Ashley Force Drives Funny Car in 2007
Some great news about Ashley Force, daughter of professional racecar driver, John Force, on the NHRA site!
Following almost a year of supervised testing and months of media speculation, 14-time world champion John Force confirmed Tuesday that his second-oldest daughter, Ashley, will move up in classification this season to drive a fourth Ford Mustang Funny Car for John Force Racing Inc., Castrol, and the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Ashley, who turned 24 Nov. 29, will drive a Castrol GTX Ford prepared and maintained by first-time crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli, who for the last 12 years was a member of the crew that helped John win 10 of his 14 NHRA world championships.
“ 'Guido' has worked around Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly [John's co-crew chiefs] for as long as I can remember,” Ashley said of Antonelli, “and he's like a sponge, soaking up everything they teach him. He always has the answer I'm looking for. I feel real comfortable knowing he's going to be making the decisions on the car.”
With Antonelli making the decisions on the tune-up, Ashley covered the quarter-mile in 4.809 seconds and 4.826 seconds in October during testing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she earned her competition Funny Car license in April. She also was clocked at 320 mph.
“I've done all I can do,” John said. “Now it's up to her. She's got a great car, a great crew, and great sponsors [Castrol GTX, Ford, Auto Club, Brand Source, Mac Tools, and Mach 1 Air Services]. She'll need all of them to compete at this level against [Gary] Scelzi, [Ron] Capps, [Jack] Beckman, Tommy Johnson, and the Pedregons [brothers Tony and Cruz].
“Whatever happens, I'm really proud of her and how she's evolved. It's just good to know that whenever I step out of the seat, the Force name is going to go on with Castrol and the NHRA in this great sport with Ashley and maybe even with her sisters, Brittany and Courtney.”
Following preseason testing in the next two weekends at LVMS and Firebird Int'l Raceway in Phoenix, Ashley will make her Professional debut at the opening race in the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in California.
"For over 22 years, since Ashley Force was a toddler, Castrol has forged a tremendously successful partnership with her father and the John Force Racing organization in winning 15 NHRA Funny Car championships,” said Bruce Firkins, regional sponsorship manager for BP Lubricants USA.
“BP Lubricants USA and the Castrol GTX brand are proud to be sponsoring Ashley Force's entry into the Funny Car Professional ranks of the NHRA POWERade Series. This is a great moment for Ashley, her family, John Force Racing, Castrol, and the fans of the NHRA. We wish Ashley, her team, and all of the members of the Castrol/John Force Racing family a safe and successful season.”
Ashley's other major sponsors were similarly enthusiastic about her move up to the Funny Car division.
“We are extremely thrilled to have Ashley Force join our Funny Car program with Force Racing for the 2007 season,” said Ford Racing boss Dan Davis. “Ashley has been progressing through the Ford and Force program the past few years, and we've watched her grow into a very talented drag racer. She has the skills and the mind-set to be extremely competitive, and we can't wait for the ‘07 season to start.”
“Since 1999, the Auto Club of Southern California has teamed with John Force Racing, the premier drag racing team in NHRA history,” said Auto Club President Tom McKernan. “Over the years, we have developed a winning partnership, and we are excited about expanding our sponsorship to support Ashley Force in her first Pro season and in her historic step for women in NHRA racing.”
Compton spoke about the historic nature of Ashley's entrance into the flopper class.
Dean Antonelli, Ashley's crew chief, spoke of his team's hopes for the 2007 season.
"Ashley's move to the Professional ranks was a big factor in Mach 1 Air Services getting more involved with John Force Racing this year," said Mike Entzminger, Mach 1's founder and CEO. "We've very much enjoyed our brief relationship with John, and now we're looking forward to growing with Ashley as she makes this move up. Our 300-plus employees in the U.S., Mexico, Singapore, and China will be behind her 100 percent."
A graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she majored in communications with an emphasis in TV and film, Ashley will be among those competing this season for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which identifies the NHRA rookie of the year.
After spending three seasons in Super Comp, the category in which her younger sisters now compete, and after earning her bachelor's degree, Ashley began driving an A/Fuel Dragster for Californians Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows in 2004.
Ashley and John Force will wage a historic father-daughter rivalry in the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
She scored her first national event victory in her rookie season in Top Alcohol Dragster at the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the world's oldest, largest, and richest drag racing event. She also won that year in Dallas and Pomona, where she shared the winner's circle at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals with her father as the only father-and-daughter winners in NHRA history.
In three seasons in Top Alcohol Dragster, the former high school cheerleader went to nine final rounds and won five times. She finished fourth, seventh, and fifth in national points during her three seasons in the dragster.
Significantly, she is beginning her Funny Car career at almost the same age her father began his. The elder Force began driving Funny Cars outside the NHRA series in 1974. He made his first appearance in the NHRA series in 1978 but didn't win for the first time until June 1987, in Montreal.
Just the 10th woman licensed to drive a Funny Car, Ashley will try to become the seventh to qualify for an NHRA national event, the first to reach a final round, and, eventually, the first to win a race.
The last female Funny Car driver to qualify for an NHRA national event was Cristen Powell. Although Powell won in Top Fuel in 1997, she never advanced beyond the second round in 21 Funny Car events. She last drove a Funny Car at the 2000 Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, failing to make the 16-car field. In the last event for which she qualified, in 2000 in Dallas, she lost to the elder Force in the first round.
The most prominent woman to have driven in the division is Shirley Muldowney, who briefly drove a Funny Car in the 1970s before moving to Top Fuel, the category in which she won three NHRA world championships.
Ashley joins her father, brother-in-law Robert Hight, and Eric Medlen on a team that has dominated Funny Car racing for more than a decade. Since 1987, John Force Racing drivers have won 168 NHRA tour events. Last season, Force, Hight, and Medlen combined for 10 victories and finished first, second, and fourth in the final POWERade standings.