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ASHLEY FORCE AMONG FAVORITES AT SUMMIT SOUTHERN NATIONALS John Force's Daughter Seeks Top Alcohol Dragster Title ATLANTA, Ga. -- She's the star of the new TV series Driving Force, which debuts this July on A&E Network. She's featured in a...

John Force's Daughter Seeks Top Alcohol Dragster Title

ATLANTA, Ga. -- She's the star of the new TV series Driving Force, which debuts this July on A&E Network. She's featured in a national advertising campaign for Oakley's Riddles sunglasses. She was the model for a collectible doll marketed under her name by Mattel Corporation.

Most of all, though, Ashley Force is a race car driver, which is what brings the 23-year-old to Atlanta Dragway this week where she will drive a 275 mile-an-hour Castrol-backed Top Alcohol Dragster in the 26th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals

The second oldest daughter of the most prolific winner in drag racing history, Ms. Force is getting into the family business at a time when women drivers are just beginning to flex their competitive muscle.

One woman, Melanie Troxel, is the current NHRA POWERade points leader in Top Fuel. Another, Hilllary Will, is a leading candidate to win the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award that annually identifies the top rookie in the series. Yet another, Erica Enders, is third in Pro Stock points.

In fact, the success that women drivers have enjoyed, especially in drag racing, has prompted John Force to re-assess his own position.

Once disappointed because he had no sons to which he could leave his legacy, the 119-time NHRA tour winner finds himself squarely in the middle of motor racing's women's movement.

In addition to Ashley, who presently is five years into a very structured development program designed ultimately to land her in a Funny Car, Force also is managing the careers of his two youngest daughters, Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17.

"I'm for the girls," Force said, "because that's what I've got girls."

Although he still isn't sure whether Brittany and Courtney will follow in his footsteps, he has no such doubts about Ashley, who gave an indication of her career path when she took auto shop and welding as curriculum electives in high school.

Inspired by watching mechanics on her father's Castrol GTX® Funny Car team as they disassembled and then re-assembled engines in less than an hour, she once seriously considered working as a crew member.

That all changed after a trip to Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School. After two years in Super Comp, the entry level category in which her sisters now are racing, Ashley moved up to Top Alcohol in 2004 and promptly won three of the season's final five races, including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., as a rookie.

After a down year in 2005 during which she had to deal with an erratic race car, the former cheerleader bounced back this season in a Castrol dragster owned by veterans Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, winning last March at Gainesville, Fla.

Runner-up at Atlanta in 2004 and a semifinalist last year, she is hoping to do a little better this week even though she hasn't raced competitively in almost a month.

"My mother and my sisters and I went on a cruise right after Las Vegas (and the April 9 Nationals) and since then we've been doing promotions for the TV show," she said. "I feel like dad it'll to get back in the race car just to get a little peace and quiet."

Although her present level of competition is the motor sports equivalent of AAA baseball, Ashley already has satisfied all the criteria necessary to move up in classification to race against her father at 300-plus mph. That graduation could occur as quickly as next season although she is keeping all her options open.

Her primary motivation isn't to replace her father; just to race him.

"I'm gonna mess with him on the starting line," she has said. "He'll be so worried about his little girl that by the time he figures it out, I'll be gone. At least that's the way it is in my dreams."

* * * *

Ashley is one of the stars of Driving Force, a new real-life TV series that will debut on A&E Network this July. She and her sisters, 19-year-old Brittany and 17-year-old Courtney, share center stage in a series that focuses on their relationship with a father, 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, who because he was on the road chasing his dream, missed out on their childhood.

Ashley earned her Funny Car license earlier this month at Las Vegas where she drove a Castrol Ford through the quarter mile in 4.936 seconds at 315.86 mph.

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Frank Hawley