ASHLEY GETS FUNNY CAR LICENSE AFTER RUNNING 4.936 AT VEGAS Second Generation Driver Makes Force a Proud Papa LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Ashley Force did everything asked of her during a two-day test session following the seventh annual ...
ASHLEY GETS FUNNY CAR LICENSE AFTER RUNNING 4.936 AT VEGAS
Second Generation Driver Makes Force a Proud Papa
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Ashley Force did everything asked of her during a two-day test session following the seventh annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The second generation driver, daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, drove one of her father's Team Castrol Ford Mustangs through the quarter mile in 4.936 seconds at 315.86 miles per hour en route to earning her Funny Car competition license.
Nevertheless, her father insisted that getting her license wasn't the goal.
"It's all about seat time," John Force said. "There's no substitute for experience. This was just another part of her orientation. We started with the warmup and when she mastered that, we went to the burnout and then the launch and finally, at Vegas, we turned her loose. But she's still got a lot to learn about these hot rods."
Ms. Force, who spends the bulk of her time driving the Castrol A/Fuel dragster for car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, made eight runs in the Funny Car at LVMS under the watchful eye of crew chief-to-be Dean Antonelli, a member of Force's inner circle for the last 12 seasons.
After she ran 4.936, on her first full run, her father was understandably emotional.
"All the championships, all the wins and I don't ever remember feeling as proud," he said. "My kid's a driver. She just went down through there like she'd been doing it all her life."
Nevertheless, as proud as he was after that performance, he was even more so the following day after she "pedaled" the car (feathered the throttle) to a time of 5.24 seconds at 294 mph
"Nobody was getting down the track," he said, "(but) she went out there on her last run. It shook. She pedaled it. It hiked the front end up and she just drove it down through there. It was a thing of beauty. Even Coil (Austin Coil, Force's crew chief for all 119 of his tour victories) was impressed."
Ashley's Las Vegas success was the result of a unique team effort.
To give her enough track time, the three JFR teams agreed to share the responsibility for preparation and maintenance on an alternating basis. That meant that on one run, the Castrol GTX crew led by Coil and Bernie Fedderly was responsible for Ashley's car, while the other two teams ran their regular programs.
For the next run, the Castrol SYNTEC crew headed by John Medlen took over those duties and, finally, the responsibility fell to Jimmy Prock and the Auto Club crew.
"She had more crew chiefs than Roland Leong had drivers," Force quipped, referring to the crew chief and car owner who won NHRA events in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with a nine different drivers.
At each stop, Antonelli, on crutches after tearing a calf muscle during Saturday qualifying, was on point. He even threw down his crutches and dove under the car to arm one of the air bottles before one of her Tuesday runs.
"It was completely different," Ashley said of making a full run. "It suddenly was like, 'oh, my.' I remember feeling pressure all over my body and my eyes, I remember, were sore. And I remember thinking, 'don't pop out of my head until after I do this.'"
Although the 23-year-old could move up to the Funny Car division in 2007, her dad said there is no hurry.
"When she's ready, whether it's next year or the year after that. She has to be the one to decide," he said.
Ashley's orientation program will continue throughout the season with test sessions on Monday after selected NHRA events. In the meantime, she is trying to deliver a first Top Alcohol Dragster championship to Darien and Meadows.