Ashley Force - Ford interview 2008-08-26

This Week in Ford Racing Ashley Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, has clinched one of the 10 positions in the NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship. She is in fifth place in the standings heading into the Mac Tools...

This Week in Ford Racing

Ashley Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, has clinched one of the 10 positions in the NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship. She is in fifth place in the standings heading into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis this weekend, and is the top seed in next Sunday's $100,000 U.S. Smokeless Showdown, where she will race against her father, John Force, in the first round. Since the race at Indy is still a week before the start of the Countdown, Force says this weekend will be an opportunity to have some fun and concentrate just on the race, and not about any of the John Force Racing teams having to secure a spot in the top 10 in the standings.

CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING PART OF AN ORGANIZATION THAT PUT THREE DRIVERS INTO THE SHOWDOWN AND ALL FOUR DRIVERS INTO THE COUNTDOWN. "We are very, very excited about that - especially with how competitive the Funny Car class is this year and the last few years. We're glad everything fell into place the way we were hoping it would, and we were able to get all four teams in. The Skoal Showdown is off of your qualifying, and Dad also made it into that this last race as well. We were pretty pumped about that as well because after his accident he missed so many of those races, but it's amazing that he was able to make the Showdown."

AFTER SUCH AN EMOTIONAL YEAR LAST YEAR, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE ORGANIZATION TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT IT HAS THIS YEAR? "Everyone's perspective, I think, has been changed. For so many years I lived a pretty lucky life. Until I was 24 years old I had never had any big events happen, any deaths, anything like that. So, when everything happened with Eric [Medlen], it really was a wake-up call. Where before Eric's accident our biggest problems were, 'Oh, the car didn't run as fast as we wanted,' or this happened or that happened. It really brings into perspective life and there are bigger things. You could be having a bad day, it can definitely always be worse. So, going through last year, getting through it, there were times in the summer where you don't know if you're going to make it out of the other end and the light doesn't seem very bright at the end of the tunnel, but we got through that, and this year I think it really has made us stronger. I absolutely believe my team - and my crew guys, they'll say it - they are a better team because of what we went through. Not many people go through something like that - maybe with your family, if a family member is in an accident or killed, but to go through this with a race team, it's kind of a different scenario. We went through not only Eric's but also my father's and their boss' accident. It just made us a very close team. They're some of my closest friends now, not just my co-workers, but, really, like brothers to me because we've been through some of the lowest times of our lives together. So, we came out this year with kind of a fresh start and ready to go, and it really paid off for us. We've shown we're really a good team and how well we work together. We were able to make the Countdown, we're No. 5 in the points, so we've just had a really good year. And, definitely, when things go wrong, they're not as big of a deal as they used to be because you know that in the big picture everything will pass eventually, and there can always be lower times, so appreciate the times you're in when they're good."

THERE WERE A NUMBER OF UNKNOWNS FOR THE TEAMS HEADING INTO THIS SEASON, INCLUDING RUNNING A NEW CHASSIS. YOU'VE WON A RACE, YOU'VE QUALIFIED NO. 1 THIS YEAR, BUT HOW LONG DID IT TAKE BEFORE YOU KNEW THIS COULD BE A PRETTY GOOD YEAR? "It's a process, and we still go through that. You know, there were so many changes made, not only to the chassis and how the crew works on the car, but me as a driver, how I drive the car, in an emergency, what I use - now we have new levers, buttons we push, our parachutes, we also have now in the cars - so just changes in the car like that. Nobody likes change and it's uncomfortable change, especially when you're in cars that go fast, you don't want anything different. Even when I get my fire suit dry-cleaned and it's a little bit different feeling, it irritates me when I go up to run, 'It feels different.' So, imagine if that's such a simple difference, what the bigger changes. It was tough at first, but we really had to look at that go, and go, 'It is going to be uncomfortable, but it's all to make a better, safer car.' Once we got into that mindset, it all went really smoothly, smoother than I thought it would go. I thought it would be a lot bigger of a learning curve to learn how to tune these new cars with these new chassis' and the changes, but really when you keep your mind open and know that there's going to be change but don't get upset, it went a lot smoother than I was actually picturing. So, I think that's why we've done well because we've accepted it, haven't argued it, fought it. And, also even changes to the sport, going to 1,000 feet. Probably more changes this year than any year I can remember, but we all took a positive look at it, and it's all for the good. So, that's why I think it wasn't as big of a deal as maybe if we would've been more worried about it or anxious about it."

SOME DRIVERS BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM AND SOME DON'T. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM FROM WEEK TO WEEK? AND HOW DOES THAT FIT IN WITH WHERE YOUR TEAM IS RIGHT NOW HEADING INTO INDIANAPOLIS AND THEN THE COUNTDOWN? "I believe that there's truth to that. I don't understand how, exactly, but just in my experience, my dad, he went through a slump last year, race after race, and these are all separate events that we go to and we're all trying as hard as we can every event, and yet he just was in a rut and they just had to ride it out. And this year, earlier in the year, we kind of got on the opposite, we got on the high, where we went three races in a row to the final, and here we'd only been to one final all of last year and then within the first few months of this season we were on a roll. So, there's something to that. I don't know what it is, but sometimes it's just how it is - you get on a roll, you're working together well, you're pumped up and it carries over to how you're doing. We're thinking positively toward that, that going into Indy our team is kind of on a roll. We've had some luck. Sometimes, that does play a part in it. Also, we have a really good team and we haven't made mistakes. We've been very consistent - how we put our car together, how we run our car, how I drive the car - and consistency is key in drag racing. If you can have that within your team then you're probably going to do pretty well. That's kind of what our motto is that we stick to, and we kind of hope to take that into Indy and also into the Countdown."

YOU ACCOMPLISHED MANY THINGS THIS YEAR - WINNING A RACE, QUALIFYING NO. 1, QUALIFYING FOR THE COUNTDOWN, QUALIFYING FOR THE SHOWDOWN. INDY IS NOT A COUNTDOWN RACE, SO IS THERE SOME FREEDOM TO THROW EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AT THAT RACE? "There is. We were talking about that a couple of weeks ago. It was nice how it happened that we were all able to clinch in the Countdown, that we don't have to go into Indy thinking about that. We're in it, we can go there and do what we do to win that race, and that be the only thing on our minds, because after Indy is over, the whole new stress comes into play because now you're trying to win races, but you also have got the championship in mind and every round is going to count. So, for Indy, maybe this is our one final hurrah before the Countdown that we can have some fun, and to win Indy would be awesome."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force