Daughter of Funny Car Champ Tries to Double Her Fun READING, Pa. (Sept. 17-19) -- Having just won the biggest drag race on the planet -- the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., 21-year-old Ashley Force has a chance...
Daughter of Funny Car Champ Tries to Double Her Fun
READING, Pa. (Sept. 17-19) -- Having just won the biggest drag race on the planet -- the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., 21-year-old Ashley Force has a chance this week to steal a little more thunder from her famous father -- 113-time tour winner John Force.
While the elder Force would be happy with just one win this week at Maple Grove Raceway, site of the 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals, his daughter has a chance to win two times in two days.
A rookie this year in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, Ms. Force will oppose veteran Mike Kosky of Cuddy, Pa., on Saturday in the final round of a race postponed last month at Englishtown, N.J. A day later, she should be among the favorites in the event that began life as the NHRA Keystone Nationals.
The former high school cheerleader also is expected to make a run at the No. 1 qualifying position. She's started five of the last seven races she's run including the U.S. Nationals from the No. 1 position.
Ms. Force's rapid development is equal parts pedigree and preparation.
The second oldest of Force's four daughters, she is driving the Mattel Toy Store dragster for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
Darien, a former schoolteacher, is widely recognized for developing such talented young drivers as Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas. Lucas, in fact, drove for Darien and Meadows a year ago when he won four of the last five races of the season en route to a second place finish in Lucas Series points. He now drives a Top Fuel car for legendary Pennsylvania drag racer Joe Amato.
In fact, Ms. Force is the seventh different driver to win an NHRA national event title in a Darien and Meadows dragster.
Although she is projected as a future driver of one of her father's 320 mile per hour Castrol-backed Funny Cars, she will remain with Darien and Meadows for the foreseeable future, certainly through 2005.
"I'm real proud of her," Force said, "but she still needs experience. I don't want to move her up too quick and there's no better place for her to learn than right where she is. Darien has handled a lot of top drivers. He takes care of her on and off the track and that's what I like."
Ms. Force, a 2003 graduate of California State University-Fullerton (where she majored in communications), understands the need for more experience. After all, this really is her first full season in competition.
She raced for the first time three years ago in the Super Comp class but her actual track time was limited by her school schedule. She actually got her degree in three-and-a-half years so that she could go racing full-time this season.
She reached the final round at the Summit Racing Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., last May before winning at Indy. She's gone to the semifinals or beyond in 13 of the 16 regional and national races she's run since moving up in classification.
Although her father was skeptical about her racing aspirations, Ashley provided something of a clue early-on when she took, as her electives at Esperanza High School (Yorba Linda, Calif.), auto shop and welding.
Those courses provided a foundation on which she now is building a career that is making her father very proud indeed.