ASHLEY AFTER FIRST 2005 TOUR VICTORY IN RETURN TO K&N SUPERNATIONALS National Points Leader's No. 1 Streak in Jeopardy ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Ashley Force's streak of consecutive No. 1 starts at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park likely will...
ASHLEY AFTER FIRST 2005 TOUR VICTORY
IN RETURN TO K&N SUPERNATIONALS
National Points Leader's No. 1 Streak in Jeopardy
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Ashley Force's streak of consecutive No. 1 starts at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park likely will end with this week's 36th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals, but the 22-year-old still is hoping to get her first victory of the new season when racing begins on Sunday.
Ms. Force, who was the quickest qualifier at last year's SuperNationals as well as at a Lucas Sportsman Series points race contested on the same track, has struggled this year at the wheel of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster she drives for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
The car that won six times in 2004 and qualified No. 1 on seven occasions has been slowed, along with others in the class, by a rules change imposed by the NHRA which reduced the amount of nitromethane in the fuel mix.
Furthermore, Ashley's car has been plagued by a mysterious and stubborn engine glitch believed to be ignition-related.
"The car has been sluggish off the starting line," Ashley said, "and (then) it's as though I am getting on and off the throttle the entire way down the racetrack. It'll drop one cylinder, pick it back up and then drop another one or two. But it was better last week (in a second round loss at a points meet in Rusk, Texas)."
As a result of those problems, a virtually new race car will roll onto the Raceway Park quarter mile, the result of crew chief Darien having changed out virtually every component in the ignition and fuel systems.
The daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, Ashley has been dividing her time between racing the Darien and Meadows dragster and acclimating herself to the cockpit of her father's national record-holding, 333 mile-an-hour Castrol GTX® Start Up® Ford Funny Car.
After executing a burnout and a launch in testing at Topeka, Kan., the former high school cheerleader was back in the car this week at Joliet, Ill., for a second round of orientation under the watchful eye of her father.
"We're going real slow," Force said of his daughter's development. "We've got lots of time. This is something (putting her in the car on selected Mondays after NHRA national events) we're going to do when we can, not just this year but next year, too.
"But, bottom line, her main job still is going to be to drive the Castrol/Hot Wheels car for Darien and Meadows."
Ashley has handled that "main job" spectacularly since moving up to the Top Alcohol class last season.
She won three regional races last year, including the one at Raceway Park, and her three national victories included the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., and the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif., a race in which she shared the winners' circle with her dad.
As special as was that victory celebration, marking the first time a father and daughter had won titles at the same NHRA event, it would be even more special to duplicate the fete on Father's Day.
"Winning with my dad (at the Finals) was special, but to do it on Father's Day would be even better," said the graduate of California State University-Fullerton. "Besides, I never know what to get him. That would be perfect."
Although she hasn't won this year, she twice has been the Top Alcohol Dragster runner-up and she's gone to the semifinals five times. That's enabled her to remain atop the Lucas Sportsman Series point standings since the second week of the season.
"It's a very frustrating sport," Ashley said, "and I feel really bad for Jerry and the crew. They've worked just as hard as they did last year, but we just don't have as much to show for it. We're frustrated, but we're not discouraged. I know we'll be fine."
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Did You Know? After qualifying No. 1 at last year's SuperNationals, Ashley beat John Finke and Steven Cantrell before losing to Jason Cannon in the semifinals of a race eventually won by Randy Meyer....while attending Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley took, as electives, auto shop and welding, the first solid indication of her desire to follow her father into racing ....Ashley won last year's Division 4 championship (for racers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi) for which she earned Driver of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.