Bristol: Ashley Force preview

ASHLEY FOLL0WS DAD INTO HISTORY BOOKS Champ's Daughter First Woman to Win in FC BRISTOL, Tenn. -- "The thing about drag racing," Ashley Force said after an historic victory in the April 27 Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., one that...

ASHLEY FOLL0WS DAD INTO HISTORY BOOKS
Champ's Daughter First Woman to Win in FC

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- "The thing about drag racing," Ashley Force said after an historic victory in the April 27 Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., one that made her the first female winner in NHRA Funny Car history, "is that you can go from hero to zero very quickly."

As if to add emphasis to her observation, after three consecutive trips to the final round, the 25-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force was upset in her very first race the following week at Madison, Ill. As a result, she dropped from first to second place in the driver standings behind veteran Tim Wilkerson.

When racing for the NHRA POWERade championship resumes this week at the eighth annual O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton will try to put that stumble behind her and return her Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang to the dominant position it previously occupied.

"For about 40 minutes I was in a pretty crappy mood," she said of losing so early two weeks ago at Gateway International Raceway, "but you always get over it. Seeing dad win his 1,000th round and (teammate Mike) Neff go the finals (in the Old Spice Mustang) completely brought me out of my funk.

"(Besides), no one's going to win all the rounds," said the driver hailed as the new face of high performance. "It's a long season and it's a tough group we race against, so you never want to get ahead of yourself. You can't win unless you get to the final round and you can't get to the final round without winning the first three."

And then there's qualifying.

"Last year, we didn't qualify (for the Thunder Valley Nationals) because we had a problem with the throttle stop (a device that keeps the driver from over-revving the engine on the burnout) on our last run," she explained. "So our first goal is to get our Castrol GTX Mustang in the starting field and then take it one step at a time."

After beating her dad in the first father-daughter final round in pro sports history, Ashley has another historic match-up on her wish list: an all-female final round match-up with veteran Melanie Troxel, who moved over to Funny Car this season after distinguishing herself in the Top Fuel dragster division.

"If it happens, I think two females in the final would be pretty neat," she said, "but that's not something we're focused on. We're just trying to go out and win rounds to keep ourselves in the Countdown (to the Championship, which determines the 10 drivers eligible to complete in NHRA's playoffs' beginning in September)."

Despite her newfound celebrity, Ashley isn't naive enough to believe she could have won the Auto Club's 2007 Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, reached the finals, led the points or won for the first time without the support of a great team anchored by crew chief Dean "Guido" Antonelli, who was a member of the elder Force's crew for 10 championship seasons, and assistant crew chief Ron Douglas, who former crew chief to Cruz Pedregon.

"I'm proud to be a female in the seat," she said, "but I know that without the 10 guys on my team, I never would be here."

     "We just knew that if we kept getting to the finals, eventually we'd win one," she
said.  "I kinda hated that it had to be against dad, but I'm just happy to finally win one."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel