FORCE CLAIMS 114TH VICTORY; ASHLEY WINS, TOO!

Force Doubles His Fun at Auto Club Finals John and Ashley Force became the first father and daughter to share the winners' circle at an NHRA national event as both won the season-ending, 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals...

Force Doubles His Fun at Auto Club Finals

John and Ashley Force became the first father and daughter to share the winners' circle at an NHRA national event as both won the season-ending, 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona Raceway, he in the Funny Car division; she in Top Alcohol Dragster.

The elder Force put an exclamation point on his 13th championship season by driving his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang past the Chevrolet of Del Worsham in a final round duel between the No. 1 and No. 2 drivers in the 2004 NHRA POWERade Series.

It was Force's sixth win in the Auto Club Finals and his 11th at Pomona Raceway, one of the two tracks on which he has double digit career victories.

As for Ashley, she spoiled a near-perfect weekend for Mitch Myers of Hermiston, Ore. Myers qualified No. 1, lowered the NHRA national record in the Top Alcohol class to 5.109 seconds and clinched his first series championship. In the final, however, Ashley's .048 of a second starting line advantage made up for a .037 of a second disadvantage in performance and made the second generation driver a winner for the third time in her rookie season in the class. It also insured a fourth place finish in national points.

His daughter's victory actually inspired Force in his showdown duel with Worsham. "You win the championship and the pressure's taken off," he said.

"You're watching ther other two guys (Worsham and Gary Scelzi) run for No. 2. But (crew chief Austin) Coil said you need to get up -- and I just couldn't get up. When she won, though, I really felt an obligation. You know, Kenny Bernstein and his son, Brandon, they won together at Vegas (in 2001).

"I thought, if I have a shot here at beating Del, I don't want to fail because I'm not up for it. So, when she won, I just came to life. I went out there and did my job.

It was Force's 180th career appearance in a Funny Car final round, his 12th final round of 2004 and his seventh trip to the finals in the season's last 10 races. En route to his fifth win of the season, the 1996 Driver of the Year for all American auto racing lowered the Pomona Raceway track record to 4.698 seconds while qualifying his Castrol Ford No. 1.

TEAM CASTROL Details:

JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.698 seconds, 329.18 mph.
Race results: Beat Tony Bartone, Eric Medlen, Gary Scelzi and Del Worsham.
Notable: Set track record at 4.698 seconds, third quickest time in history, and earned his 114th career victory.

Quotable: "This is a great win, a great way to end another championship season, but to share the winners' circle with my daughter Ashley, that's the best moment in my career." -- JOHN FORCE.

ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 4.764 seconds.
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson; lost to John Force.
Notable: Finished in the Top 5 in his rookie season in the POWERade Series.

Quotable: "After the problem we had in qualifying (an engine explosion and spectacular fire), I think for us to come back and run as well as we did in eliminations shows the character of this team." -- ERIC MEDLEN.

GARY DENSHAM, 57, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.706 seconds, 329.75 mph.
Race results: Beat Jim Head, Tommy Johnson Jr.; lost to Del Worsham.
Notable: Set track speed record at 329.75 mph in final appearance in Auto Club Ford Mustang.

Quotable: "It's been a great run but I really wanted to win this last race for my guys and for the Auto Club. The car just got out of the groove (in a semifinal loss to Del Worsham) and it was over." -- GARY DENSHAM.

NEXT EVENT: 2005 CARQUEST Winternationals, Feb. 10-13, 2005, Pomona Raceway at the LA County Fairplex, Pomona, Calif.

-jfr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Eric Medlen , Tommy Johnson Jr.