Force, Force Hood - NHRA teleconference 2010-05-11, part 1

NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT An interview with: JOHN FORCE ASHLEY FORCE HOOD THE MODERATOR: We'll now move on to our next drivers on the call with us today, family members and teammates. Both are doing...


An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We'll now move on to our next drivers on the call with us today, family members and teammates. Both are doing quite well this season in the Funny Car category, John Force and Ashley Force Hood. John turned back the clock this season with three victories in four final rounds and currently leads the points standings in Funny Car. Ashley is currently fifth in the standings with one runner-up finish. She's 10 points out of second place. So the competition in Funny Car is really tight this year.

Let's go ahead and start with Ashley. We'll get a question from Ashley and John and then open it up to the media.

Ashley, you have seemed consistent this year. Does watching your dad perform like it's the 1990s again give you any extra motivation on the track?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Yeah, it's definitely been a trip down memory lane for me. Fortunately, I've grown up a little since the '90s. I'm not wearing a side ponytail, but I am cheering on dad. It's good to see that team, after the struggles of the last few seasons, to be back on top where they're used to being. You can tell in our camp it's that excitement to have all three teams running strong and our boss back in the No.q spot.

THE MODERATOR: John, how much fun are you having this season?

JOHN FORCE: Well, I'm trying to figure out what a senior moment is, what you were just asking Warren. I just want to say we were really proud of him and excited. I know what it's like to struggle and to bounce back and get that win. When Robert won St.Louis, we went by Warren Johnson, we were cheering him on. He is a true champion and a winner. He's getting a few years. I think I'm a few years older than him, but we're still doing our job. It's pretty exciting and a lot of fun.

What was the question?

THE MODERATOR: How much fun are you having? It's kind of like you turned back the clock this season.

JOHN FORCE: I always have fun racing even when I'm getting spanked. There are no highs without the lows. I've been on a rollercoaster. Just kind of got stuck in the mud. With the changes we made, I addressed Castrol and Ford and Auto Club and everybody, said, I need a little help. They said by the great words of President Obama, you make change. Well, I don't know if it's working for Obama, but it's working for John Force Racing. We're back in the ballgame, especially me. Ashley and Robert were finishing 1 and 2 in the championship (last year), but I wasn't even in the game, but I was still having fun.

I'm excited. The media is still talking to me, just barely. So life is good.

My kid -- I'm just really proud of Ashley, what she's doing to help her sisters come up through the ranks, Courtney wanting to go pro in a Funny Car. Life couldn't be better.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to media for questions for Ashley and John.

Q: I'm the one that asked about the senior moment. If you have figured out what it is, can you share it with us?

JOHN FORCE: There's a moment you're sitting out there in that racecar. I'm not stupid. I know my age. Yeah, I've been performing. But I think living in the gym, I had a lot of those senior moments. I joked about it. I had days in the gym, it was very emotional.

It was Ashley, her mom, sisters, pick your head up, you'll get back to that dream. Even if we all thought it was bull, just keep trying. The last couple years I've been kind of faking it. But I even called last year the No Excuse Tour. The truth is, I am back in good shape. I'm living in the gym. It's starting to show on the racetrack.

Do I have a good racecar? Without a doubt. But my physical and my mental being is really strong. I've got those senior moments, yeah, there were days I thought it's over, I'm not gonna make it. But I have gotten back and I just got to keep doing it. I hope that I can. I pray that I can continue to just do the job so the sponsors will let me race.

The fans, they'll let you race no matter how bad you do because they love you. But sponsors, they got to sell products. They do that through us by winning. So I'm doing OK.

Q: Ashley, does your dad ever seem like he ages at all, or is he still a young guy to you?

JOHN FORCE: She's laughing at me because she's watching me, I've got eight bottles of pills that I'm taking.

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: He does have his moments where he just forgets things, like everyone does. I don't think it's his age. I think it's more how much stuff he has on his plate, and that would make any person forget what they're doing (laughter).

Q: Ashley, could you recount last year's final, how the visibility played into the race at Atlanta?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: The final in Atlanta? Yeah, it was an evening run. We went up to race. I'm trying to remember what happened.

JOHN FORCE: You got in trouble in the dark and said those lights were hitting you in the eye.

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: I think the problem was, and everybody was facing it, I just hadn't been in that situation before going down the track. Most every event is set up pretty good with the lights. We're usually not running at that time of day. I think there were some rain delays, we were pushed back a little.

So when I was going down the track, I couldn't see. We pinpointed it to a reflection on the track, maybe the spotlights at the end of the track that were there to help everyone to be able to see. If you were looking at it from the right angle, it could kind of blind you.

I got down track. I was on probably one of our best runs we ever had, of course. But when you can't see, you're not going to win a race by crossing a center line or hitting a wall or doing anything unsafe. I decided to lift.

I was really bummed. I was upset. When I went back and talked to my team, they said they backed me up for what I did. There's always another race. If there's a race where you can't see or feel uncomfortable, shut off. They would have been mad at me if I hadn't. If you're going 300 miles an hour, you're not seeing where you're going...

We'll be differently prepared going into that.  Never had any problems
there before.  Just that one run.  Hopefully that won't get us into
that situation again.  Maybe we can have a better outcome.

Q: John, you struggled really hard the last couple of years. You're on top. How much easier is it to show up at the track now?

