WITH A&E'S T.V. CAMERAS ON SHORT HIATUS, ASHLEY FORCE BIDS TO REGAIN POINTS LEAD Castrol Driver Among Favorites in CARQUEST Nationals JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force has grown accustomed to, if not fond of, the constant presence of TV...
WITH A&E'S T.V. CAMERAS ON SHORT HIATUS, ASHLEY FORCE BIDS TO REGAIN POINTS LEAD
Castrol Driver Among Favorites in CARQUEST Nationals
JOLIET, Ill. -- Ashley Force has grown accustomed to, if not fond of, the constant presence of TV cameras filming Driving Force, the new real-life series that focuses on her and her two younger sisters, the drag racing daughters of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force.
That's why this week's trip to Route 66 Raceway must feel like a jailbreak for the 23-year-old, who will be able to resume her pursuit of the 2006 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster championship, for one week at least, outside of the glare of the cameras.
The last time producer Brent Travers' crew wasn't tracking her every move, Ashley drove the Castrol dragster to victory in the Summit Racing Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.
However, after falling from first to second to fifth place in the NHRA Lucas Sportsman Series standings over the past four weeks, she and car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows need another Atlanta-like result to thrust themselves prominently back into contention for a championship.
Despite all the distractions, it is on that elusive championship that Ashley has remained focused.
"Jerry and Ken have done just about everything in drag racing," she said. "They've won the U.S. Nationals, the Jeg's All-Stars race, the Auto Club Finals, Gainesville (Fla.), Atlanta, Dallas, but they've never won the championship. They've been close, but they've never won and to win one with them and this Castrol team would be so awesome."
Ashley, who is dividing her time this year between the 270 mile per hour dragster she drives on weekends and the 300 mph Castrol Ford Funny Car she tests on selected Mondays and Tuesdays, already has won two times this year for Darien and Meadows.
A victory this week would make her the season's first three-time winner and likely would push her back into the points lead in an ongoing duel with reigning series champion Steve Torrence, Aaron Olivarez, Randy Meyer, Bill Reichert and Sean O'Bannon, the only other driver to have doubled-up so far this year.
A graduate of California State University-Fullerton where she majored in Communications, Ashley didn't began racing nationally until she earned her degree, an edict from her mother, Laurie.
Once she climbed into the cockpit of the Castrol dragster, however, one would have thought she had been there forever.
In her first season (2004), she won the biggest race in the sport the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., won three of the last five races in the series and finished fourth in national points. She also won the South Central Division championship, an accomplishment that earned her both Rookie of the Year and Driver of the Year honors.
After a disappointing 2005, a season during which the team struggled to adapt to new NHRA restrictions on nitromethane fuel, she bounced back this year to win the ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., along with the Summit Southern Nationals.
This week, racing on what is widely-regarded as the smoothest track surface on the circuit, she is hoping (1) to earn her third season victory, and (2) to share the winners' circle with either her father or one of his teammates, Eric Medlen or Robert Hight.
Only once in NHRA history have a father and daughter won championships in the same event and that was when John and Ashley prevailed in their respective categories at the season-ending 2004 Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.