Drag racing champions coming to Chelsea Walmart

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Two of the top names in drag racing are coming to Chelsea for a brief appearance Monday, April 20 at Walmart.

John Force and Ashley Force Hood will sign autographs and take photos from noon to 2 p.m. inside the store as a reward for Chelsea’s Walmart Tire and Lube Express winning a nation-wide Castrol oil change competition among 2,512 stores.

“It’s incredible that us being a new store in kind of a smaller town in the outskirts of Birmingham. This is not the first contest we won, but this is the first major contest we’ve won,” store co-manager Chad Armstrong said.

Ashley, 26, is the oldest daughter of 14-time National Hot Rod Association Funny Car champion John, who was the star of a 2005-2006 A&E reality series “Driving Force.” Ashley is the Danica Patrick of drag racing, becoming the first female driver to win the NHRA Funny Car division last April.

Armstrong said his store is always up for a good competition.

“They’re just extremely competitive. When somebody throws us a challenge, we jump on it with both feet. We never had a clue that we could beat out everybody in Walmart. There’s a lot more stores that do a lot more business than we do,” Armstrong said.

The Chelsea store beat the Roebuck Walmart head-to-head in the final round of the competition, which was based on the percentage of high-mileage oil changes made at Walmart TLE shops that use Castrol motor oil.

Chelsea, Alabaster and Calera all made the round of final 16 stores in the nine-month competition, according to district manager Shawn Baggett. Each TLE in the final 16 received a Castrol racing hood.

“Most of the Southeast is Castrol Country,” Baggett said. “We are very proud. Most of the time we’re the test market.”

Baggett said one of his district’s advantages was having their Castrol regional sales representative, Steve Gunnells, based in Helena.