This Week in Ford Racing: John Force, driver of the Castrol Edge Ford Mustang Funny Car, is the most accomplished and decorated drag racer in the history of the sport. In honor of Father's Day, his daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney Force...
This Week in Ford Racing:
John Force, driver of the Castrol Edge Ford Mustang Funny Car, is the most accomplished and decorated drag racer in the history of the sport. In honor of Father's Day, his daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney Force talk about how it was growing up with a father in racing and what it's like to race on their father's team.
HOW WAS IT GROWING UP WITH A FATHER IN RACING?
ASHLEY FORCE-driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car-"It was all we ever knew, so we don't know any differently, but it was very exciting to be a young kid whose dad is on TV, whose classmates and teachers follow racing and, it's something that would always come up. It was fun for us. We would have barbeques on Sunday and have our friends over to swim and we would run out, Mom would call at us when it was time for Dad's run and we would all run in our suits and stand outside the window. She wouldn't let us inside because our suits were wet, but we would all stand outside the house and watch the race through the screen door. It was a lot of fun. We got to travel a lot, go to a lot of different places throughout the country and go to his races and it was fun."
BRITTANY FORCE-driver of the Brand Source A-Fuel Dragster-"It was really tough because he was gone a lot of the time and it was pretty much my mom that was always at home raising us. My dad always jokes that my mom would yell 'Dad's home,' and we would all run to the TV to watch him on ESPN, ESPN2 and watch him on TV, but you know having him travel all the time was hard because he did miss some birthdays, or cheerleading competitions or whatever it was. Now that we're grown up and we're involved in racing, we really understand where he's coming from and that he's worked so hard and he's worked from absolutely nothing all the way up to having this big empire that he has with all of these drivers and teams. We're really proud of him and we know how hard he's worked and it's just kind of how life is and we got used to it so we wouldn't know any different."
COURTNEY FORCE-driver of the Brand Source A-Fuel Dragster - "Well, it was a lot of fun but it was complicated at the same time. It was real hard not seeing him because I would be in school when I was little and he would always be at the race track. Actually when he would come home I would cry to him, 'Please don't go back to the races,' and he would be like, 'No, I have to. I've got to work, you know. You've got to go to school,' and I would be like, 'Please don't go. I just want you to stay here.' I didn't really understand much about it and then when I grew up I got involved with racing and loved being out at the race track and understood why he was gone every weekend, but when I was little I didn't really know. I would always ask, 'Why does he have to leave, why is he gone, he's only home for a couple days a week?' So it was hard but after a while after I learned about it, it was okay."
AS A DRIVER DOES YOUR DAD TREAT YOU EASIER OR TOUGHER?
ASHLEY FORCE- "He really tries to treat me the same. He doesn't want that difference with his other drivers, Mike Neff and Robert Hight, who is actually his son-in-law, Robert's married to my older sister. He really does try to treat us equal. I mean, there's going to be times where him and I are at each other's throats, just family-wise and having nothing to do with racing, and obviously he's not going to have that same relationship with Mike or Robert. They're basically always talking about racing, where sometimes, when Dad and I are together we're talking about a family trip, or Christmas or Mom's birthday and those sorts of things, so it's not going to be the same. It's easy for people to say, 'We're strictly business when we're at work,' but that's never true. When you're family and you're working together, it has as many positives as it has negatives."
BRITTANY FORCE- "I would say tougher, just because when we were younger my mom raised us and he would come home, but he wasn't home enough to really discipline us. Now that we've grown up we see him more than we ever have. I would say now he's stricter on us with racing because now that we're grown up we really don't need that much discipline. Courtney is turning 21, and I'm turning 23 soon. Now that we're out at the race track and my sisters and I are out racing with him every weekend and in the hotels every weekend, he's like, 'Well, okay, where are you guys going tonight?' and Courtney and I will be going out - like the other weekend we didn't have a race the next day so we were going to go out and he saw us getting dressed up. We didn't know what we were going to do we were going to be out with some of the teams, some of our friends were out there racing and he was like, 'Well, Laurie, are you going to handle this?' and my mom was like, 'What are you talking about?' Then he said our curfew is 10:30 and we looked at him and said, 'Mom, is he really giving us a curfew?' I haven't had a curfew since I was in high school, so it's really funny now that we're around him all the time he feels like he has to discipline us. It's really funny, we joke about it all the time. I would definitely say it's tougher because now we're around him a lot more, and maybe he's not used to us being around that much, so he's definitely stepped in."
COURTNEY FORCE- "Maybe tougher because he's not afraid to tell us anything the second we get out of the car. I'm like, 'Dad, can't you wait until we get to the trailer? Wouldn't you be like with all of your other drivers, you would wait and have a meeting with them?' But no, as a father he has to tell you right then, 'This is what you need to fix, you're doing this wrong,' which is good. I love taking his criticism but it's kind of hard sometimes."
WHAT'S THE GREATEST ADVICE THAT YOUR DAD HAS GIVEN YOU?
ASHLEY FORCE-"His best advice has definitely been to understand the importance of your team. I remember being very young and he always made that very clear. I think it helps me to appreciate how important your team is and never to lose that respect and that gratitude and that's because I was raised around him, around his team. We would have team dinners and his crewmembers were like family to me, they were like uncles when I was little, growing up around the races. As I became a driver and got my own team, that's still in the forefront of everything. I know I get a lot of the glory and the attention because I'm the driver, but as he always taught me, there's, eight to 10 greats depending on which team; I have eight crew guys and two crew chiefs, there's 10 great guys that give me this great car to race that are just as important at what they do as what I do in the driver's seat."
