ASHLEY ONE STEP AWAY FROM MAKING HISTORY Champ's Daughter a Contender in Funny Car Class LAS VEGAS, Nev. - At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track on which she made history last fall as the first woman to race in an NHRA Funny...
ASHLEY ONE STEP AWAY
FROM MAKING HISTORY
Champ's Daughter a Contender in Funny Car Class
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track on which she made history last fall as the first woman to race in an NHRA Funny Car final, Ashley Force tries to take her burgeoning drag racing career one critical step further this week when she climbs back behind the wheel of her 330 mile-an-hour Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to compete in the ninth annual SummitRacing.com Nationals.
The 2007 winner of the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, Ms. Force is poised to become the first woman to win a race in the Funny Car division which once was considered the last bastion of male supremacy in professional drag racing.
Coming off the second runner-up finish of her brief career, the 25- year-old graduate of Cal State-Fullerton is anxious to get back on the LVMS track on which she already has recorded so many milestones.
The daughter of 14-time Funny Car Champion John Force, Ashley earned her pro Funny Car license in a series of runs at LVMS in 2006. She also earned her Top Alcohol dragster accreditation on the same track and she's logged more test runs at The Strip than she has anywhere else.
Unlike her father, who has struggled mightily at LVMS, winning just one race in 14 appearances, Ashley loves the desert track where she was runner-up last October to reigning series champion Tony Pedregon.
"I have a lot of experience (at LVMS)," she said. "It's a real nice track and a nice stadium. I feel very comfortable there. I'm pumped up and ready to go."
As a result of her runner-up finish earlier this month at Houston, Texas, Ashley is fifth in POWERade points, ahead of her father and just behind her brother-in-law, defending SummitRacing.com Nationals winner Robert Hight.
"You can't get too caught up in the points," she said. "I don't think that helps. If you can just qualify and go a couple rounds at each race, that will keep you in a good position (to be one of the 10 drivers in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship playoff).
"No one's going to win every race, but you want to put yourself in position to win and 'Guido' (crew chief Dean Antonelli) and Ron (assistant crew chief Ron Douglas) definitely have given me a car this year that can win.
"We were pretty conservative last year but this year we've thrown caution to the wind a little," she said. "It may not be good on my heart, but maybe that's what it takes to win."
A five-time tour winner during her three years in the Top Alcohol Dragster division (2004-2006), Ashley moved up in classification last year as the first woman to drive a Funny Car since Cristen Powell bowed out of the series in 2000.
She already has advanced further than any other woman driver and qualified better than any other - second on three different occasions. All that remains now is that elusive first win.