Ashley Force Makes History

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It really wouldn’t be accurate to say a star was born Sunday, because Oakley’s Ashley Force already was a drag racing darling.

Let’s just say Force’s star is shining brighter today, and, like her famous father, John, it appears she has a knack for the dramatics, too.

The 25-year-old Force, in her second season of racing in the National Hot Rod Association’s Funny Car division, won her first national this weekend when she beat her dad in the finals of the Southern Nationals in Atlanta.

She also became the first female in NHRA history to win a Funny Car national event, recording a run of 4.837 seconds at 320.36 mph.

The victory came in her 27th Funny Car start and one week after Danica Patrick became the first female to win an IndyCar race.

"I’m just happy to win an event," Force said. "That was the main thing. Being a female, that’s exciting for the record books and everything, but my team, we just wanted to get our first win. To get it finally done here in Atlanta, we’re just a little bit relieved but so excited as well."

Like Patrick, Force has the potential to make a tremendous impact on her sport.

Patrick has an edge to her and rubs some fans and media members the wrong way. And that’s fine. Polarizing figures do plenty of good for their sports.

Meanwhile, Force is becoming America’s sweetheart. She is the Dale Earnhardt Jr. of the NHRA — a conclusion I quickly came to last year when I attended the national event in Chicago. The huge, warm response she continued to get from the crowd throughout that weekend was Little E-sque.

And why not? Both are humble, talented and have legendary fathers.

While Force did make history by beating her father in the finals, hopefully you saw her victory against Jim Head in the quarterfinals when she muscled her Ford Mustang off the wall and edged him for the win. That was the defining moment Sunday. Force has been to the finals in each of the past three races, and she continues to lead the Funny Car point standings.

"It’s an exciting time, you know, with Danica winning," Force said. "There are a lot of women in a lot of different motor sports and we’re getting our practice, we’re getting our experience, and we’re making our way toward those wins.

"It’s a good week for women, and it’s exciting for the fans to finally have a woman winner in Funny Car, but I know that it’s the 10 guys on my team who got me to this point.

Author

Staff Writer

Date

April 28, 2008