COURTNEY FORCE- "Well, he always tells us to never give up. He just tells us to fight for what we want in life, don't let anything stop us. I think he's always been like that. 'Don't give up and don't let anything stand in your way. If this is your dream, you've got to go for it.' He's always adamant about that."
BRITTANY FORCE- "Like I said with racing, I like that he's tough with us with racing because safety is a big issue for him and he doesn't want us to get hurt, so he gets on us: 'You need to get your chutes off quicker,' or 'you need to shut off quicker,' and he may be a littler harder on us. People say, 'Why is he so hard on you?' but we understand where he's coming from because he's been driving for all of these years. He's had so many accidents so he's the best person to take advice from and help us out."
WAS IT TOUGH GROWING UP IN THE SHADOWS OF SOMEONE WHO'S THE GREATEST DRAG RACER OF ALL TIME?
ASHLEY FORCE-"No, I don't think so, maybe because I'm a female; maybe if I was a son of a famous racer I think it would have a lot more challenges, but not many people have really compared me to him. Sometimes I'll hear about how different we are personality-wise. People always say, 'You're a lot quieter than your dad,' but driving-wise I think people just put me in a whole different bucket. If anything, I think it was a positive thing. I was able to learn and grow in drag racing and learn and make my way and be kind of in his shadow. It's going to take a little bit of time to ever catch up to him, so I don't think anybody put the pressure on me to do that. To have a teacher like him coaching me along the way, there's a good chance that if I listen to him and I worked hard I could be successful in racing, but I wouldn't say it was a negative thing ever. If anything it was a positive thing because he races. I knew so many people that when I came into racing it wasn't like I was this new girl at the track and having to get comfortable with the people that I was working with. I already knew everyone so I could really focus on learning the car and not be embarrassed and not feel out of place because I was already comfortable with everybody in the camp that I worked with."
BRITTANY FORCE-"No, I wouldn't say it's tough because I look up to him and my older sister and I'm so proud of them. He always says all the time he doesn't think his daughters know how hard he's worked for everything, and we really do. We see how, I mean even when we go on vacation he brings his cell phone with him and he's working and that's just how it's always been. He's so dedicated to his work and even after his accident, when doctors told him he might not ever walk again, he was in the gym every single day and in therapy and not much longer after that he was back in his car racing."
COURTNEY FORCE-"Yeah, it is, actually, because a lot of people see how hard he's worked for everything and then we come into racing and it's hard to fill his shoes. It is hard to prove to everyone that you want it just as bad as Dad has since when he started, so it's hard to prove that to people, but I'm doing my best."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FATHER DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST?
ASHLEY FORCE-"I definitely admire, of course, how successful he's been; that's very impressive. The records he's broken, the championships he's won, he's dominated in drag racing, but I can definitely say over the last few years as I've really grown, what is most impressive is how he's been able to get through tough times like with accidents and friends that we've lost and take those things and make good things come from them. Safety, obviously, being the biggest example with Eric's [Medlen] crash and my father's crash, we were so upset and lost, but he really showed what a leader he was. He took everyone and said, 'We're going to make something from this, and we're not going to let this be the last memory we have with Eric, we're going to not let this happen in vain.' He didn't just say that at the time, he really followed through, and of course Ford was very much involved in all of the safety changes. It made me proud that when he says he's going to do something he does it and he does everything with a very big heart. As much as he is the crazy yelling guy, he is very much a softy on the inside. That's probably what I'm most proud of about my father even over how well he's done career wise."
BRITTANY FORCE-"I admire how he's so motivated in life and so dedicated to doing something he wants to do. I think it takes really strong character to be able to do that in so many instances like with racing, with his accident and with his come back. He was determined, absolutely determined to walk again. Not just walking, but driving his race car and he was so motivated and so determined to do what he wanted to do. He didn't care about what anyone said, he had doctors say he would never walk again and that didn't stop him, didn't faze him at all. When he wants something really bad, he goes for it and that's something that my sisters and I look up to him for."
COURTNEY FORCE-"Just that with everything that he's been through, he's still fighting just as hard, and the fact that he loves racing, it really shows. He's basically obsessed with racing, he takes it everywhere. He's a non-stop business guy and he works like that, it's just how he is. He can't go one day without having a break. It's almost amazing how much that guy works."
ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO YOUR DAD?
ASHLEY FORCE- "I love him. We're actually going to be separated on Father's Day. He's going on a fishing trip with one of our sponsors and my brother-in-law Robert. They're going on a trip and we're going to Vegas for the weekend, but I think we'll all come back together Sunday night. Hopefully, we can do something special for him. I'm just having a lot of fun getting to race and compete against him and spend time on the road with him."
BRITTANY FORCE-"I just want to say, 'Happy Father's Day and I love you, Dad, and we are so proud of you even though you might not know it all the time.' He always says he doesn't think we're proud of him and we don't know how hard he works, but we really are proud of him and we love him so much."
COURTNEY FORCE-"It's sad that we're not going to be able to spend Father's Day with him, so we're celebrating it early. My sisters and my mom are going to Vegas for my birthday because I'm turning 21, so I'm like, 'Sorry, Dad, it's a girls trip.' It's always fun when we get to celebrate them both together."
-credit: ford racing