ASHLEY HOPES TO AGAIN SHARE WINNERS' CIRCLE WITH HER DAD
Next Generation Driver a Contender in Top Alcohol Class
POMONA, Calif. – In what could be her last unobstructed look down the quarter mile corridor at Auto Club Raceway, Ashley Force hopes to ride Jerry Darien horsepower back into the Top Alcohol Dragster winner's circle this week when the 2006 season rushes to a close in the 42nd annual Auto Club Finals.
Although a final decision has not yet been made, Ms. Force is poised to move up in classification, perhaps as early as next season, to compete with – and against – her father in a Team Castrol Ford Funny Car.
John Force, locked in a battle for the 2006 POWERade Funny Car championship with Ron Capps and Robert Hight, is expected to make a decision on his daughter's Funny Car aspirations within the next few weeks, which means that the 23-year-old's next view of the Pomona track could be from behind the massive injector of a 8,000 horsepower Mustang.
Because the Funny Car engine is in front of the driver instead of in the rear as it is in the dragster and because the supercharger components tower above the hood, the driving techniques are totally different.
"In the dragster, you can see all the track all the time," Ashley said. "In the Funny Car, you have to look around the injector and figure out where you are by (your relationship to the center line and) the guardwall. You just try to keep it between the lines. It's fun to drive both cars, but it's really different."
Nevertheless, the change in perspective has not posed any obvious problems for the graduate of California State University-Fullerton, who has covered the quarter mile course, during testing, in 4.809 seconds at speeds exceeding 320 miles per hour.
That makes 5.20s at 275 mph, the numbers she'll need this weekend, seem almost pedestrian by comparison.
A five-time winner in her three seasons in the Top Alcohol division, Ashley made history two years ago when she shared the Pomona winners circle with her dad as the first father-and-daughter winners of one race. Her goal this weekend is to do her part to make a second such double-up victory possible.
"That was really fun," she said of a 2004 victory in which she beat series champion and Auto Club Raceway record-holder Mitch Myers in the final round. "We almost did it again this year (when both reached the final round at Gainesville, Fla., before her dad lost to Capps). That'll change when I start driving the Funny Car. Then I'll be trying to keep him out of the winners' circle."
In the meantime, she'll focus on the job at hand.
She comes into the season finale in fourth place in Lucas Sportsman Series national points on the strength of victories at Gainesville and Atlanta. Since she is ineligible to earn any more points, fourth is as high as she can finish.
However, there are drivers behind her who could move up and that's her motivation at Auto Club Raceway.
"We're going to try to protect our No. 4 position," she said. "The best way to do that is to win the race and take out some of the others who are behind us along the way. That would be awesome for Jerry and Ken and this team. They've taught me so much the last three years."
Ashley began her career in Super Comp, the category in which her younger sisters, Brittany, 20, and Courtney, 18, now compete. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, she got mother Laurie's blessing to go racing full time. In her first year in Top Alcohol, she won three races including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.
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Ashley Force and her younger sisters, Brittany, 20, and Courtney, 18, are featured in print ads for Oakley sunglasses and apparel as well as in Driving Force, the real-life TV series that presently is on hiatus from A&E Network.
Ashley earned her Funny Car license earlier this year at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where she was clocked in 4.936 seconds at 315.86 mph. She since has consistently tested at under 4.90 seconds with a best of 4.809 at 320 mph.
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