Force Hood, Schumacher - NHRA teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Your impressions of the Ft. Hood ceremonies and the celebrations there? TONY SCHUMACHER: Well, it was freezing cold, but it was amazing. Just to be able to show up. I didn't know. When I announced that I wanted to...

Continued from part 1

Q: Your impressions of the Ft. Hood ceremonies and the celebrations there?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Well, it was freezing cold, but it was amazing. Just to be able to show up. I didn't know. When I announced that I wanted to go there, I didn't know that they were going to bring a day of healing that they had had planned that was going to be the day. When I got there, Dana Carvey, and Gary Sinise, and all different people were there. One of the Jonas Brothers who I didn't know at all. But Ashley might know him. That's the 13-year difference in age right there for you.

But it was just an amazing thing. The fans went nuts to go up there and they're screaming. And I think you realize how it's a lot bigger than you think. To be able to drive the U.S. Army car is huge. To be able to present them with a trophy really at a time when they just needed it, man. They needed something.

To have a big day like that, I wish it was a little warmer, but it was packed solid. The amusement park was busy, all different people, comedians there. And it was just a nice day. All in all, ask I got to hang out with Dana Carvey, so that was good.

Q: Ashley, now that (John Force Racing is in) three cars, is that going to help you guys out? How does that impact your season?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Yeah, it's going to be weird. The fortunate thing is that we still have all the people. Some of dad's team had decided not to stay on this year because our teams have all moved out to Indy. So some of the guys that were from California chose not to stay on.

But fortunately a lot of Neff's guys wanted to stay on and we were able to find places for them. I got a couple new guys on my team. So it all worked out.

We didn't have to lose anybody, even though we won't have that fourth team this year, we still have all the people there that want to stay with us and we were able to make that happen. That was the biggest concern was you know, we don't want to lose these really talented guys that have become a part of our racing family.

Neff's going to be over helping Austin and Bernie with dad's car, John Medlen over on with Jimmy. So we've been able to keep everybody together, which is our goal. I think that will make our three teams much stronger. It will probably be more entertaining, more opinions, more everything. But we're all in there together. The crew chiefs can all work together, and hopefully have three strong, very competitive cars for the 2010 season.

Another benefit of this is running into your own teammates running each other, and that was a challenge. I ran Mike in the finals in Pomona, which is actually a good thing. We love to run our own teammates in the final. Other than in the final, you never want to run your own teammate. But you're going to run into each other.

But hopefully this year, we'd rather be beating the competition in the other camps than our own camp. So hopefully we can not run each other as much as the three teams and hopefully get one of these three teams in the championship spot again.

Q: I know that the level of competition is a great motivator for you. But what is it about yourself that allowed you to not become complacent during this tremendous title run?

TONY SCHUMACHER: I just love racing. You know, I was writing on my Facebook last night and people were asking some similar questions. I get up in the morning and want to race. I don't try to look too far ahead.

But it's amazing. Some of the seasons, 2006 we win coming back from 336 points. Well, it's hard to be complacent there.

And the next year we go to a Countdown and end up winning in the last race of the season. We just seemed to keep doing it in different ways.

You know, the losing -- I'm afraid to lose right now. It's crazy. We've won six in a row. And guess what? It's going to end at some point, I just don't want it to end this year. You know, I really don't want that to stop.

Being part of a great team, last year what I had to go through was, you know, very difficult. Losing your team. Having to build a new team. So I don't feel the complacency's out there. I don't think I'm going to race that much longer. You know, it's a matter of some years here, but I want to go out with a bang. I think that's going to really motivate me. Because we've seen too many people in the past in all sports go out on the bottom when they were on the top. And you've got to choose your time.

So I'm going to stay focused. Do the best we can do. Surround yourself with soldiers, and it's really easy to get motivated. Every time you get down, you realize these people are going through way harder times. What they've got to accomplish as a team, you know, I think we hear the stories and the motivative information they give to us, my guys couldn't be more motivated.

I've said this a thousand times. I'm not racing for beer and I'm not racing for tools. I'm racing for a way of life and a group of people. It makes a big difference.

Q: Could you comment about the fact that Don Prudhomme has decided to shut down his team? As you know Spencer's out there looking for a ride. Spencer Massey's out there because Don Prudhomme has decided to shut down his team. How will that affect the championship run not having those guys around?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Well, you know, that's a great team. Spencer is doing a heck of a job driving. It's unfortunate that a guy like Don Prudhomme and Spencer couldn't put a deal together. But it's not over yet. They announced they're selling their stuff, but if something comes up, I guarantee you he'll be back out there.

But it happens. Cars come and cars go. When it comes down to it, there's nothing easy out there. I've got two cars in my own camp I've got to worry about. I think my two cars in my own camp beat me more than anyone else.

So there's a lot of good cars out there. Yeah, we lost a good one. I hear Spencer will be driving for somebody. But, you know, he's a good guy. There's teams that will be forming that we've never even heard of at this point that will come out in the next or two years. We'll just keep battling. Doesn't matter who is in the other lane, doesn't matter if a guy comes and goes, you have to stay focused. Getting on the track, staying focused and doing your job driving is all you can hope for.

Q: I had a question for Tony. We had some of the legends on yesterday on the teleconference with Big Daddy Don Garlits and Bob Glidden. They all said winning the Winternationals is so special. You've won so many races, so many championships, can you talk a little about how important is this race coming up next week? Is how much does that still mean to you?

TONY SCHUMACHER: It's just awesome. You cannot -- we've done it. We did it not last year but the year before (2008 and 2004), you go out and win the first race. What I a way to start. You've waited all year, you know, to get to that race. Believe me, two months off is two months too long. I know everyone needs a little bit of a break. When you love racing as much as I do you can't wait to get there.

