Funny Car driver Ashley Force will start from the No. 1 position in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown Aug. 31 at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis as she competes for her first victory in the special bonus event for qualified Funny Car drivers.
Force is the first female driver to qualify for the Funny Car bonus event in NHRA history.
The NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown, a high-stakes, high-speed race featuring the eight quickest and most consistent Funny Car teams from the last season, is a lucrative race within a race held during the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's most prestigious drag race.
The winner of the 27th annual NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown will earn a $100,000 bonus from U.S. Tobacco. If the driver who wins the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown also scores the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals title, he or she will earn a $50,000 double-up bonus from NHRA.
A race-day purse of $147,000 is available for the eight drivers competing in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown. The runner-up will earn $15,000, and the two semifinalists will earn $6,000 each. The four first-round finishers will earn $5,000 apiece.
Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., qualified No. 1 twice in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the 23 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events that make up the 2008 NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown. It is Force's first appearance in the special event, and it extends to 19 the number of years that a John Force Racing car has held the top spot for the event.
Ashley Force, the top seed in the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown, will face her famous father, John, in the first round of the bonus event.
Some intriguing first-round meetings are scheduled, two of which feature family rivalries. Ashley will face her father, John, in the opening round. John, a six-time winner of the event, qualified for the eight-car field at the last instant in Reading to make his 24th consecutive appearance and 25th overall in the bonus event.
"I'm really excited to get to participate this year," said Ashley. "It's one of my strongest memories I probably have growing up. We always got to the Indy race, and it was always such a big weekend for us, and now to actually be involved in it, it's just so special that I'm able to race my dad. It will be really exciting for the fans and, of course, for the media. But it will be fun for us as well. We know one of the Forces will be going to the semi's of the Showdown."
Brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon also will meet in the first round. Tony won the event in 2003 and was runner-up in 1997 and 1999. Cruz finished as runner-up in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1998. Robert Hight, who led the field with No. 1 qualifying positions at five, and Del Worsham, who doubled up by winning the bonus event and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2005, will meet in the opening round, as will three-time event winner Ron Capps and POWERade Series points leader Tim Wilkerson.
"[The bonus race] is on Sunday, and it still counts towards qualifying," said Capps, last year's runner-up to Jack Beckman. "There have been times when guys weren't in the show, yet they were going a round in the Showdown. You know, you're trying to concentrate on getting into the show, but you're trying to win the race at the same time. That is $100,000 for the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. So I've got the same team in the NAPA guys this year. It's the same team we had the last three years. We went to the final last year in the Showdown, so I think the approach is to get into the show, get qualified Saturday and Sunday, and then you can kind of let it all hang out and treat Sunday as the Showdown as just a race by itself. Hopefully, win that and get ready for Monday. "
Drivers accumulated points for the NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown at 23 NHRA national events from last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals to the 2008 Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading. A $4,000 bonus was awarded to the No. 1 qualifier at each of those races.
Last year, Beckman raced to victory for his first win in the Showdown. He will not be able to defend his crown as the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge driver failed to qualify for the event this season.
Other past winners of the event include Gary Densham, Frank Pedregon, Kenji Okazaki, Al Hofmann, Jim White, Don Prudhomme, Mark Oswald, Kenny Bernstein, Tom McEwen, and Frank Hawley.
NHRA U.S. Smokeless Showdown rounds are scheduled for 12:30, 3:30, and 5 p.m. Aug. 31.
|2008 NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN FINAL STANDINGS|
|1. Ashley Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
|2. Robert Hight, Yorba Linda, Calif., Auto Club Ford Mustang
|3. Tony Pedregon, Detroit, Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS
|4. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS
|5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger
|6. Cruz Pedregon, Indianapolis, Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara
|7. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS
|8. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
2008 NHRA U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN ROUND PAIRINGS
Ashley Force vs. John Force
Robert Hight vs. Del Worsham
Tony Pedregon vs. Cruz Pedregon
Tim Wilkerson vs. Ron Capps
A. Force-J. Force winner vs. Wilkerson-Capps winner
Hight-Worsham winner vs. T. Pedregon-C. Pedregon winner