WITH EYE ON A FUNNY CAR FUTURE, ASHLEY GOES FOR GOLD AT SEATTLE Next Generation Driver Seeks First 2005 Victory SEATTLE, Wash. -- Although she has spent a lot of orientation time this year in the cockpit of the Castrol GTXÂ® Start UpÂ®...
WITH EYE ON A FUNNY CAR FUTURE, ASHLEY GOES FOR GOLD AT SEATTLE
Next Generation Driver Seeks First 2005 Victory
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Although she has spent a lot of orientation time this year in the cockpit of the Castrol GTX® Start Up® Ford Mustang, it would be imprudent to surmise that 22-year-old Ashley Force is being groomed to bump the current occupant out of the seat of the world's quickest and fastest Funny Car.
She doesn't even want to.
A 2003 graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, Ms. Force would rather race her famous father, 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, than replace him.
"I think it would be a shame if dad retired before we got a chance to race each other," she said. "That's something I really want to do."
Unfortunately, she won't have an opportunity to fulfill that dream until at least the 2007 season, the year she is projected to move up in classification.
In the meantime, she'll continue to drive the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster in the Top Alcohol Dragster division in which she will be one of the favorites this week when Pacific Raceways plays host to the 18th annual CARQUEST Northwest Nationals.
The Top Alcohol Dragster track record holder for speed at 271.84 mph, a mark she established last year as a rookie, Ashley is seeking her first win of the 2005 season for car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
A semifinalist at Pacific Raceways during a 2004 season in which she won three of the last five races in the POWERade Series, including the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., Ashley is coming off a runner-up finish in her most recent start (at the K&N SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J.).
Although she'll remain in the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster through the 2006 season, she still will have plenty of time to build a rivalry with her dad who is contracted to drive the GTX Start Up Ford through the 2011 season.
In the meantime, the former high school cheerleader will continue her orientation.
Thus far, she has warmed up the 8,000 horsepower Mustang, completed a couple of smokey burnouts and performed two "launches," one to 60 feet and the other to 330, all under the watchful and approving eyes of her father's crew chiefs, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly.
"The initial launch didn't feel that different from my dragster," she said, "but after that, it was just awesome."
The plan is for Ashley to take the wheel in Monday tests after selected races for the remainder of this season as well as next.
She probably won't get another opportunity in the Funny Car until the open test at Indianapolis Raceway Park the week before this year's Nationals. But that's all right with her.
"I love this team," she said. "Jerry makes it so much fun, even when we're struggling, like we were earlier in the year. I'm really in no hurry to move up. Besides, Gary Scelzi told me that before I start driving a Funny Car for real, I need to get some Popeye muscles. Right now, I don't even have Olive Oyl muscles."
Ashley is just the latest in a series of young drivers who have benefitted from an association with Darien and Meadows. The California-based team, which has won 17 NHRA tour events with seven different drivers, counts among its alumni current professional stars Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Gary Scelzi and Melanie Troxel.
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Did You Know? While attending Esperanza High School in Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley took, as electives, auto shop and welding, the first solid indication of her desire to follow her father into racing ....Ashley won last year's Division 4 championship (for racers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi) for which she earned Driver of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors ....Ashley's younger sisters, Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17, both are licensed in the Super Comp class, as is her mother, Laurie....although she qualified only 13th at last year's CARQUEST Nationals, Ashley reached the semifinals before losing to Duane Shields....Ashley finished fourth in the national Top Alcohol Dragster standings last year after winning three of the season's final five races including the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif., where she shared the winners' circle with her dad in the first such father-daughter victory celebration.