Ashley Force Sonoma preview

ASHLEY AFTER FIRST 2005 TOUR TITLE IN CASTROL/HOT WHEELS DRAGSTER Second Generation Driver Among Favorites at Infineon SONOMA, Calif. -- Don't let the Barbie doll good looks fool you, Ashley Force is more than just a pretty face. In...

Second Generation Driver Among Favorites at Infineon

SONOMA, Calif. -- Don't let the Barbie doll good looks fool you, Ashley Force is more than just a pretty face.

In fact, the 22-year-old is the future of John Force Racing, the drag racing dynasty that has won 12 consecutive NHRA Funny Car Championships and 157 NHRA Funny Car titles over the last 19 seasons.

One of the favorites to win the Top Alcohol Dragster championship in this week's 18th annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, Ms. Force has been doing double duty this season.

Whenever possible, she has followed a weekend of racing in the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster owned by Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows with a weekday of testing in her dad's Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang Funny Car.

Although she has yet to make a full, quarter mile run in the 8,000 horsepower, 330 mile per hour Funny Car, the Cal State-Fullerton graduate has impressed not only her father, but also crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly with her quick grasp of the basic techniques required to properly warm up the car and then execute a burnout and launch.

Nevertheless, don't expect to see her lining up alongside her father or one of the other Team Force Funny Car drivers any time soon.

"We're not rushing it," the 13-time series champion said of his daughter's development. "She'll be with Darien and Meadows the rest of this year and next year. Her main job will be to drive the dragster but, when we can, we'll put her in the Funny Car. It's called orientation.

"The plan is for her to test the car on Mondays (after selected national events)," he continued. "First she did the warmup. Then she did a burnout and a launch. The next is to go to 330 (feet), then halftrack and 1,000 feet. We're not even thinking about (running the full quarter mile)."

Although she spent two seasons intermittently driving a Super Comp dragster (while simultaneously attending school), Ashley didn't blossom as a driver until she moved up in classification last year.

She earned her first career victory last September when she became just the third female winner of the sport's oldest, largest, richest and most prestigious single event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

Beginning with that victory, the former high school cheerleader won three of the season's last five races and finished fourth in Lucas Oil Sportsman Series points.

She could not have burst into the racing spotlight in more dramatic fashion, delighting her father, with whom she shared the winners' circle at the 2004 season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif. Nevertheless, despite those heroics, Ashley rolls into Infineon seeking her very first victory of the 2005 campaign.

She hopes to end that victory drought with the help of a cheering section composed of her mother, Laurie, and sisters Brittany and Courtney, all of them newly-licensed in Super Comp, the category in which she began her own career.

"(The Infineon race) always was a family trip for us," Ashley said. "We'd go watch dad race and then we all would spend a few days in Lake Tahoe. It's the closest thing to a vacation that dad ever does. It was always fun, but now it's more fun because we all have a common topic of conversation."

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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....after qualifying fourth at last year's FRAM/Autolite Nationals, Ashley beat Ben Harper and Steve Federlin before losing to Duane Shields in the semifinals....Ashley has gone to the final round 12 times in her 34 career starts in the Top Alcohol Dragster division, winning three NHRA national events and three divisional events, all in 2004....Ashley is the eighth different driver to win an NHRA national event for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows. Among the others are Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas and Melanie Troxel, three of the brightest young stars in Top Fuel drag racing.

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas , Duane Shields , Austin Coil