Continued from part 1 Q: Ashley, how did it affect you watching your dad struggle so much at the same time you're trying to establish your own name in the field? ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: It was tough. Last season around this time in...
Continued from part 1
Q: Ashley, how did it affect you watching your dad struggle so much at the same time you're trying to establish your own name in the field?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: It was tough. Last season around this time in the year, through the spring and summer, my team, everything kind of came together for us and we were running really good. We were winning races, going to final rounds, leading the points a few times during the season. It was very bittersweet because we were so excited to be a newer team and be doing so well, yet our own teammates were both struggling. My dad and his team, who won so many years, had such success, who we learned from, and also Robert's team, who came so close year after year to that championship. Those were the two that we really felt would be the ones going after the No.q spot, yet we found ourselves in that position.
But the thing I can say about that is both of those teams, they never showed that they were envious or upset. They were just a hundred percent supportive. They cheered us on. They were on that starting line whether it was a semi or final that we were in. Even if it was them that we beat the round before, they would come over and help us out. They really did feel at the end of the day we were one big team. It was great to know they were happy for us.
Now when the tables are turned, we can give our support as well. If we struggle, we'll be there cheering them on. Coming November, we want any of these cars to be in the No.q spot. To be 1-2-3 would be amazing.
I think this year we're all starting out really strong. I think we have a really good shot at it if we don't get into slumps which happen from time to time, but if we all keep doing how we're doing, I don't see why we couldn't end up being 1-2-3.
Q: Ashley, can you talk a little bit about last year. You set the track record and were No. 1 qualifier at Topeka. Can you talk about what that has meant to you.
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: We're now going into the warmer events. It's just a different time in our season. The beginning of the year is kind of just getting back into the groove of things. The end of the year it's all about the championship. But now is really the time that you get some good laps down the track and really get to know your car because we are going to be seeing a lot of conditions. It kind of just depends on where you're at in the country racing, what the weather decides to do.
These next few races, Atlanta, Topeka, Englishtown, it can be cool there and it can also be hot and muggy there. That's really where the crew chiefs are going to flex their muscles and see if they can figure out the tracks as quickly as possible and have it down before race day.
We've tended to do well during this time of the year, like Topeka, Atlanta, Houston, in the past three seasons before this one, that's where we got into a stride, went rounds, were consistent. We're hoping to keep that up.
I don't know why that is. It seems every driver has certain tracks they do well at. This time of year is when we seem to do really well. We're going to try to take advantage of that, get our cars figured out. It's a new season. You can't count on last year or the year before that. You have to go with what you got and do the best you can.
It's exciting to return to a track that you've done well at in the past. You do have those memories. You remember that feeling. You feel like maybe you have a little bit of an advantage to others because you have done well there.
Q: Anything about that race? You were the No.q qualifier. Anything that cost you a victory there?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: No. I don't remember anything in particular. It just wasn't our day. Capps is a really tough competitor, good team. He's always one that when you go up to run, they have the ability to win that race.
Really, that's how we feel about every person in Funny Car because the class the last few years has gotten very competitive. There's really not anybody that you're not going to count on getting down that track and have a good time. That's why the points are as close as they are. I think it's more exciting for the fans like that and us as well.
THE MODERATOR: For the record, at Topeka last year Ashley was the runner-up to Ron Capps. She was the No.q qualifier, and her performance for that spot set both ends of the track record. She set the track ET record at 4.107 seconds, and the track speed record at 295.59 miles per hour.
Q: John, you gave me a senior moment talking about 20 years of interviews. I wanted to ask you, sir, with your lead, the way the car has been performing, are you looking to maybe experiment a little bit here and think about what you need to do for the Countdown?
JOHN FORCE: No, right now we're staying focused. We are testing with NHRA with the smaller fuel pumps. We tested at St.Louis. We'll be testing after Chicago. That's because NHRA, they're trying to change the motor programs, to build a motor that's not so explosive, you know, to try to stop some of the problems that we've had on the racetracks with these fires and the bodies flying off. We have been testing that.
That is in a completely different car we put together.
As far as our racecar goes, John Force Racing is always in test mode to try new things. We're really staying focused. I haven't had a championship in a few years. Ashley wants a championship. Robert wants to repeat. So we're going to stay focused because we think our combination may not be way ahead of the pack.
But we found consistency in our motor program with the Boss 500 and this new chassis that we built that I'm driving. I actually have the first chassis that came out of the project in Indy. So that car is really working. Robert is waiting for his to be delivered in the next week, then Ashley is going to get one because we believe there's something in the new chassis, the way it's been designed. John Medlen was a big part of that. So we know that Schumacher is going to get that information also. So he'll be looking at that technology if it interests him.
But we see it working for us. We're going to stay on track, go down the road, not get lost like a lot of teams get ahead in the beginning of the season, then at the end they struggle. Nope, we're going to stay focused and see if we can get another championship.
THE MODERATOR: John and Ashley, how do you mentally and physically prepare for a stretch of races like we have coming up here with nine races in 11 weeks in a row?
JOHN FORCE: I'm excited. I can't speak for Ashley. She approaches racing different than I do. I'm full throttle, yelling and screaming. She's like her mama. That's why I love looking at her. She always looks at me like, What is the old man going to say next that sounds crazy? We found our balance and it's how we get along. We have our days of fighting for that win because she wants to win. What was the question?
THE MODERATOR: Nine races in 11 weeks. Western Swing in there. Four races on the East Coast. Atlanta, Topeka.
