Another Force On The Fast Track at 50th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Daughter of 12-Time Champ a Threat in Top Alcohol Class INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 3-6) -- At this week's 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, ...
Another Force On The Fast Track at 50th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Daughter of 12-Time Champ a Threat in Top Alcohol Class
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 3-6) -- At this week's 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, defending Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher's Army of One will have to share center stage with the Force of two.
John Force, who has driven a Castrol GTX Funny Car to the winners' circle nine times at IRP, five times in the Skoal Showdown (a.k.a., Big Bud Shootout) bonus race, is considered the driver most likely to "double-up" this week (by winning both the Showdown and the U.S. Nationals).
It's a difficult feat, but one he has managed twice before (1993, 1996).
Nevertheless, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection and current Funny Car points leader won't be the only Force with a chance to reach the winners' circle.
Driving for the team that won last year's U.S. Nationals in Top Alcohol, 21-year-old Ashley Force is poised for a breakthrough first national event victory.
Winner of a Lucas Oil Sportsman Series race earlier this year at Rusk, Texas, the former high school cheerleader came close to that first win earlier this year when she was runner-up in the Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.
According to team owner and crew chief Jerry Darien who, with partner Ken Meadows, won last year's Labor Day classic with driver Morgan Lucas, "she's has done everything (in the Mattel Toy Store dragster) except win a national event."
Ms. Force, a 2003 graduate of California State University-Fullerton, has proven to be a quick study. After two years in the Super Comp division, driving cars capable of 175 mile-an-hour speeds, Ashley moved up in classification this season at the wheel of a Mattel Toy Store dragster than already has taken her to 275 mph.
While her father ultimately would like to put her in one of his Castrol-backed Ford Funny Cars, he's in no hurry. Ashley will drive at least one more season for Darien and Meadows before any decision is made regarding her future.
Ms. Force is just the latest young driver to be groomed for future stardom by Darien and Meadows, whose alumni list includes Brandon Bernstein, Frank Pedregon, Gary Scelzi, Lucas and Melanie Troxel, among others.
In fact, she's gone to the semifinals or beyond in 12 of the 15 races she's run since moving up in classification. That includes a Lucas Oil Series race last week at Topeka, Kan., in which she was the No. 1 qualifier.
A cheerleader at Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley never was far from racing. Among her electives were auto shop and welding. In fact, she once even contemplated a career as a race car mechanic instead of a driver.
She changed her mind when her dad sent her to Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School as a 16th birthday present. She hasn't slowed down since. Despite her obvious pedigree, she hasn't taken herself too seriously.
Her father, whose 113 victories are second only to Richard Petty among drivers in the major auto racing series, frequently includes the number of his career victories when he signs autographs for fans: "John Force, 113 wins."
When he did so at a race earlier this year, a fan pulled out one of Ashley's photo cards. Her autograph read "Ashley Force, zero wins." That could be a collector's item because it's a statistic that isn't going to apply.
DID YOU KNOW:
Before her mother, Laurie, would allow her to pursue a drag racing career, Ashley had to get her college degree. She did so in just three-and-a-half years as a Communications major at California State University-Fullerton....as a student at Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley chose as electives courses in auto shop and welding....Ashley has three sisters. Adria, 34, is the CFO at John Force Racing; younger sisters Brittany, 17, and Courtney, 15, could follow their sister and father into drag racing....this fall, Mattel will introduce an Ashley Force doll to its line of collectibles....Ashley led the national Lucas Oil point standings for much of the early part o the season. She since has dropped to ninth place but still is on track to claim a Top 10 spot.