ASHLEY HOPING TO DUPLICATE LAST YEAR'S MOTORPLEX SUCCESS Points Leader Goes After First 2005 Win DALLAS, Texas -- There may be a Funny Car in her future, but right now Ashley Force is enjoying a less obstructed view from the cockpit of ...
ASHLEY HOPING TO DUPLICATE LAST YEAR'S MOTORPLEX SUCCESS
Points Leader Goes After First 2005 Win
DALLAS, Texas -- There may be a Funny Car in her future, but right now Ashley Force is enjoying a less obstructed view from the cockpit of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster in which she is seeking the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at this week's Lucas Sportsman Series event at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex.
Although she is in only her second full season on the NHRA circuit, the 22-year-old is no stranger to success at the Motorplex where she won last September's O'Reilly Fall Nationals en route to fourth place in the national driver standings.
Her 2004 performance, which included three victories in the season's final five races, led to speculation that the former high school cheerleader might wind up in one of her father's Castrol-back Ford Funny Cars sooner rather than later.
Nevertheless, the graduate of California State University-Fullerton insists that there is no timetable for her integration into an NHRA POWERade Series over which her father, John Force, has reigned for 13 of the last 15 seasons.
"Dad wants me to decide (when it's time to move up)," Ms. Force said. "Sometimes I think I'm ready right now, but other times I know I'm right where I should be. There's no need to rush."
The reigning Top Alcohol Dragster Champion in a region composed of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, Ashley is the latest development project of veteran car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
A former schoolteacher, Darien has created a second career as a developer of young driving talent. His alumni include Funny Car drivers Gary Scelzi and Frank Pedregon along with Top Fuel drivers Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas and Melanie Troxel.
In her first season with the team, Ashley put up numbers comparable to those posted by both Bernstein and Lucas, the two drivers who immediately preceded her in the cockpit of the Darien and Meadows entry.
In addition to her three national event victories, capped by a season-ending triumph in the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals in which she shared the winners' circle with her famous father, Ashley also won three regional events on the way to being named both Rookie of the Year and Driver of the Year in her division.
Despite that success, Ashley still is seeking her first victory of the new season, remarkable considering the fact that she has led the Top Alcohol Dragster standings since the third week of the season.
She has used her consistency to retain that lead, earning runner-up honors in two events, reaching the semifinals in three others. Primarily, though, she has gained additional "seat time," the variable her father considers most important.
"Anybody can drive a good race car A to B on a good racetrack," he said. "What separates the racers from the drivers is what they do when the car gets in trouble. She's learning all that with Darien and Meadows."