ASHLEY AIMS FOR TOP 5 AS SEASON COMES TO END Champ's Daughter Sixth in Funny Car Standings POMONA, Calif. - Her historic bid to become Funny Car drag racing's first female champion temporarily at an end, Ashley Force this week focuses on...
ASHLEY AIMS FOR TOP 5 AS SEASON COMES TO END
Champ's Daughter Sixth in Funny Car Standings
POMONA, Calif. - Her historic bid to become Funny Car drag racing's first female champion temporarily at an end, Ashley Force this week focuses on more practical issues: improving her position on the podium for Monday's NHRA Champions Banquet, adding a little more cash to her very first POWERade bonus check AND locking up the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge title for her Castrol GTX ® crew.
"We've had a good season," said the former Esperanza High School cheerleader. "We're number six in points (and) hoping to move up (at this week's season-ending 44th annual Auto Club Finals). Just to get through the year was amazing. It went by really fast. It was exhausting, though, especially this last little run.
"I'm excited (about) the last race of the season because it is our home track (Auto Club Raceway at Pomona) and the championship is down to my brother-in-law, Robert Hight, (current points leader) Cruz Pedregon and (close friend) Tim Wilkerson."
Realistically, no matter what she is able to do in the Finals, it will be difficult for the 25-year-old to crack the Top 5.
However, in a strange and very competitive season, anything apparently is possible and, if the three drivers immediately ahead of her should stumble in the first round, it would open the door for her to finish as high as third.
While her bid to improve her position in the Funny Car driver standings may be a long shot, her team's bid to claim the season-long Full Throttle championship is anything but.
Sponsored by Full Throttle energy drink, which next year will replace POWERade as the principal NHRA series sponsor, the Full Throttle program focuses on qualifying consistency, not just in Funny Car, but in Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Ashley's Castrol GTX Ford currently sits atop the Full Throttle standings with 768 points. Wilkerson is second with 743. Theirs are the only two teams still in contention for the $25,000 year-end bonus.
"My guys have given me a great car all year," Ashley said. "We qualified No. 1 three times and there's only been a couple races where we struggled. (Winning the Full Throttle championship) would be a great reward for them and they deserve it. I'm the lucky one that gets to drive, but whatever success I've had, I owe to 'Guido' (crew chief Dean 'Guido' Antonelli), Ron (assistant chief Ron Douglas) and the guys on my team."
The first woman to win an NHRA Funny Car event when she prevailed last April in Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., and a four-time finalist this year, Ashley is one of only four Funny Car drivers to have led the point standings this season. The only others to have done so are the three drivers competing for the championship: Hight, Pedregon and Wilkerson.
"The nice thing about Pomona," said the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, "is (that) I can go home at the end of the day and sleep in my own bed. I'm not living out of a suitcase. I don't have to pack up luggage this week or bring home luggage or travel through an airport. That's a huge weight lifted off of us. The track is only 25 minutes away from my house. That makes it a lot easier to handle everything that is going on during the race. I'm airport free until Thanksgiving -- and that's nice.