Ashley Force Joliet preview

HEIR TO FORCE'S RACING LEGACY LIKELY WILL BE AN HEIRESS INSTEAD Ashley Force Among Favorites in Top Alcohol Class JOLIET, Ill. -- Like most fathers, John Force dreamed one day of having his son take over the family business. Only one problem....


Ashley Force Among Favorites in Top Alcohol Class

JOLIET, Ill. -- Like most fathers, John Force dreamed one day of having his son take over the family business. Only one problem. No son. Four daughters, but not a single male heir.

In many cases, such a situation would be troublesome, especially with a family business steeped in things mechanical like race cars, 18-wheel transporters, motor oil and machine tools.

Force, drag racing's most prolific winner, needn't have worried.

After all, when his second oldest daughter, Ashley, was considering which elective courses to take while attending high school, she opted for auto shop and welding over the home economics class her mother had suggested.

Now, at age 22, Ashley Force does her cooking on the dragstrip where this weekend she'll be among the favorites to win the Top Alcohol dragster championship in the fifth annual Ameriquest Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Ms. Force, a graduate of Cal State-Fullerton where she majored in communications, is in her second season as driver of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster owned and maintained by Jerry Darien, a former schoolteacher, and Ken Meadows.

The equivalent of NASCAR's Busch Series, drag racing's Top Alcohol division is a developmental category for aspiring professionals like Ashley, who will spend at least one more season with Darien and Meadows before moving up to compete with and against her father, a 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion who remains solidly in contention this year for yet another title.

In the meantime, Ashley is learning about John Force Racing, Inc., from the inside out. She maintains an office at the team's primary shop facility in Yorba Linda, Calif., where her responsibilities include creating video presentations and interacting with sponsors like Castrol, Mattel, the Auto Club of Southern California and Oakley.

She is featured in a print ad for Oakley sunglasses and her likeness appears in an Ashley Force doll sold by Mattel in its company-owned stores. A collectible version of her 275 mile-an-hour dragster soon will be available to consumers.

That's pretty heady stuff for one whose resume includes just seven victories three in NHRA's national series and four in the Lucas Sportsman Series. However, few drivers have burst onto the scene more spectacularly.

In fact, Ashley closed out her rookie season by winning three of the last five races in the national series including the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., drag racing's oldest, largest, richest and most prestigious event.

She followed up by winning on the all-concrete Texas Motorplex quarter mile in Dallas, her father's favorite track, and then capped the campaign by sharing the winners' circle with her dad at the season-ending Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif., where she used a substantial starting line advantage to upset series champion Mitch Myers in the final round.

"She's very competitive," said Darien, who has helped develop a bevy of young drivers including Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein, "just like her dad. She has her fun, but once she's in the (race) car, she's all business."

Ashley's success has paved the way for sisters Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17, who this year are driving entry level Super Comp dragsters for Brand Source. She also is saving a seat for yet another generation of Force women represented by one-year-old Autumn Danielle Hight, her niece and her dad's only grandchild.

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Did You Know? Ashley has gone to the final round seven times in the 25 NHRA national events in which she has raced; six times in 15 starts in the Lucas Sportsman Series....last year, Ashley was named Driver of the Year and Rookie of the Year after winning the NHRA's South Central Division championship ....Ashley has been named one of Orange County's Hot 25 personalities by the Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)....with an eye toward ultimately moving up in classification, Ashley will get some more track time in her dad's national record-holding, 333.58 mile per hour Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang Funny Car in a Monday test session at Route 66 Raceway. Although she hasn't yet accelerated beyond 350 feet, Ashley's progress has impressed her father. "We're going at her pace," said the 118-time tour winner. "There's no hurry. These aren't easy cars to drive. You can't just jump in one and go A to B. She'll test on Monday (next week) at Dallas and probably Vegas and we'll put her in the car (on Mondays)whenever we can next year."

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas