Ashley Force - NHRA teleconference, part 1

An Interview With: ASHLEY FORCE THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome everyone to this teleconference for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Joining us on the teleconference is the driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, Ashley...

An Interview With:

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome everyone to this teleconference for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Joining us on the teleconference is the driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, Ashley Force. As many of you know, Sunday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Georgia, Ashley became the first woman in NHRA history to win a event in Funny Car beating her father, 14-time world champion and NHRA legend, John Force, in the final round of eliminations.

As well, Ashley is the first woman to ever lead the point standings in Funny Car, and her win on Sunday gave her a 59-point cushion over second-place Tim Wilkerson.

Ashley has been in back-to-back-to-back final rounds this season and has a round win/loss record of 13-4 for the year.

Ashley, now that everything is calmed down and you've had a chance to reflect on your win this past weekend, what are your thoughts on not only getting your first career win but having it come against your father?

ASHLEY FORCE: It's been a long road. Started in 2007 in Funny Car and had so many ups and downs and struggles with the car, and having a new team and driver and everything brand-new, but we were able to build on that and the same group of guys joined me this year in the 2008 season and it was exciting to kind of step up, go to the next level, be going rounds, going to finals. We knew if we kept getting to finals, we'd eventually get a win. We had to be patient and keep doing what we were doing.

But it was a great night for us. My team is still texting me. Some texted last night, Can you believe it? It's not a dream. We're reading it in the newspapers.

We're so excited our day finally came.

THE MODERATOR: You had an eventful week. And you've gone back-to-back-to-back in the final rounds. I know you mentioned before that you were focused on winning races, not necessarily the point standings. But making it to the final round that many times has got to help your chances looking into the countdown to the championship this year.

ASHLEY FORCE: Absolutely. Our car is very consistent, and that's the key in drag racing. If you can have consistency, it's going to pay off. So we're just trying to stay focused, not get caught up in everything. It's so easy. You don't want to be looking at the points every round seeing where you're at. And it changes so quickly that we're really trying to not get into that. It would only distract us from what our main goal is, and that's to win rounds, because you can't win races without doing that.

But it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Especially my whole life watching my dad win championships and now with my team to be at the top of the pack, we're very motivated and excited. And we just want to stay ahead of the rest of the guys and gals.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Ashley.

Q: You've said before that you learned from the best, meaning your dad. And I'm wondering, when you made it to the two final rounds twice before then, what kind of advice did your dad give you?

ASHLEY FORCE: He actually came in and said: You know, you don't need any of my advice; you just keep doing what you're doing because you're going rounds.

He didn't want to change our routine. We have our own way of doing things in our camp. He taught me when I started and now he's kind of letting me find my own way, learn from my own mistakes.

But the biggest thing that he talked to me about was in the past month, was just to stay focused and not let the mental side of things get into our minds: Oh, we can't get past this final round. Because going to the finals is a good thing. We're happy to be there. And we knew if we could just not get in our minds that we can't get past the final, then we'd be all right.

So he kind of just talked to me about staying focused and all the craziness. Not changing our routine, doing what we always do. And it's been paying off for us.

Q: I wanted to ask you a question, because Danica Patrick just won her first IndyCar race not that long ago, and I was rather disappointed to see general lack of respect from the Indy Racing League, who are spouting off with all kinds of ideas and stories about her being the first female driver to win a major automobile race, which we know isn't true because Shirley Muldowney was winning races back in the 1970s. I don't know if you're aware of that or if you would have a comment on anything like that.

ASHLEY FORCE: It's frustrating for those in drag racing. We've had such a history of females doing great in drag racing. But you don't want to take anything from Danica. She did a great job.

But I do know that growing up in racing I've watched Shirley Muldowney, Shelly Anderson, Angelle (Sampey), just so many women win race after race, win championships. The gals in NHRA drag racing, they know what they're doing. And we're lucky to be in a sport that is open to having us there. They promote us. They're excited. Our competitors are happy to have us there.

