ASHLEY SHEDS SHYNESS
IN CASTROL GTX FORD
Force's Daughter Battling for POWERade Championship
TOPEKA, Kan. – You wouldn't know it to watch her drive her 8,000 horsepower Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang or listen to her talk to the media about being the first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race, but Ashley Force is a very shy person.
She was the only varsity cheerleader at Esperanza High School who never led a cheer. She was the only member of the school choir who never sang a solo.
She has eschewed overtures -to pose in a bikini or swimsuit even though she earned the "world's hottest athlete" title last year in an on-line poll conducted by AOL sports.
Two weeks ago, she almost seized up when she was asked to sing during a promotion for Old Spice, one of her team's major associate sponsors.
"I'd rather drive my Funny Car at 300 miles per hour, without a parachute, than sing karaoke," was her comment.
That said, the 25-year-old daughter of drag racing icon John Force has emerged not only as the new face of high performance, but as a legitimate contender for the 2008 NHRA POWERade championship.
With crew chief Dean "Guido"Antonelli and assistant crew chief Ron Douglas turning the wrenches on her 330 mph Mustang, Ashley has raced this season in three final rounds and briefly led the POWERade point standings, another first for a woman Funny Car driver.
Still, she understands that success can be fleeting, especially in a sport in which the difference between winning and losing can be thousandths of a second.
"The thing about drag racing," she has said, "is that you can go from hero to zero very quickly." -
: How quickly became evident to her a year ago. After leaving Topeka in seventh place in POWERade points, she failed to qualify for three events in a five-race period and missed the inaugural lineup for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.
That's why she isn't looking beyond qualifying this week, adhering to the premise that "you can't win it unless you're in it."
"It seems like the times when we don't get all our qualifying runs in are the times we have trouble," she said. "Every run is important, so we're trying not to get ahead of ourselves. I'm proud to be a female in the seat, but I know that without the 10 guys on my team, I never would be here."
Although she now attracts crowds as large as those of her famous father, Ashley still is uncomfortable in large groups. Fortunately, it's a phobia that doesn't extend to the millions who watch her every week on ESPN2's coverage of the NHRA tour.
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Did You Know:
– Ashley was fourth in first quarter balloting for the 2008 Driver of the Year behind Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick. Her father, John Force, was the first drag racer to win the Driver of the Year award back in 1996.
– Ashley was the 2007 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's "Road to the Future" award given each year to the professional Rookie-of-the-Year on the NHRA pro tour. She was the second JFR driver in three years to earn that honor.
– Ashley is one of 14 drivers with a winning record against John Force. She is 2-1 after beating her dad in the final round last month at Atlanta Dragway.
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"I'm just relieved to be done with it because we're not out here to just beat the other girls. We're here to beat whoever is in the lane next to us. That's our goal. It's exciting for the fans, but I’m sure there will be plenty more times we'll race each other this season, at least I hope there are. It wasn't our time this time and hopefully it will be next time."
– Ashley, after losing to Melanie Troxel in the first all-female race in NHRA Funny Car history two weeks ago in the first round at Bristoll, Tenn.
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Off the Track:
– Ashley appeared last year on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and on Good Morning,
America and was a featured speaker at the national convention of BeautiControl, Inc., the Dallas-based cosmetics giant.
– Ashley and her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang are featured on new packaging for Sanyo 46" and 52" televisions now on display at Wal-mart and other major retailers.