ASHLEY RETURNS TO HEARTLAND PARK AS ALCOHOL DRAGSTER POINTS LEADER Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Win TOPEKA, Kan. -- Although her team has been struggling to adapt to new fuel regulations imposed this year in the Top Alcohol...
ASHLEY RETURNS TO HEARTLAND PARK AS ALCOHOL DRAGSTER POINTS LEADER
Second Generation Driver Seeking First 2005 Win
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Although her team has been struggling to adapt to new fuel regulations imposed this year in the Top Alcohol Dragster class, second generation drag racer Ashley Force, driver of the Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster, has managed to find a silver lining.
"Everyone has said I'd be a great Funny Car driver because I spend all my time 'backpedaling' (feathering the throttle to regain lost traction) and blowing up parts," Force quipped after a particularly difficult race two weeks ago at Atlanta, Ga.
The daughter of 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, a man who knows as much as anyone about 'pedaling' and parts failures, Ashley is on a fast track that ultimately could land her in the cockpit of one of her dad's 330 mile-an-hour Castrol Fords.
In the meantime, she is serving an apprenticeship in a Top Alcohol division in which she will be competing during this week's 17th annual O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park-Topeka.
Despite the fact that she still is seeking her first win of the season, the 22-year-old former high school cheerleader is the national points leader in the Lucas Sportsman Series, a position she has occupied since the second week of the season.
Driving a car owned by Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows and flying the Castrol banner under which her father has won a record 117 NHRA tour events, Ashley has had to do a lot more driving this year simply because her race car has been so negatively impacted by the imposition of restrictions on nitromethane fuel.
Unfortunately, A/Fuel cars like those campaigned by Darien and Meadows are especially impotent in heat and humidity, conditions one normally would expect to find at Heartland Park on Memorial Day weekend.
Last Memorial Day, in her first appearance at Heartland Park, Ashley qualified only twelfth in the 16-car field, the worst qualifying performance of her career.
When she gets to race day, however, the graduate of California State University- Fullerton almost always is a threat and the harder she has to work to win her rounds, the better her father likes it.
"She still needs seat time," Force has said. "Anybody can drive a car from A to B when everything's perfect. The key is to be able to drive in trouble and that's what she's learning with Darien and Meadows. She's learning how to 'pedal' and how far she can drive it without getting in trouble.
"(This) is a serious race car. They're going faster in the alcohol cars than I was when I won my first Funny Car race (at Montreal, Canada in 1987)," Force said. "So I want her to get all the experience she can. She's got time. I didn't win my first race until I was 37."
A three-time winner last season as a Top Alcohol rookie, Ashley also won one of the seven regional championships contested in the Lucas Sportsman Series. In fact, she not only won the South Central Division, she also earned Rookie of the Year and Driver of the Year accolades.
Her first victory came in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., her second in the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Dallas, Texas, and her last in the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif. The win in the Auto Club Finals was he most memorable to date because she was able to celebrate in the winners' circle with her father, who won the Funny Car title the same weekend.
That's a feat the Forces would love to duplicate this weekend.