ASHLEY GETS ANOTHER CHANCE AT FIRST 2005 VICTORY IN TEXAS Second Lucas Sportsman Series Race at the Motorplex ENNIS, Texas -- Ashley Force's local resume is an impressive one. The second generation driver has gone to the semifinals in...
ASHLEY GETS ANOTHER CHANCE AT FIRST 2005 VICTORY IN TEXAS
Second Lucas Sportsman Series Race at the Motorplex
ENNIS, Texas -- Ashley Force's local resume is an impressive one. The second generation driver has gone to the semifinals in all four of the Texas races in which she has driven the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster this season.
Unfortunately, it's been a case of "close, but no cigar" for the 22-year-old daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force.
Four semifinals at two different racetracks against four different opponents with the same frustrating result. The upshot is that Ms. Force will not successfully defend the South Central Division points title she won last year as a Top Alcohol Dragster rookie.
Nevertheless, she'll have one final opportunity to win in Texas and slap a payback on Kilgore's Steve Torrence, the newly-crowned national champion, when she returns to the Texas Motorplex this week for a Lucas Sportsman Series race that, before Hurricane Katrina, was to have been contested at No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, La.
It'll be Ashley's third race on the all-concrete surface at the Motorplex and she's hoping that the third time is indeed a charm.
"We didn't expect to be here so often," admitted the graduate of California State University-Fullerton. "I think we've spent enough time in Texas to vote. But we like the Motorplex. It's my dad's favorite track and it's a track we've won on before (at last year's O'Reilly Fall Nationals)."
In fact, Ashley probably has logged more track time at the Motorplex this season than any other driver. In addition to a semifinal finish at the track's regularly-scheduled Lucas Series event last spring and a similar result in last week's Fall Nationals, she took a couple of laps last Monday in the Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Funny Car, the same car in which her father earned his seventh Motorplex victory the day before.
The second oldest of Force's four daughters, Ashley was the first to express an interest in the "family business." After two part-time seasons at the wheel of a Super Comp dragster, she moved up to Top Alcohol a year ago with spectacular results.
Not only did she win the championship in a South Central division that includes Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, she was named the division's Driver of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
In addition, she won three NHRA national events including the 50th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., and the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif., an event in which she shared the winners' podium with her dad as the first father-daughter winners in NHRA history, and finished fourth in the national point standings.
This season, though, her results have been less spectacular, the result of crew chief and car owner Jerry Darien's struggle to adapt to an NHRA rules change that reduced the percentage of volatile nitromethane in the fuel mix.
As a result, she is "only" seventh in national points and second to Torrence in divisional points.
With last week's performance, however, she showed that perhaps the team finally is on its way back to last year's form. After qualifying last in the field at Indianapolis and Reading, Pa., and failing even to qualify at Joliet, lll., she started sixth last week.
In addition to her two semifinal losses this year at the Motorplex (to Randy Meyer and, most recently, to Torrence), Ashley was beaten at Houston Raceway Park in the semifinals of the O'Reilly Spring Nationals by Duane Shields and at the track's Lucas event by Jeff Wilson.