Indy ORP: Ashley Force preview

PINK IS EMPOWERING FOR ASHLEY AT INDY Champ's Daughter Races Rookie of the Year" Car INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The special edition Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in which Ashley Force this week will try to become the first woman to win a Funny Car...

PINK IS EMPOWERING FOR ASHLEY AT INDY
Champ's Daughter Races Rookie of the Year" Car

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The special edition Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in which Ashley Force this week will try to become the first woman to win a Funny Car title at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's oldest, largest and most prestigious drag racing event, definitely is pretty in pink.

Nevertheless, rivals aren't likely to be fooled by the distinctive paint that celebrates the 25-year-old's 2007 Rookie-of-the-Year season.

That's because they know that beneath the feminine facade beats the mechanical heart of one of the world's most potent race cars, one in which Ashley not only became the first woman in drag racing history to win an NHRA Funny Car race, but also the first to reach a final round, the first to lead the points and the first to earn a starting berth in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.

The graduate of Cal State-Fullerton picked the color for the car herself. For her, it recalls an era of empowerment for women in drag racing; an era in which Shirley Muldowney's hot pink Top Fuel dragster shook the very foundations of the sport.

"This is my first specialty car," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, "and I love the color pink. I asked my team about having a pink car since it's their Rookie of the Year' car as much as it is mine, but they were fine with it. They actually thought it would be intimidating since, while they will never admit it, most guys don't want to lose to a girl much less a girl in a pink race car."

"There will never be another Rookie of the Year car for me and I'll only race it one time, so that will be doubly special," she said.

As a youngster, Ashley was inspired by Muldowney who, after becoming the first woman ever licensed to drive in the Top Fuel division, won series championships in 1977, 1980 and 1982.

"When we went to the races with my mom, we always wanted dad to win but I used to cheer for Shirley and the other girls in racing, too. They were an inspiration just like I hope I can be to girls from for this generation."

In her second season, Ashley has begun to come into her own and that has led to a not-so-subtle change in perception among race fans.

Whereas she once was identified solely as "John Force's daughter," more-and-more often, people who gather around the John Force Racing compound point to the elder Force, signing autographs next door, and identify him as "Ashley's dad."

Force himself characterizes it as "a changing of the guard." At 59 years old, the 14-time champion acknowledges that he is in the twilight of his career. Nevertheless, he has said he will continue to race vicariously through Ashley and her younger sisters, Brittany, 22, and Courtney, 20, who also are competing at O'Reilly Raceway Park, though not in the Funny Car class.

"Our car has been running good," Ashley said of her Dean Antonelli-and-Ron Douglas prepared Ford. "It just hasn't happened for us on race day, at least not lately. We just have to keep doing what we're going. If we stay consistent like we've been, it'll come back around."

A winner last April at Atlanta, Ga., where she beat her famous father in the final round of the Summit Racing Southern Nationals, Ashley was runner-up in two other races and started from the No. 1 qualifying position in two of the last three races.

U.S. Smokeless Showdown:
25 years after her dad made his first start in the race, Ashley Force is the No. 1 seed for the U.S. Smokeless Showdown, the Funny Car bonus race that will be contested Sunday in conjunction with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Ashley beat out her brother-in-law, Robert Hight, who had been the top seed the two previous seasons, for the No. 1 spot, thereby extending to 19 the number of consecutive seasons in which a John Force Racing Funny Car has started from No. 1 at the Showdown.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , John Force , Ashley Force , Robert Hight