Topeka: Ashely Force preview

ASHLEY SHEDS SHYNESS IN CASTROL GTXFORD Force's Daughter Battling for POWERade Championship TOPEKA, Kan. -- You wouldn't know it to watch her drive her 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang or listen to her talk to the media about...

ASHLEY SHEDS SHYNESS IN CASTROL GTXFORD
Force's Daughter Battling for POWERade Championship

TOPEKA, Kan. -- You wouldn't know it to watch her drive her 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang or listen to her talk to the media about being the first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race, but Ashley Force is a very shy person.

She was the only varsity cheerleader at Esperanza High School who never led a cheer. She was the only member of the school choir who never sang a solo.

She has eschewed overtures -to pose in a bikini or swimsuit even though she earned the "world's hottest athlete" title last year in an on-line poll conducted by AOL sports.

Two weeks ago, she almost seized up when she was asked to sing during a promotion for Old Spice, one of her team's major associate sponsors.

"I'd rather drive my Funny Car at 300 miles per hour, without a parachute, than sing karaoke," was her comment.

That said, the 25-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force has emerged not only as the new face of high performance, but as a legitimate contender for the 2008 NHRA POWERade championship.

With crew chief Dean "Guido"Antonelli and assistant crew chief Ron Douglas turning the wrenches on her 330 mph Mustang, Ashley has raced this season in three final rounds and briefly led the POWERade point standings, another first for a woman Funny Car driver.

Still, she understands that success can be fleeting, especially in a sport in which the difference between winning and losing can be thousandths of a second.

   "The thing about drag racing," she has said, "is that you can go
from hero to zero veryquickly."               -

How quickly became evident to her a year ago. After leaving Topeka in seventh place in POWERade points, she failed to qualify for three events in a five-race period and missed the inaugural lineup for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.

That's why she isn't looking beyond qualifying this week, adhering to the premise that "you can't win it unless you're in it."

"It seems like the times when we don't get all our qualifying runs in are the times we have trouble," she said. "Every run is important, so we're trying not to get ahead of ourselves. I'm proud to be a female in the seat, but I know that without the 10 guys on my team, I never would be here."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force