ASHLEY AIMS FOR SECOND WIN AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS Castrol Dragster Among Favorites in Top Alcohol Class INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Ashley Force WON'T put up her best career performance numbers this week at O'Reilly Raceway Park. That's a...
ASHLEY AIMS FOR SECOND WIN AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS
Castrol Dragster Among Favorites in Top Alcohol Class
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Ashley Force WON'T put up her best career performance numbers this week at O'Reilly Raceway Park. That's a given.
However, that doesn't mean that the 23-year-old star of the real-life TV series Driving Force won't be a contender for the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
The apparent contradiction stems from the fact that the second generation driver, daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, has been dividing her time between the Castrol dragster she'll drive this week for car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows and the Castrol Ford Funny Car she likely will drive as teammate to her father in 2007.
Last week, under the watchful eye of crew chief-to-be Dean Antonelli, she coaxed the hybrid Funny Car through the quarter mile in a career best 4.897 seconds at 314.39 miles per hour during open testing at ORP.
This week, she'd be happy to run four tenths of a second slower in pursuit of her third Top Alcohol Dragster win this season.
"I like them both," Ms. Force said of the two very different race cars that have been the foundation of her fledgling career. "I'm a Funny Car girl. They're what I grew up with, but I like the A/Fuel dragster, too. They're entirely different animals."
A winner this year at Gainesville, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga., Ashley will be seeking her sixth career win this week in an event over which she reigned as champion as a Top Alcohol rookie in 2004.
"That was a great win," said the graduate of California State University-Fullerton. "Since then, I've learned how really hard it is to win a national event. I think I might have been a little naive back then."
In fact, Ashley won three of the season's last five races and finished fourth in national points in 2004 after spending a couple of largely forgettable seasons competing in Super Comp while also pursuing her education.
She capped that breakthrough 2004 season by sharing the podium with her dad at the season-ending Auto Club Finals in which they became the first ever father-and- daughter winners of an NHRA national event.
Could they do that again this week?
"That would be really awesome," she said. "We had a chance to do that earlier this year at Gainesville, but dad didn't hold up his end (losing in the Funny Car finals to Ron Capps). Now I think he's got a better race car -- and so do we. And since we're both sponsored by Mac Tools, it would be really exciting to do it again."
Coming off a semifinal loss in a Lucas Series points race last week at Topeka, Kan., Ashley is looking for 5.20 second performance from her green-and-red Castrol dragster.
"Everybody will be here," she said. "That's what makes Indy what it is. All the best cars and drivers come to Indy if they don't come to any other race. So when you win the U.S. Nationals, it's an accomplishment like nothing else in the sport. We came to Indy for years to watch my dad, but he didn't finally win until 1993, I think."
Ashley's bid is enhanced by the fact that Darien and Meadows have a history at ORP where they won in 2003 with Morgan Lucas, now a rising star in the Top Fuel dragster division.
Ashley always knew she wanted to pursue a career in drag racing but she didn't know what form it would take until she attended Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School as a 16th birthday present.
Nevertheless, to prepare for whatever was to come, she took courses in auto shop and welding while attending Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif.