at Richmond, Va.), which is weird this late in the season, I'm looking forward to getting back to the track," she said.

"We seem to really do well in Vegas. I think my team and I are just more comfortable there. It's the track where I made my first pass when I was learning how to drive my Funny Car (and) I've made more laps there than (anywhere else).

"We test there a lot, not just (in) the pre-season, (but whenever) we have a chance. I tested there quite a few times when I was learning because it was close and it has a nice long shut-off area."

Despite her fondness for the racetrack, one on which she earned her competition license in both Funny Car and Top Alcohol Dragster, Ashley knows she faces an uphill battle this week, trailing Wilkerson by 130 points with four other drivers ahead of her in the POWERade standings including teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight.

Nevertheless, the former high school cheerleader, the first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car race, is just glad to be racing in the Countdown in her second season behind the wheel of one of the world's most powerful race cars.

A graduate of Cal State-Fullerton and the 2007 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award which designates the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, Ashley has come into her own this season and if she doesn't catch Wilkerson, she's still proud of her team's effort.

"We're a really young team," she said. "It's just our second year together and a lot of my guys didn't have any Funny Car experience when they started. We've all learned together but when you're new, you're going to make some mistakes. That's part of the process. You try to learn from them so you don't do it again."

She and her team have learned well enough to have made the transition this year to legitimate contender. All they have to do now is take one more giant step.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Ashley Force , Robert Hight