ASHLEY CHASES CHAMPIONSHIP AT O'REILLY SUMMER NATIONALS Castrol Driver Among Top Alcohol Dragster Favorites TOPEKA, Kansas -- While Ashley Force was putting a 2007 Ford Mustang through its paces last week for a photo shoot in Southern ...
ASHLEY CHASES CHAMPIONSHIP
AT O'REILLY SUMMER NATIONALS
Castrol Driver Among Top Alcohol Dragster Favorites
TOPEKA, Kansas -- While Ashley Force was putting a 2007 Ford Mustang through its paces last week for a photo shoot in Southern California, reigning Lucas Sportsman Series Top Alcohol Dragster champion Steve Torrence was regaining the national points lead in a regional race at Shreveport, La.
Now, trailing Torrence by 44 points, Ms. Force hopes to regain the advantage in this week's 18th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals at Heartland Park-Topeka.
For Ashley, the task is an especially daunting one.
While she has won NHRA national events this year at Gainesville, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga., she hasn't advanced beyond the second round in two previous appearances in the Summer Nationals.
Moreover, she has had little success against Torrence. In five meetings with the Kilgore, Texas, driver, the most recent during last April's O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, she has yet to win a single race.
"We definitely owe him a payback or two," said the 23-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force. "They say to be the champ, you have to beat the champ, so that's our goal this week."
Driving for California car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, Ashley has won five NHRA national events in two-and-a-half seasons, finishing fourth and seventh in points.
However, with a career in one of her dad's Ford Funny Cars ahead of her, this may be her last chance to deliver a Top Alcohol Dragster championship to Darien and Meadows, in whose dragsters some of the sport's top talent has developed over the past 20 seasons.
Although drivers like Brandon Bernstein, Morgan Lucas, Gary Scelzi, Frank Pedregon and Melanie Troxel honed their talents with Darien and Meadows, neither was able to win a championship for the team. Ashley hopes to be the first.
Although the championship is Ashley's top priority, the graduate of California State Unversity-Fullerton will be doing double duty at Heartland Park where she will drive the green-and-red dragster this weekend before climbing into he cockpit of a 300 mile-an-hour Ford Funny Car for a Monday test session.
"We're trying to give her as much seat time as we can," said her father. "These (Funny Cars) are a handful. She needs to know about tire shake and dropped cylinders and 'pedaling' (feathering the throttle to regain lost traction). The more we can teach her now, the better off she'll be once she moves up."
Although her present level of competition is the motor sports equivalent of AAA baseball, Ashley already has satisfied all the criteria necessary to race at 300-plus mph although her primary motivation isn't to replace her father; but to race him.
"I'm gonna mess with him on the starting line," she has said. "He'll be so worried about his little girl that by the time he figures it out, I'll be gone. At least that's the way it is in my dreams."