ASHLEY GETS LIFE LESSONS FROM FALLEN TEAMMATE Rookie Tries to Regain Early-Season Form in Toyo Tires Event READING, Pa. -- Teammate Eric Medlen lost his life last March in a testing accident at Gainesville, Fla., but rookie Ashley Force...
ASHLEY GETS LIFE LESSONS
FROM FALLEN TEAMMATE
Rookie Tries to Regain Early-Season Form in Toyo Tires Event
READING, Pa. -- Teammate Eric Medlen lost his life last March in a testing accident at Gainesville, Fla., but rookie Ashley Force still is benefitting from the lessons she learned from the one-time rodeo cowboy when she first began testing in a John Force Racing Ford Mustang.
In fact, despite a qualifying failure last week at Brainerd, Minn., Ms. Force remains upbeat about her chances in the 23rd annual Toyo Tires Nationals beginning Friday at Maple Grove Raceway.
She credits Medlen and her personal experience as a high school cheerleader for enabling her to maintain a positive attitude, even under duress.
"That's a lesson I learned from Eric," said the 24-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force. "He taught me not to get down when things don't go perfectly, because life isn't perfect. So I just hope to follow in his footsteps, be patient and stay motivated like he always was with his team."
Although her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang has been mathematically eliminated from the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, Ashley still hopes to play a role in determining who earns the $500,000 champion's bonus. Moreover, she still is among the leading contenders for the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award that identifies the Rookie-of-the-Year on the NHRA POWERade tour.
A five-time winner in the Top Alcohol Dragster division from which she graduated last year, Ashley began her Funny Car career in spectacular fashion, reaching the semifinal round in back-to-back events just six races into the 2007 season.
Unfortunately, that early success only magnified the impact of recent struggles that have dropped her to 14th position in the driver standings as the first woman to compete in the Funny Car division since Cristen Powell in 2000.
"Looking back, the fact that we had some good luck at the beginning of the year, qualifying for every event and even reaching the semifinals a couple of times (Atlanta, Ga., and Madison, Ill.), makes it that much harder now that we're struggling," she said.
"One thing I've learned is that you just have to suck it up, learn your lessons and go out the next day and try to do better. It's easy to work together when you're winning, but a really great team pulls together during the tough times and that's what this team has done.
"When we didn't make the show (in Brainerd), my guys told me not to get down on myself; that would do better (at Maple Grove) and that's our goal," she said.
"We've fallen into a little slump, but we're a rookie team with a new driver, new car, new crew chief and new crew guys and we know that we are competing against teams with drivers who have a lot more experience. So we aren't doing too bad, considering.
"I have a lot of great people (from whom) I can learn," Ashley said, "especially my dad and my brother-in-law, Robert Hight, but all the advice in the world doesn't mean you're going to do everything right in those four-and-a-half seconds that you're traveling 330 miles an hour.
"(However), I can tell you that with every pass I make down the track, I learn and so do my crew chiefs, Dean ("Guido") Antonelli and Ron Douglas. Even not qualifying, we learned some things that hopefully will help us in the future."
A graduate of Cal State-Fullerton where she majored in communications, Ashley is poised to become the first woman ever to reach a Funny Car final round. She already has won more rounds than any other female Funny Car driver (nine) and is the quickest (4.730 seconds) and fastest (324.12 miles per hour) female in Funny Car history.