Team Castrol Pre-Race Package/Ashley For Immediate Release ASHLEY DEFENDS TOP ALCOHOL TITLE AT 51ST MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Victory INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. â€“ Don't let the Barbie doll exterior...
Team Castrol Pre-Race Package/Ashley
For Immediate Release ASHLEY DEFENDS TOP ALCOHOL TITLE AT 51ST MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Victory
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Don't let the Barbie doll exterior fool you. Ashley Force may have inherited her mother's good lucks, but it's what she got from her father, 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, that has stamped her as one of drag racing's brightest young stars and as a favorite in this week's 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Put her in a firesuit, tuck her long brown hair into a Simpson helmet and slide her into the cockpit of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster and the 22-year-old is transformed from beauty to beast.
In today's vernacular, she is uber quick.
Last year, as a Top Alcohol Dragster rookie, she won three NHRA national events including the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif., where she and her dad made history as the first father-and-daughter to share a winners' circle.
That's after she already had distinguished herself as just the third woman to win the U.S. Nationals.
By design, the Cal State-Fullerton graduate will compete at the Top Alcohol level for at least one more season before moving up in classification. Eventually, she is expected to land a ride in one of her father's Castrol-backed Ford Funny Cars.
"She's the real thing," said crew chief Jerry Darien who, with Ken Meadows, owns the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster. "When we need a little extra something on the starting line, she finds it, and if she needs to backpedal (feather the throttle to regain traction), she can do that, too."
The IRP track record holder in Top Alcohol at 5.287 seconds, Ashley tuned up for her U.S. Nationals title defense by spending last Thursday making "launches" in her dad's Castrol GTX Start Up Ford, the world's quickest and fastest Funny Car. It proved to be an interesting, if not entirely positive, experience
After losing traction on her first test run, the former high school cheerleader drove the 7,000 horsepower hybrid to 350 feet on the second before the engine dropped a cylinder and the left rear tire slid out of the groove.
That combination caused the car to make a quick move to the left guardwall, admittedly startling the second generation driver.
"They told me it dropped a couple of cylinders," Ashley said. "I didn't think I was that close (to the wall), but I hit it. I really felt terrible because it wasn't just any car, it was dad's No. 1 car that he's going to drive (in pursuit of his fifth U.S. Nationals Funny Car championship).
"If that wasn't bad enough, when I came out of the roof (hatch) at the other end, I set off the fire (retardant) bottles. It was a disaster."
"Just part of learning," said her famous father. "When I was starting out, I crashed every week. That's part of the game that you can't tell anybody. They've just got to go out there and learn it for themselves. She did great. She got right back in it and made two more runs."
She did get a trophy for her efforts. The crew gave her the crumpled header pipes which will be hung in her office at John Force Racing, Inc., in Yorba Linda, Calif.
Now, though, she must re-direct her focus to a Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster she hasn't driven since July 31, when she was ousted in the semifinals of the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
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Did You Know? While attending Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley took, as electives, courses in auto shop and welding....on her way to Indy, Ashley stopped Tuesday in Las Vegas where she and her dad participated in the unveiling of new Brand Source-sponsored Super Comp dragsters for her sisters, Brittany and Courtney....after qualifying No. 1 for last year's U.S. Nationals, Ashley beat Jared Dreher, David Wells, Bill Reichert and the late Shelly Howard for her first national event victory....Ashley has gone to the final round 12 times in her 34 career starts in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, winning three NHRA national events and three divisional events, all in 2004....Ashley is the eighth different driver to win an NHRA national event for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows. Among the others are Morgan Lucas, Brandon Bernstein and Melanie Troxel, all now Top Fuel drivers in the NHRA POWERade Series....Darien is one of only a handful of crew chiefs to have won the U.S. Nationals in consecutive seasons with different drivers. He won in 2003 with Morgan Lucas; in 2004 with Ashley. Among the others to accomplish that feat was Roland Leong, who won Top Fuel titles in 1965 and 1966 with Don Prudhomme and Mike Snively, respectively....the Darien and Meadows team hasn't raced in more than a month due to Darien's recovery from hernia surgery. However, Ashley took advantage of the layoff by beginning flying lessons.