Norwalk: Ashley Force preview

ASHLEY HOLDING TIGHTLY TO COUNTDOWN POSITION Legend's Daughter is Second in POWERade Points NORWALK, Ohio -- The media has portrayed Ashley Force as the new face of high performance, but, at heart, the 25-year-old driver of the Castrol GTX...

ASHLEY HOLDING TIGHTLY TO COUNTDOWN POSITION
Legend's Daughter is Second in POWERade Points

NORWALK, Ohio -- The media has portrayed Ashley Force as the new face of high performance, but, at heart, the 25-year-old driver of the Castrol GTX ® Ford Funny Car still is just a fan whose experience isn't that different today than it was when she was attending the races as a spectator.

She still gets dirty, she still wears Castrol red, white and green, she still deals in autographs and she still enjoys hanging out with friends.

The only thing that's changed is the perspective. Whereas she used to be outside the ropes, asking for autographs; now she's inside, handing them out.

Where once she hung out with the children of other racers, specifically Steve Densham and Erica Etchells, the son and daughter, respectively, of Funny Car drivers Gary Densham and Chuck Etchells, today her best friends are the 10 guys who maintain her 320-mile-an-hour race car, Brat Pack pals Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas and others who share her need for speed.

Furthermore, where she once used to sit in the stands and cheer her father, 14-time NHRA champion John Force, now she sits in the cockpit of a 320 mile-an-hour hybrid and tries to beat him.

That will be one of her goals this week when the NHRA POWERade tour moves to Summit Motorsports Park for second annual Summit Racing Equipment Nationals.

"I'm still wearing race shirts although they're my own shirts now, and I'm sponsored by Castrol, just like dad. I still get pretty dirty, although now I try to clean up at the end of the day, and I still get to run around the track and play with my friends all day long. We just play at 320 miles-an-hour now."

Life is good for the 2003 graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, who returns to Norwalk, where she was the No. 2 qualifier for last year's inaugural Summit Nationals, second in driver points behind only Tim Wilkerson.

She's gone to three final rounds, earned an historic victory at Atlanta, Ga., where she became the first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race, and held her own against her father with whom she has split four head-to-head match-ups.

That's pretty heady stuff for a woman who three years ago climbed behind the wheel of an 8,000 horsepower Funny Car for the first time amid widespread skepticism.

Flying in the face of conventional wisdom suggesting that women simply didn't have the strength to muscle a short-wheelbase Funny Car from Point A to Point B, the former high school cheerleader finished in the Top 10 in points last season, became the first woman to reach a Funny Car final and capped the season by claiming the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year.

For Ashley, though, it's not about being a woman. It's about being a racer and part of a Castrol GTX team led by crew chief Dean "Guido" Antonelli and assistant crew chief Ron Douglas.

"I think it's exciting for the fans to finally have some 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 a female in the seat, but it's Guido' and Ron and my crew guys who really deserve all the credit. They've given me a awesome race car."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Chuck Etchells , Gary Densham , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas