Daughter of 12-Time NHRA Champion Comes into Her Own SONOMA, Calif. (July 30 -Aug. 2) - She may look like Barbie, but inside Ashley Force there beats a Hot Wheels heart. The daughter of drag racing's biggest winner, 12-time Funny ...
Daughter of 12-Time NHRA Champion Comes into Her Own
SONOMA, Calif. (July 30 -Aug. 2) - She may look like Barbie, but inside Ashley Force there beats a Hot Wheels heart.
The daughter of drag racing's biggest winner, 12-time Funny Car Champion John Force, the 21-year-old was thrust into the glare of the media spotlight as soon as she first climbed behind the wheel of a Super Comp dragster little more than two years ago.
Since moving up in classification this season from a 160 mile-an-hour Super Comp dragster to a 270 mile-an-hour Top Alcohol dragster she has been subject to even more intense scrutiny, which continues this week in the 17th annual Fram/Autolite Nationals.
A 2003 graduate of California State University-Fullerton, Ms. Force already has won a race, albeit a Lucas Oil Series regional event (at Rusk, Texas) and not an NHRA national event like the one contested this weekend at Infineon Raceway.
Nevertheless, she's been very close to a breakthrough win at the national level.
Runner-up at the Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., in May and No. 1 qualifier at the K&N SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., in June, she has gone to the semifinals or beyond in five of eight national event starts including last week's race at Seattle.
As a result, she led the national Top Alcohol Dragster points for most of the first half of the season and, despite the fact that she no longer can earn national event points, having already run the eight races allowed, she has a reasonable chance of finishing the season in the Top 10.
Driving for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, whose alumni roster includes Brandon Bernstein, Gary Scelzi, Melanie Troxel, Frank edregon and Morgan Lucas, Ashley has been far less traumatized by the development process than has her father.
"I love to have her out here with me," Force said, "but, like any dad, I worry about her. If I wasn't able to put her with Darien and Meadows, I probably wouldn't have moved her up right now."
Force certainly is in no hurry to put the former high school cheerleader in one of his team's 320 mile-an-hour Castrol-backed Funny Cars.
"She'll drive for Darien and Meadows for at least one more after this, maybe more," Force said. "She'll have to tell me when she's ready. Right now she's just getting seat time."
Nevertheless, Force can't hide his pride in what the second oldest of his four daughters has accomplished in such a short time.
"What I love the most is when the (Top Alcohol) guys say, 'John, you've got a winner. That kid's gonna be okay' and I think it's because she's shown them that she's just another racer who's happy to be out here."
Ms. Force, who has her father's winning smile and her mother's good looks, provided a clue to her ultimate career path when she opted to take auto shop and welding courses as high school electives instead of home economics.
Despite her obvious pedigree, she hasn't taken herself too seriously.
Her father, whose 112 victories are second only to Richard Petty among drivers in the major auto racing series, frequently includes the number of his career victories when he signs autographs for fans: "John Force, 112 wins."
When he did so at a race earlier this year, a fan pulled out one of Ashley's photo cards. Her autograph read "Ashley Force, zero wins." As it turns out, it was just a temporary condition because she apparently has inherited more from her father than just a smile.