ASHLEY RETURNS TO ATLANTA DRAGWAY AS ALCOHOL DRAGSTER POINTS LEADER Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Win ATLANTA, Ga. -- Whether she's in front of the camera as the driver of Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster, or behind it as the ...
ASHLEY RETURNS TO ATLANTA DRAGWAY AS ALCOHOL DRAGSTER POINTS LEADER
Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Win
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Whether she's in front of the camera as the driver of Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster, or behind it as the producer/director of a John Force Racing highlight video, 22-year-old Ashley Force is proving herself to be much more than a pretty face with a winning pedigree.
In fact, entering this week's 25th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, she is the national points leader in a Top Alcohol Dragster class in which she is serving the second year of an apprenticeship that ultimately may land her in one of her father's 330 mile-an-hour Castrol Ford Funny Cars.
A three-time winner last season in a Top Alcohol category that is to drag racing what the Busch Series is to NASCAR, Ms. Force is developing her quarter mile skills under the watchful eye of crew chief Jerry Darien.
With partner Ken Meadows, the former schoolteacher has forged a second career preparing young drivers for careers at the sport's upper levels.
His alumni include Gary Scelzi, the three-time former NHRA Top Fuel Champion; Brandon Bernstein, the 2003 NHRA Rookie of the Year; Morgan Lucas, last year's Top Fuel rookie sensation; Frank Pedregon, brother of Funny Car champions Cruz and Tony Pedregon; and aspiring Top Fuel driver Melanie Troxel, In such company, Ashley has more than held her own.
"She picks things up really fast," Darien said, "and she seems to have inherited John's ability to rise to the occasion."
In fact, Ashley's 2004 victories came in three of the season's biggest events including the most prestigious drag race on the planet the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., a race her father didn't win in his first 12 attempts. She also won the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex in Dallas and the season- ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calf.
It was at the 2004 finale that she shared the winners' circle with her father who, after she had won in Top Alcohol, drove his Castrol GTX® Start Up® Ford to a final round conquest of Del Worsham's Chevrolet. It's the only time in NHRA racing history that a father and daughter have won titles at the same event.
No wonder, then, that BP Lubricants, through its Castrol branded products, has signed the former high school cheerleader to a long-term contract.
A 2003 graduate of California State University-Fullerton where she majored in communications with an emphasis in television and film, Ashley has used those skills to make herself even more indispensable to her father.
She now produces all of the team's marketing videos and highlight clips from an in-house studio at the JFR compound in Yorba Linda, Calif. Moreover, with the help of Mandie Yorio, her PR representative, and Josh Miller, she has for the last four years created a year-end spoof that has become the highlight of the company Christmas Party.
Right now, though, her career as a mini-movie producer is on hold.
Although a championship would thrll him, Force said the No. 1 priority for his daughter is to get more experience.
"She still needs seat time," Force said. "Anybody can drive a car from A to B when everything's perfect. The key is to be able to drive in trouble and that's what she's learning with Darien and Meadows. She's learning how to pedal (feather the throttle to regain traction) and how far she can drive it without getting in trouble.
"(This) is a serious race car. They're going faster in the alcohol cars than I was when I won my first Funny Car race (at Montreal, Canada in 1987). So I want her to get all the experience she can. She's got time. I didn't win my first race until I was 37."