ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Ashley Force will have to slow down to catch up this week when the NHRA Lucas Sportsman Series moves to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park for the 37th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals. On Monday, the daughter of 13-time NHRA...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Ashley Force will have to slow down to catch up this week when the NHRA Lucas Sportsman Series moves to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park for the 37th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals.
On Monday, the daughter of 13-time NHRA champion John Force drove one of her father's Castrol Ford Funny Cars to a speed of more than 310 miles per hour in testing at Joliet, Ill., another step in an orientation program designed to prepare her to move up in classification in either 2007 or 2008.
Starting Friday, she'll have to be content with speeds of "only" 270 mph, those at which the Castrol dragster in which she is seeking the Lucas Top Alcohol Dragster championship operates most efficiently.
Ms. Force, the Raceway Park track record holder at 5.262 seconds, is seeking her third victory of the 2006 season in a car owned and maintained by California veterans Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, for whom she has driven the last three years.
Fourth in national points, the second generation driver is hoping to leapfrog over the three drivers immediately ahead of her (Steve Torrence, Aaron Olivarez and Bill Reichert) on a track on which she already has enjoyed considerable success.
In addition to qualifying No. 1 and earning runner-up honors at last year's K&N SuperNationals, Ashley has won Raceway Park's Lucas Series race each of the last two seasons.
That history, coupled with a strong performance last week at Joliet (where she recorded a career best quarter mile time of 5.229 seconds), brings the 23-year-old phenom into Raceway Park feeling very good about her championship bid.
"The car has been running better than it has all season," she said, "and knowing how well we've run at Englishtown in the past, it gives you confidence, but you still have to do your job."
"I know we have the car and I know I can drive it, so we just have to get everything together. I think we've got a few more wins ahead of us. It's a really exciting time right now."
Winner of five NHRA national events in her first three full-time seasons, Ashley is aware of the special implications this weekend.
"It'd be awesome to win on Father's Day," she said. "If I was writing the script, we would win Top Alcohol, dad would beat either Robert (Hight, driver of the Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang) or Eric (Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford) in the Funny Car final and Ashley and Brittany would race each other (for the championship) in Super Comp."
Ashley and her dad have shared the podium before but it's been 18 months since they won their respective categories at the season-ending 2004 Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.
Ashley Force and her younger sisters, Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17, are featured in a new print ad for Oakley sunglasses and apparel that appears, among other places, in this month's issue of Drag Racing Action magazine. The three also star in DRIVING FORCE, a new real-life TV series that debuts July 17th at 9 p.m., Eastern, on A&E Network.
In Monday testing at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., Ashley made three quarter mile runs in one of her dad's Castrol Ford Funny Cars. On the first run, instructed to go only to half track, she was clocked in 5.38 seconds at 180 mph. On the second, a planned 1,000 foot run, she improved to 5.19 at 227 mph. On the final attempt, she ran 4.97 at 311 mph. "I had been out of the car for awhile, but things fell right back in place," she said. "Everything's becoming more routine. I am not having to think as much. I'm just reacting and I'm more confident every time I get in the car." Ashley earned her Funny Car license two months ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where she was clocked in 4.936 seconds at 315.86 mph.
FORCE GIRLS TRY TO MAKE DAD PROUD WITH FATHER'S DAY SUPER COMP RUN
Brittany, Courtney Drive Matching Brand Source Dragsters
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Brittany Force never expected the stress to which she has been subjected this season as the rookie driver of one of the two Team Castrol/Brand Source Super Comp dragsters entered in this week's 37th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
But it's not the stress of competition that has surprised the 19-year-old student at Santiago Canyon College (Orange, Calif.). It's the pressure of balancing everything else in her life just to get the opportunity to spend a few seconds racing down a quarter mile drag strip at 165 miles an hour.
Like her famous father, 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, Brittany is finding that the cockpit of the race car is the one place she can escape, however briefly, from things like homework, sponsor appearances, media interviews and the demands of Driving Force, an A&E Network TV series in which she stars with sisters Ashley and Courtney.
As a result, the California blonde is hoping to maximize her cockpit time in a Father's Day race in which sisters Ashley and Courtney, brother-in-law Robert Hight and father John also are competing.
"I still get some butterflies in my stomach when I get in the car and I'm still a little nervous, but it's a lot better than the first time I got in a Super Comp car," Brittany said. "I used to have a little check list in my mind and I would think I have to do this and this and this.
"Now, it's much more natural. It's like when you hop in your regular car. You really don't think about all the things you do when you drive. With the race car, it should be the same. Once you get to where it comes natural, then you have a chance to (win some rounds)."
Younger sister Courtney concurs.
The 17-year-old, who participated in high school graduation ceremonies Tuesday before boarding a plane to New Jersey, won five rounds in last April's O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas. It was a tremendous confidence-builder.
"(Now) I feel more comfortable in the car," she said. "It just proved to me that I could do it. I'm really excited about getting back in the race car (this week) because it's been awhile (more than two months) since we've raced."
While their father has stressed a single-minded commitment to racing, mother Laurie has tried to maintain a balance not only in Brittany and Courtney's lives, but also in Ashley's.
The parents found themselves at crossed purposes for the first time last fall at a Lucas Sportsman Series race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Although Courtney was the No. 1 qualifier in Super Comp, she opted to bypass Sunday eliminations to return to California for a high school dance.
It's a choice that left her father shaking his head in one direction; her mother nodding hers in another.
Nevertheless, Force couldn't be happier to have his daughters with him on tour. For years, the 120-time tour winner lamented the fact that he had no sons to whom he could bequeath the family business. Now he believes the women have everything well in hand.
"I want them to do what they want," Force said, "but if they want to race, I want to give them every opportunity (to be successful). I know how hard it is to get a chance. I don't want them to have to go through what I did. I was a loser for 15 years. Now I have the resources to give them a shot if they want it."
Ironically, Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School, headquartered at Gainesville Raceway, was the training ground not only for Ashley, Brittany and Courtney Force, but also for Eric Medlen, the third year driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang, and Hight, the 2005 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year at the wheel of the Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford.
Moreover, while she doesn't plan to drive competitively, Laurie also is a graduate of Hawley's campus, earning her Super Comp license so that she could better relate to her daughters and their driving experiences.
One of the stipulations imposed by Laurie Force on her three daughters is that, before embarking on a full-time racing career alongside their father, Funny Car icon John Force, each of them must earn a college degree.