ASHLEY LOOMS AS NEW FORCE IN FUNNY CAR DRAG RACING Last Year's TAD Champion Back at Atlanta in Hot Rod Ford ATLANTA, Ga. -- Ashley Force won't repeat as Top Alcohol Dragster champion this week at Atlanta Dragway, but the second generation driver...
ASHLEY LOOMS AS NEW FORCE IN FUNNY CAR DRAG RACING
Last Year's TAD Champion Back at Atlanta in Hot Rod Ford
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Ashley Force won't repeat as Top Alcohol Dragster champion this week at Atlanta Dragway, but the second generation driver still could make history in the 27th annual Summit Racing Southern Nationals.
The second oldest of drag racing icon John Force's four daughters, Ashley has traded in the 275 mile-per-hour dragster in which she won here last year for something even faster: an 8,000 horsepower, 325 mph Ford Mustang in which she hopes to become the first woman in history to win a race in the NHRA Funny Car division.
Four events into her professional career, that idea doesn't seem as far-fetched as it once did.
"I'm getting more comfortable with every pass," said the 24-year-old who, two weeks ago, qualified her Castrol GTX® Ford third at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the highest position from which a woman ever has started a Funny Car race.
Not that the graduate of California State University-Fullerton is on the verge of taking over from her father, the 14-time NHRA Champion and 122-time tour winner. Not yet, anyway.
Although Ashley developed her Funny Car skills driving her dad's car during Monday test sessions, she didn't really come into her own until Dean "Guido" Antonelli was assigned to her team as crew chief.
"When I first tested the Funny Car with dad's team, I had the best people working on the car, but I was a little intimidated," she remembered. "Dad's a big goofball, but he's also a great driver (and) I kept thinking how hard it must be for Austin Coil and Bernie Feddlerly, who've won all those championships with dad, to have to deal with me.
"They were great," she said, "and they never once got impatient, but with Guido' I feel more relaxed and a lot less nervous. We're going to make mistakes, but we're learning things together because he is going through the same rookie issues on the tuning side that I am driving."
As for her father, Ashley is more interested in racing him than replacing him.
Although it hasn't happened yet, there's little doubt that such a match-up will occur sometime during the season. It could come as early as this week. When it finally does happen, Ashley believes she'll have an edge. She bases that assessment not on any tangible advantage, but rather on the intangible.
"A lot of drivers might be intimidated by him," she said of her father, "but to me he's just dad. If anyone is going to be nervous, it's him. He'll be so worried about me and all the things he thinks might happen that I think it'll be hard for him to focus.
"I can't wait to race him. His team are who trained me, so to be in the lane next to them, Austin and Bernie on one side with Guido' on the other side with me, will be really exciting. And the fans, they'll love it because there's never been any father-daughter teams competing against each other."
In fact, there have been no father-versus-daughter competitions in all of pro sports, which makes the anticipated Force-versus-Force pairing even more compelling.
"It's his own fault I'm coming after him," Ashley said earlier this year. "He's been my teacher the whole way. The big question everybody's asking is which side of the track are my mom and my sisters going to stand when we race each other?"