Englishtown: John Force preview

This Father's Day Extra Special for 12-Time Series Champ ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 18-20) -- John Force wasn't home when his kids began to grow up. That's the downside of a truly brilliant drag racing career, one that has yielded 111 NHRA...

This Father's Day Extra Special for 12-Time Series Champ

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 18-20) -- John Force wasn't home when his kids began to grow up. That's the downside of a truly brilliant drag racing career, one that has yielded 111 NHRA tour victories and 12 Funny Car Championships.

However, what racing took from the 11-time All-American, it now is giving back. It'll make further restitution this weekend when, for the first time, Force will spend Father's Day racing with his 21-year-old daughter, Ashley.

While Force is driving the Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Funny Car in this week's 35th K&N Filters SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, his second oldest daughter will compete in the Top Alcohol Dragster category as the rookie driver of the Mattel Toy Store dragster, the car in which she won her first race last week in Rusk, Texas.

"Well, in the first 18 years of her growing up, I can actually say that I didn't know her," Force observed. "She was my kid and I loved her, but I just didn't know what made her tick because (I was) so busy out here chasing the dream.

"Probably in the last two years I've spent more time with her than I ever did (before). I always say what NHRA took away from me, now they've given back to me by allowing her a place to play and to do what she loves. And it's starting to appear that she truly does love it which is all I ever really wanted, for her to love drag racing as much as I do."

Nevertheless, there also are moments of gut-wrenching apprehension.

"There's that fear factor that I hate," Force said. "She's driving a 270 mile-an-hour race car and that's no piece of cake. She's done very well (earning runner-up honors in last month's Summit Racing Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.), but she's my kid and you just feel a lot more responsibility."

Force especially is on edge when the two are racing the same weekend at different tracks as they were just last week. While Ashley was winning in Texas, her father was exiting in the second round of the Pontiac Nationals at Columbus, Ohio.

His concern is less pronounced at events like the SuperNationals because of the presence of NHRA's highly-respected Safety Safari team.

"My job," Force said, "is to give her the best equipment, find her the best team and make sure that she runs on the best-prepared tracks."

After a brief apprenticeship in Super Comp, during which she balanced racing with her studies at Cal State-Fullerton, Ms. Force began racing full time this year with Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, the same team for whom current Top Fuel points leader Brandon Bernstein drove in 2000.

Although she's been the Lucas Oil points leader for most of the season, Ashley hadn't won a race until last week.

"I love to see that big smile when she does well," Force said. "I was (especially) impressed at Atlanta where she had a .026 light (reaction time) in the final. She just got beat by a kid (David Wells) who was having a better weekend.

"But when (the two of them) were down at the other end, talking, her smile was just as big as if she'd won even though I knew she was hurt because she lost," Force continued. "She's learned the game. Never let anybody know when they've got you down and maybe that's one trait she got from me."

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- www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Brandon Bernstein , David Wells