St. Louis: Ashley Force preview

ASHLEY FOLL0WS DAD INTO HISTORY BOOKS Champ's Daughter Coming Off Major Victory MADISON, Ill. - Coming off perhaps the most significant victory in the 31-year history of John Force Racing, Inc., 25-year-old Ashley Force rolls into Gateway...

ASHLEY FOLL0WS DAD INTO HISTORY BOOKS
Champ's Daughter Coming Off Major Victory

MADISON, Ill. - Coming off perhaps the most significant victory in the 31-year history of John Force Racing, Inc., 25-year-old Ashley Force rolls into Gateway International Raceway this week intent upon putting her Castrol GTX ® Ford Mustang in the Funny Car final round for the fourth consecutive race in the NHRA POWERade drag racing series.

The media attention focused on the sport in the aftermath of Ms. Force's breakthrough victory last week at Atlanta, Ga., already has exceeded that following any of her father's record 125 tour victories and 14 series titles.

As a result, the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton acknowledges that her biggest assignment during this week's 12th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals will be to maintain her focus at the wheel of one of the world's most powerful race cars, a Mustang capable of zero-to-320 mile-an-hour acceleration in just 4.7 seconds.

In perhaps the most competitive category in straight-line racing, one that this year has crowned six different winners in as many races, the daughter of drag racing's biggest winner knows that to extend her streak of being the furthest-advancing Ford Funny Car driver to five straight races, she must block out the distractions and focus on driving her 8,000 horsepower hybrid.

"We just knew that if we kept getting to the finals, eventually we'd win one," said the woman who has reached the final round four times in her last eight races. "I kinda hated that it had to be against dad, but I'm just happy to finally win an event. We went all last year and the biggest win I had was off the track (in AOL sports' "world's hottest athlete" poll in which she beat New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady).

"It's a great time for women in racing with Danica winning in IndyCar and I think it's exciting for the fans to finally have a woman winner in Funny Car, but I know it's the 10 guys on my team who got me to this point. I'm proud to be a female in the seat, but it's Guido' and Ron (crew chiefs Dean Guido' Antonelli and Ron Douglas) and my crew guys who really got me here."

Although she was one of the stars of the A&E Network series "Driving Force" that aired for two seasons, Ashley insists that she is inherently shy and somewhat embarrassed by all the attention.

"In high school, I was the only cheerleader who never got out in front to lead a cheer. In choir, I was the only one who never (performed) a solo. I get more nervous when I come back from a run (because) there'll be a big crowd cheering and my face will turn red. I'm relieved when I climb in the car (because) there's familiarity there."

However, if she didn't inherit her dad's natural affinity for the spotlight, she did inherit something else.

"Her dad's blood definitely runs through her veins," Antonelli said, "because she definitely can handle a Funny Car."

Of course, while she is being portrayed as the new face of high performance, Ashley understands how things really work in the world's fastest sport.

"The thing about drag racing is you can go from hero to zero very quickly," said the 2007 winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award that designates the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year. "We're enjoying (success) now, while we have it, but we know it's a tough group we race against. You never want to get ahead of yourself. Qualify first, then one round at a time."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force