ASHLEY FORCE AMONG FAVORITESbIN LUCAS SERIES RACE AT RED RIVER Top Alcohol Points Leader Goes After First 2005 Win SHREVEPORT, La. -- It's been a rough ride this year for Ashley Force, the 22-year-old daughter of drag racing's biggest...
ASHLEY FORCE AMONG FAVORITESbIN LUCAS SERIES RACE AT RED RIVER
Top Alcohol Points Leader Goes After First 2005 Win
SHREVEPORT, La. -- It's been a rough ride this year for Ashley Force, the 22-year-old daughter of drag racing's biggest winner, but the former high school cheerleader wouldn't have it any other way.
Tire shake, loss of traction, mechanical malfunctions: all have created situations that have forced the second year driver of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster to make adjustments in the cockpit, a major part of her training for an eventual ride in one of her father's 330 mile-an-hour Castrol-backed Ford Funny Cars.
Ms. Force, second oldest daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, brings the Castrol road show to Red River Dragway this week where she will challenge veteran Gene Snow for the Top Alcohol Dragster championship in a Lucas Sportsman Series regional event.
Although she still is seeking her first victory of the new season, Force comes in as the national points leader in the class after reaching the semifinals at last week's Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.
At Atlanta, the graduate of California State University-Fullerton had to use all her driving skills to overcome a No. 10 start. The car shook in all three rounds, forcing the second generation driver to employ a technique called "backpedaling" in which the driver feathers the throttle to try and regain traction.
"Everyone has said I'd be a great Funny Car driver because I've been pedaling my car and blowing up parts," Force quipped.
In fact, she's been making her famous father proud by displaying skills he never imagined she had.
"It's all about seat time," he said. "She just needs to make laps. Anybody can drive a car A to B when everything's right, but you're not a driver until you can show that you can handle a race car when it's in trouble. She's done that but she still needs more time (in the cockpit)."
There is no timetable for Ashley to take over one of the John Force Racing Funny Cars, but conventional wisdom suggests that she will stay in the Lucas Series, under the scrutiny of car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, for at least one more season.
A six-time winner as a rookie -- three times in the Lucas Series and three times in the NHRA POWERade series -- Ashley won the 2004 South Central Division championship, in the process earning Driver of the Year and Rookie of the Year accolades.
She's back in Division 4 (Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee) this year, battling for the championship with a drag racing legend who won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, drag racing's oldest, largest and most prestigious event, 17 years before she was born.
Although she is winless thus far this season, Ashley won three of the last five races of the 2004 season including the U.S. Nationals, the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Dallas, Texas, and the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif., an event in which she share the winners' circle with her father as the first father-and-daughter winners in NHRA history.
Aligned with Darien and Meadows, Ashley has a reputation to uphold. After all, she was preceded in the cockpit of the Darien-tuned dragster by Brandon Bernstein, son of seven-time series champion Kenny Bernstein, the only driver to win NHRA titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and by Morgan Lucas, currently fourth in the Top Fuel driver standings.