I think you can't lead from the beginning to the end if you don't win that first race. That was a gift to win that race and to carry that on throughout the way.

Then you go out and you have a Countdown. We get to Charlotte that year, and you had to win that race. It was the same thing, but it all starts at the Winternationals. The biggest names that have ever won championships in racing and just races in general started right there. So that's the place. The history of racing comes from California. To go out and perform at that race from the first get-go, man, you just can't beat it. It was an amazing thing to be able to accomplish. I've only done it I believe once, but it was awesome.

THE MODERATOR: Ashley, do you want to talk about the Winternationals, next week's race and what it's meant to you and your family and growing up in the shadows of Auto Club Raceway?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Yeah, Pomona has always been our home track. I live 20 minutes away from it. So we've always attended the first race of the year and the final race of the year since I was very -- since I was born, probably.

It's just a huge event. The first race of the year kicks off everything. Everybody new out there, new sponsors, new fans, it's the race you want to do well out and start your year strong. It definitely gives you a great confidence boost if you are able to start your season on such a great note. And I think it's going to be a big deal.

I know that NHRA is promoting a lot and doing a lot of special events and activities. It's going to be exciting. I hope we can do well there. It is a tough one to win because you are coming back after a few months off. You might have a change in crew members or changes with your car.

But we're all out there. That's what's on everyone's mind in their off-season is to go out and win that race. Especially this year. It's such a special one, it's going to be cool.

THE MODERATOR: Tony has won at Auto Club Raceway six times in his career, twice at the Winternationals 2004 and 2008.

Q: Your dad is famous for talking, generally whenever I've done a broadcast from the Winternationals, by Friday afternoon his voice is gone because there is so much to do. Observing that as you were growing up, can you avoid having so much stuff going on around you with family and friends and the first race of the year and all the tension that's going on? Do you have to work extra hard on your focus or do you just click into work mode right off the bat?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Well, first off, on the topic of dad, he's already lost his voice this week and the race season hasn't even started. So we're all keeping our fingers crossed it might last a few more days than normal so we can have some peace and quiet around here at the shop.

But for Pomona, for any driver and any team when you go to your home race, it's a great race yet it can be the toughest race because everybody shows up: Your family, your friends, your sponsors.

We have a lot of sponsors that are located out here, so we have a lot of customers and people that will come to the Pomona event other.

Then you have people you haven't seen in forever. Old teachers, and kids you don't even recognize from grade school that all come out. So it can be a little overwhelming.

I know there have been times in the past, my first year probably the most in Funny Car, when I just had to go sit down in a dark corner and go 'Holy cow, how am I going to get through this weekend and do my job good with so many people around?'

But now that I've gotten a little more used to it, and it's not so overwhelming for me, it's fun. It's exciting to see people. They understand you can't stop and talk for half an hour. They're there with their friends or their family to see you do your thing and to be able to say hello, catch up when you can maybe later in the day. But they're very understanding that you have a job to do. This is our workplace.

And it's exciting to know those people are out there rooting you on. You have such support. You can really feel that in your camp and when you go up to make your run. You know you have a lot of people rooting you on. It is a little crazy at times, but you kind of learn to deal with that.

So you can take it and get stressed about it, or you can take it that you have tons of support there. That is the way that we look at it. It is good to get to see people that you may not have seen for a long time, so I'm excited. I'm prepared for it. I'm learning as I go.

My dad is probably the pro at that, because so many people come from all over from when he was a kid that will show up. But he's able to kind of balance that, manage it, and not have anyone mad at him at the end of the weekend and still do his job in the car.

At the end of the day, that's what we've got to do. It's great to see old friends and family, but for safety, then of course the competition, we have to focus. Get our minds clear and do our job. Once we're warming up the car, going on the stage, we're running that car down the track.

Q: Tony, you're going for seven straight (championships), whether you talk about it or not. At the same time your family has been growing, growing up. Has it been a distraction? Do you anticipate it being a distraction spending so much time away from them and having to focus so hard on what you're doing? Though last year was probably a harder season than you've had any other time. Do you anticipate that being a distraction? How do you deal with that?

TONY SCHUMACHER: It's definitely a distraction, but it's a good one. I mean, I'm a firm believer that the result of your life is not dictated by the result and outcome of Sunday's race. And I think that helps me. I have good priorities. I really do.

Yeah, winning is amazing. I cannot wait to get to Pomona. Get my new ring, my new jacket, get all that cool stuff. But the fact is I'm home. I'm picking my kid up here in an hour and a half, and that's what I really live for.

Much as I love racing, Anthony's going to have a junior dragster this year, and it will go on. Apple didn't fall far enough from the tree there, and I'm not forcing him into anything. But he loves it, and we're having fun.

I'm pretty laid back. For those of you that have met me, it takes an awful lot to get me spun off. I'm going to show up, I'm going to race. I'm going to go home and spend as much time with my family as I possibly can. It's not so much the racing. It's the whole Army deal. Racing is a tiny bit of what I do. You can hear my kids in the background now.

I do it because I love racing. But in a few years, yeah, I've said it to most all the newspapers and all the radio shows. When my kids grow up and start playing baseball, it's time for this dad to be a dad. I have to do that.

You know, it's just I'm lucky, I'm very fortunate that we have Schumacher Electric. We have a company that I can go over there and start learning that. I think it will be very difficult to step out of racing and to go into a business. But when my kids start playing big baseball and stuff like that, I've got to be there for them.

We are an ego sport, man. We get up every day and people pat me on the back and tell me how cool I am and all that great stuff. But at some point that's got to end, and I've got to pat my kids on the back and tell them how great they are. It's what we're supposed to do.

Continued in part 3

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Bob Glidden , Don Garlits , Don Prudhomme , John Medlen , Spencer Massey