JOHN FORCE: She was in the gym the other night with her mother. She's physically in great shape. You wonder how she sets these speed records. She's a hundred pounds lighter than me. I carry a lot of ballast on my car I wish I could get rid of. At the end of the day, she's young, physically fit.
Me, I'm in the gym. I pulled a muscle the other night in my back. I've been in the gym two years, eight months. I came home and my wife said, You look like two years ago. What happened? Said, Got too aggressive, hurt my back. Had to work on it last night. Felt real good. I'm ready to go. Bring it on. I want to race every week. I just love it.
You know, I go out there, the fans to me aren't fans, they're friends. I look forward to seeing people, seeing them in the stands. I know it's an overload for Ashley. I've been doing it for years. It's all been thrown on here the last few years. Her crowds and sales are bigger than mine. She's a woman in a 300-mile-an-hour racecar. I'll let her tell you how she's going to approach it. I'm going to approach it running full stride. If I fall I just fall. But that's the way I'm going to do it.
THE MODERATOR: Ashley, any thoughts on that, with 11 weeks coming up, how close the point standings are right now with basically 10 points separating positions 2 through 5?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: It's a lot of time on the road. I think a lot of teams and drivers do like that it's kind of one right after the other because you do kind of get in the swing of things. It's hard when you have a race, you go home, you're off for a week or two, it takes a little bit of time to get back into the groove. When you're hitting one after the other, staying on the road, it's almost easier because then you're just in your routine and you're going through each week into the next.
I'm excited to get to Atlanta, see my team. I'm going to be staying on the road all through next week because we have some media and different things we're doing, an event with Castrol. I think that's just a good way to start getting prepared. Then we go to Topeka, have a weekend off, then hit it hard with a lot of races, more on the East Coast.
I'll be planning my packing accordingly tomorrow because we only allow 50 pounds of weight in your luggage or less. I push it every weekend. It is a lot of time on the road. Little things like laundry and things like that you do have to get figured out before you leave town. That's just the little things that go along with what you do.
The teams have the toughest part because they do live on the road. We can come home in between. When they pull the machines out of the shop, which they're doing today or tomorrow, they're not going to be back for quite a while. It's toughest on them.
JOHN FORCE: (Dave) Densmore, our PR man called, one of them. He said, I looked at you and Ashley and Robert's schedule the next five or six weeks. Are you going to be able to get home? We go back to Atlanta. We have the Coke dinner. We fly to New Jersey. We go to Topeka. We go to Wisconsin for shows. That's when you get in the run of things, get in the groove. You come back home and get into the office and the office is painful. I love being out in the street, and so does Ashley, even though she hates never getting to come home. Boy, once you get in that fight mode of racing week after week, you just get better, sharper, your mind is right because that's all of the focus, is how to win.
So I'm looking forward to it. So is Robert. My other two girls will be out there, Brittany and Courtney. They're on a limited schedule, so we're pretty excited about the coming weeks.
Q: Ashley, your father is arguably the most popular drag racer of all time. You growing up in his shadow, how much gratification do you get shining on your own now?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Well, you know, it was never about being in anyone's shadow. I liked cheering him on. He's definitely more of an outgoing personality than I am. It was actually helpful to me when I moved up the ranks and started getting more and more attention to kind of be in his shadow. It was a little overwhelming, not something I thought about. But to be in front of crowds, to be on stages, things like that, it's part of what we do. Yet probably the part I struggled with more than anything.
In a way it was a benefit to me to kind of be able to be under the umbrella of John Force Racing and get to learn the ropes and yet let him do his thing. It's worked out well. It's been a good balance. I think when you talk to me and dad and Robert, we all have very different personalities and backgrounds, yet we all love to drive these Funny Cars. I think the fans like to see that, that we aren't cookie cutter people. Even when we're all related in our own camp, we're all very different. It just goes to show the variation there is in NHRA drag racing. I think that's why people love to come and see a race because there's such a good mixture of different kinds of people.
JOHN FORCE: It's funny. On the airplane coming home the other day, Robert said, You ought to read this book. It was a book on Dale Earnhardt. I read the whole book in like two hours. It was a picture book. But watching Dale Earnhardt, Jr., what he's into now, really a struggle because they expect that he has to win a (NASCAR Sprint Cup) championship. He's no different than anybody else. There's a lot of drivers out there that haven't won championships. Not that they haven't deserved the right and been so close, but it happens that you don't sometimes.
To watch Earnhardt, I thank the Lord that I'm here to be here for Ashley and her sisters because I feel sometimes Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is lost without his dad. I think he's doing great. He's in the fight. He's the biggest media machine in NASCAR. The money income is huge, nothing compares, not even his dad, to him. Yet I feel sometimes us dads, as big a pain as we are, sometimes we can help. I try to help Ashley when I can.
But she's got the confidence of a family around her, a great husband with Danny Hood and a great team led by Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas. Sometimes I worry does Earnhardt, Jr. have that because I know what the dad wanted for his son and the kid is having to do it on his own. They're writing books in the stores: When will this hero legend become a legend? I think you have to make that in your own time.
I really believe they ought to give Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a little bit of slack. What's he guilty of? Making a lot of money. He didn't cause all that. It was kind of handed to him because of the name.
He will prove himself in time because I believe he is his daddy's son, as Ashley is my daughter. I believe only time, these kids will go down that road of the dream, the dreams they want. I just have to throw that in.
THE MODERATOR: We certainly appreciate you both, John and Ashley, for joining us on the call today. Good luck to you at the upcoming race in Atlanta. Appreciate the media joining us on the call. We look forward to seeing you all at some of the races during the rest of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Tour.