EVEN AT 315 MPH, ASHLEY IN NO HURRY TO MOVE UP Next Generation Driver Seeks Top Alcohol Title at Maple Grove READING, Pa. -- Having already driven a race car from zero-to-315 miles per hour in less than five seconds, Ashley Force may have ...
EVEN AT 315 MPH, ASHLEY IN NO HURRY TO MOVE UP
Next Generation Driver Seeks Top Alcohol Title at Maple Grove
READING, Pa. -- Having already driven a race car from zero-to-315 miles per hour in less than five seconds, Ashley Force may have trouble convincing skeptics that she's not in a hurry.
Nevertheless, as she prepared for this week's Toyo Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the 23-year-old insisted that she isn't rushing to join her father in a Funny Car division over which he has reigned as champion 13 of the last 16 NHRA seasons at the wheel of the Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang.
"I love the Funny Car (in which she licensed at the aforementioned 315 mph), but I love the A/Fuel dragster (in which she is competing this weekend), too," acknowledged the second oldest of drag racing icon John Force's four daughters.
"The thing is, there's no rush (to move up). I've been racing five years, but I'm still learning. The main goal right now is to get me ready so that if there's an opportunity I'll be ready."
A two-time winner this season in a Top Alcohol Dragster class in which vehicles reach speeds of "only" 275 mph, Ashley will try to add to that total this weekend at the wheel of a Castrol-backed hybrid owned by Californians Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, a car in which she reached the finals at Maple Grove in 2004.
Coming off a runner-up finish in a Lucas Sportsman Series race last week at Englishtown, NJ., a performance that moved her up to third place in the national standings, Ashley won't be able to add to her total this weekend.
"We've already used up (our allotment of) national events," she said. "In Top Alcohol, there's a limit on how many races you can run for points. The only races we have left (in which to earn points) are regionals."
Although she already has exhausted her points-earning opportunities at the national level, she can help herself this week if she can beat some of the drivers against whom she is competing for position, notably Arthur Gallant of Boxboro, Mass., who trails her by 33 points in the current standings.
"People say (the Castrol dragster) must be slow now compared to the Funny Car,'" she said, "but they're totally different. I like both of them in different ways. (Funny Cars are) what I grew up with, but I like the A/Fuel dragster, too. They're entirely different animals."
A five-time winner at the national level, Ashley finished fourth in national points as a Top Alcohol rookie in 2004 and seventh last season. However, it's taken three years for her to get really comfortable in the car.
"Everything it does now, I've felt several times before," She said, so "there are no surprises but it's still exciting. It's still fun.
While her competitive focus is on the dragster, the graduate of California State University-Fullerton will be back in the Funny Car as soon as possible, if not this Monday (at Maple Grove), then certainly next Monday (following the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas).
Her next Funny Car adjustment will be acclimating herself to even more restricted vision when crew chief Dean Antonelli swaps the old style injector that has been mounted on her Ford for a model like those used by her father and his current teammates, Eric Medlen and Robert Hight.
That injector package, which sits up higher than the older model, will enable Antonelli to share the data developed by the team's other crew chiefs and take his young driver to the next level.
"We'd like for her to run 4.70s (in testing)," Antonelli said, "and (with the new setup) I think she will."