Ashley Force Makes Her Mark
succumbed to tire spin problems.
Ashley’s historic win came in her 27th career start in the category and in her fourth final round appearance as a Professional driver. She ;defeated Del Worsham, Jim Head and Ron Capps in earlier action after qualifying in the 11th position entering Sunday’s final eliminations.
The victory also helped her temporarily pad her overall points lead. She had entered the sixth race of the season as the first ever female NHRA POWERade points leader for the FC category.
“It’s been a long road,” said Ashley, who drove in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster division before switching to Funny Car eliminator last year. “In Funny Car we had so many ups and downs and struggles with the new car and having a new team and driver. But we were able to build on that and for my group of guys it was exciting to step up and go to the next level. We all knew we had to be patient and if we kept getting to finals, we’d eventually get a win.”
Quick ReactionAshley spent her first two seasons driving
in the sportsman Super Comp class and then three more years driving a nitro-injected car in TAD. While competing in the TAD category she earned five NHRA national events wins, including victory during the biggest event in the sport — the 2004 US Nationals title at Indianapolis. When she upgraded to her Funny Car license in late 2006, she became the 10th woman in NHRA history to earn a license in that division.
With Ashley’s victory in the Funny Car category, that leaves only one class in drag racing, Pro Stock, where there has never been a female national event titlist.
“We’ve had such a history of females doing great in drag racing and I’m excited to be part of that movement,” Ashley continued. “Growing up in racing I’ve watched Shirley Muldowney, Shelly Anderson, Angelle Sampey, just so many women win race after race and win championships. The gals in NHRA drag racing, they know what they’re doing. We’re lucky to be in a sport that is open to having us there — that’s not necessarily the case elsewhere. In NHRA they promote us, they’re excited about us and our competitors are happy to have us there.”
Breaking ThroughAshley’s first Professional victory was an emotional rollercoaster but facing off against her father for the event title was both fitting and rewarding.
“I had mixed emotions, but it is what it is,” she explained. “You never really want to race your teammate yet you really want to have two team cars in the finals. It was fun racing his team. During that slight rain delay we were making all kinds of jokes on the radio before we got up to run. I was actually joking with Dad’s crew chief Austin Coil.
I was a flower girl at his wedding when I was five. I got on the radio and said, ‘Do you really want to beat your flower girl?’ His response was a very calm but quiet, ‘Yes!’ You could hear everyone on the team laughing. I think that helped to ease
a lot of the tension I was feeling.
“Racing in this class results in a real mix of emotions,” she added. “But it really wasn’t until today that I could really fully enjoy it. I mean, I had never realized before I climbed in the Funny Car how mentally taxing this sport can be.”
For NHRA drag racing, Ashley Force’s first victory was exactly the type of development the organization has been seeking. NHRA does put significant energy into promoting its rising young stars and she is riding the absolute crest of that wave.
Despite not winning an event during her Pro rookie season last year, she still finished 10th in final POWERade Championship points. That strong finish came despite missing two events intentionally after her father John Force was
involved in a serious crash last fall.
Ashley’s stake in NHRA’s overall future had also rose exponentially last year when she prevailed in a high profile AOL Sports poll held over several weeks last summer. She won the “Hottest Athlete” in sports when AOL Sports users voted on the best-looking guys and gals in sports. Ashley ultimately beat out finalists Tom Brady from the NFL as well as IRL sensation Danica Patrick.