Ashley Force, the 24-year-old driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car and recent winner of AOL Sports’ “Hottest Athlete” poll, will guest Monday night, Sept. 10, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  The NBC-TV show airs in every major market following the late local news. 
 Coming off a solid performance in last week’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., a race in which she qualified No. 2 and, on race day, posted the quickest quarter mile time in the category (4.784), Ms. Force has distinguished herself this season as the first woman to compete in the Funny Car class since 2000.
 Her No. 2 start at Indy was the best ever for a woman Funny Car driver and she already has won more rounds (10) than any of the nine other women licensed in the class.  She also has become only the second woman to advance as far as the Funny Car semifinals, doing so in back-to-back races at Atlanta, Ga., and Madison, Ill.
 Although she has established her credentials as a candidate for the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, Ashley has gone through a baptism of fire – literally and figuratively.
 The former high school cheerleader has hit the cones that delineate the center of the race track, been on fire and, last July in Seattle, Wash., crashed heavily into the guardwall while trying to chase down her second round opponent, drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein.
 A resident of Yorba Linda, Calif., Ashley isn’t the first Force to occupy a seat next to Leno.  Her father, 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, was a guest on the show in 1997.
 In the AOL contest, Ashley beat IndyCar driver Danica Patrick and softball pitcher Jennie Finch to win the women’s championship before burying men’s champ Tom Brady of the New England Patriots for the overall title.
 The Tonight Show appearance is the latest milestone for the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton.  Earlier this year, she appeared on ABC-TV’s Good Morning, America and was featured in Men’s Journal magazine as one of “The Superstars of Summer.” She is on the cover of the Drag Racing Action magazine currently on newsstands and is one of the stars of Driving Force, the real life TV series airing on A&E Network.