So we know the truth, that we have a lot of gals that have done great things, but it's great for Danica as well. Never take anything away from her. I think we just - you just want to bring the knowledge to everyone that there's a lot of different motorsports around here and there's a lot of women in all different kinds and all different levels. And we have some great ones in NHRA drag racing. They're the ones I've looked up to and followed, and I'm excited to now be in that lineup of winners.

Q: Are you ever going to let your younger sisters come to a race again?

ASHLEY FORCE: My younger sisters, they'll be out in Topeka, I think is the next race that we'll take the dragster out to. They were so mad watching on -- they were actually listening online. We've joked it would happen when none of my family is there, but fortunately my mom was there. Of course my dad was there. They know next time they're going to be at the next race. They'll be in St. Louis and told them, We'll just have to do it again when you're there.

Q: After you left the pressroom the other night in Atlanta, Mike Edwards, the Pro Stock winner, was saying he was rooting for you because if NHRA is going to move closer to NASCAR, you are the one leading they way. Is that a role you're comfortable with, and, if so, how do you go about doing that without letting your focus be distracted away from your racing focus?

ASHLEY FORCE: First, that was such a nice thing for him to say. I read it in an article actually this morning that someone had sent me. And just a very nice man. I never really talked with him before. We both were riding up to the Winner's Circle together. It was just a really fun night to be with those guys, just such nice guys that won in all the categories. Made it very exciting for me.

But as far as taking drag racing to the next level, that's what we're all trying to do. Not just John Force Racing, but all the teams out here. That's why we love what we do. We get to do something exciting. The fans love it. And that's the best way to promote our sport, is you really just show what it is, it is what it is; that it's an exciting sport, once you watch it you're addicted to it, you can't stop watching it. I'm excited to be a part of that. If I can bring more fans, more female fans, more kids, that's what I want to do. Because I was a kid growing up in drag racing. I loved it.

It's been a great part of my life. I've learned a lot from it. Things you wouldn't even think that you'd learn. I did college and I did schooling, but in drag racing you really learn about teamwork and you learn about staying focused and going after your goals, and no matter what the case is. And I think it's a great sport. It's a family sport. And I'm happy to be a part of it.

Q: When you were out here promoting, you said when you're here you get all these teachers and former classmates and everything come over and say hi and whatever. Have you gotten response or any kind of e-mails, any calls, anything from anybody from your past like that, since this happened?

ASHLEY FORCE: Well, I'm still going through text messages. I got off the plane and I probably had over 20 text messages and 15 phone messages. They were all just from my family and friends and relatives. But I did have an e-mail from one of my professors at Cal State Fullerton. I saved it because I wanted to answer back to him. I haven't written back to him.

Yeah, it's neat that people still keep up. Friends I had long ago when I was in high school texted me and sent me messages they watched and seen it on TV. They were really excited. It's neat. It shows that even years later, people I don't see very often, they still follow the sport and they were excited to see us do so well.

Q: I was going to ask you, at a local track this last weekend we had more girls than boys competing in the (O'Reilly Auto Parts) Junior Dragster division for the first time. Is there any particular reason you think that girls are being attracted to drag racing now?

ASHLEY FORCE: I think that's great. And I think there's a lot of women kind of out in the media right now that are racing, but there's been a lot of women involved for years. It's just maybe being brought more to the forefront. But I think you're going to keep on seeing young girls getting into junior drag racing and young boys, because it's an opportunity that maybe isn't so in other types of motorsports, that you're able at age seven or eight to climb into a race car and race at the same tracks that the professional drivers race at.

It's a great deal - it's what I love about drag racing. And I get asked a lot why there's maybe more women in drag racing than other types. And I think it's because NHRA offers so many different categories that you can jump into. You don't have to just jump into a 330-mile-an-hour race car. You can bring your street cars to the track. There's the sportsman, all the sportsman categories in junior racing. That's where a lot of families will bring their children, boys and girls, and they're the ones that get the racing bug and it gets in them and they want to keep doing it.

So I'm sure you'll continue to see more, and I think that's just great.

Continued in part 1

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Mike Edwards , Danica Patrick , Shelly Anderson