JOHN FORCE: There was times, when you've had so many years like me of winning, you come through the gate and the fans are cheering, then you see the change of them like, Come on, Force, you can do it, we love you, your kids are there, my wife. It's embarrassing. When you've been good, and I was good over the years, then all of a sudden to be in the cellar, it was tough.

Maybe that's the joke of senior moments where you think, maybe it is over. But the truth is I really love what I do. Especially now, I can't even tell you how I feel. I love to watch Robert. Even when he beats me, I stand at the end of the track and I watch his interviews. I'm so excited to watch Ashley, Robert and Brittany and Courtney. When they lose, they're emotional, when they win. This sport to me is really something special.

I know what it takes to win and to lose. To watch them getting to go through what I went through for so many years, oh, it's painful. When you look back on it, it was the greatest time of my life. If I'm guilty of anything, I'm guilty of not wanting to let go.

I'm like Warren.  I'm not speaking for Warren, but it's all we know.
It's what we love.  Every day in that car, every loss is a learning
curve of how to be better.  We just don't want to give it up.

I want to still show my kids that I'm good. Some of them are so little they don't remember when I was winning, you know what I mean, or when I was dominating. I really do love it. I'm going to do this till I drop. Probably be on a racetrack someday. It will be real embarrassing. But I'll have my kids there and my family to pick me up. It's just what the Force family does.

Q: Ashley, now that your dad is back on top of his game, leading the points, do you want to beat him that much more?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: You know, the toughest people I think to race are the people on your own team because they're also the people you cheer for. When you go out, it's a saving grace for you that even though you lost, you have people to go up on the starting line to root for and cheer on.

When I run against them, the pressure is off. I feel when I run dad or Robert, we can have some fun, not make ourselves nervous or sick, but may the best car win. It's a different feeling than running another team, the Schumacher teams, Pedregon, Worsham, all the other teams we compete against. You do feel different going against them.

I do feel I push harder running other camps because they're our competitors, and my teammates, they're my teammates. Maybe that's the wrong way to look at it, but that's how I do it. I spent many more years in my life cheering on my family than competing against them, so I'm still adjusting to kind of changing my way of thinking.

JOHN FORCE: I'm having a senior moment. May I say something?

THE MODERATOR: Go ahead, John.

JOHN FORCE: I sat in this office over 20 years ago interviewing right here with probably some of you folks. I can remember sitting here, Ashley and her sisters running around the office, her mom over at her desk, and I had my hand over the phone. I'm yelling, Ashley, would you hold it down over there, be quiet Brittany, I'm trying to talk and do this interview and get it right, put down that trophy. Laurie would say, Are they going to break your trophy? You have a ton of them. Now to be sitting here and looking at Ashley in the jacket that she won an NHRA championship race at Houston, looking at her interviewing with all of you, if that's not a senior moment, I got to watch out or I will sit here and cry because from that little baby, to being this girl hustling this 300-mile-an-hour Funny Car, it just don't seem real.

There are a few women that are doing it. It was amazing we thought it was a man's job. They were just kids. Melanie Troxel. The other kids out there. To watch them grow up and do what they do, let me tell you something, this is amazing of what they can do, these young women, not just Ashley, but the others, Hillary Will, what they can do with a Funny Car or a dragster. I can't even imagine it. So anyway, that's that.

Q: John, I was wanting to know how much of a factor having your family with you, not just in the pits and garage, but on the track with you, how much of a factor was that in your comeback?

JOHN FORCE: In my office there's pictures of my wife Laurie backing the racecar up, mixing the fuel. She wrote the contracts in the early days. When she had Ashley, our world started changing. She came to the opening race at Pomona, she could go to Indy, and the Western Swing because of summer. But I started evolving away from my family.

You wake up someday one day in a bar somewhere, Like where are my kids, where is my wife? You look around and you become this superstar and you believe that you're something special. It's like I blamed NHRA. I did what I was supposed to do. I raced. I won. I lost my family. All of a sudden it was like NHRA took my kids away from me. My wife and I weren't close anymore.

Because of Ashley, 16, wanting to go to Frank Hawley's driving school, and her sisters don't want to be drivers like me, every interview, we want to be like Ashley because they were really close together. I got a second chance that they'd come back with me through racing. I thank NHRA for that.

The crash, if anything, in '07, they spent weeks in the hospital with me just listening to me whine and go through the pain. But they stayed right there. And, boy, it's a real wake-up call to what really matters in life. Your children, your wife, it's everything.

I got a second chance. I'm a real lucky guy. I lived in the gym to show them that I could come back and be part of this family and hopefully to teach my kids. But just to be a part of it.

That is my energy every day. Every day when I see Ashley on the racetrack when she gets beat, she's all bummed out, it builds my energy to get on her to where I'm a pain in the butt to her. When she sees me coming, she goes the other direction because I rag and rag and rag. But that's what builds champions, to stay on top of it and fight it every day.

But she's doing well.  I could go home to wherever you go in the end and
Ashley will go on and she will chase that dream that she loves.  I know
someday, could be tomorrow, she wants to have a family.  She's going to
address that in her own way.  But we're excited for that opportunity,
too.  When the woman says it's time, just like my wife, it's time.

There's a lot of things in John Force's house. There's the other daughters that can race. They're going to want to have families, too. I'm in a good position with my wife. I'm close with my wife now. That surprises a lot of people. We always loved each other, but we went different directions. I'm giving you a lot of stuff you're not asking for. I'm in a confessional. Ashley is staring at me, but it's all the truth.

Continued in part 2

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , John Force , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Hillary Will , Frank Hawley