Force Hood, Schumacher - NHRA teleconference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: You mentioned a bit ago about the two cars in your camp beat you more than anyone else. I want to ask you about Cory Mac. In a sense he's like the Mark Martin of NHRA. Nice guy. Finished runner up a bunch of ...

Continued from part 2

Q: You mentioned a bit ago about the two cars in your camp beat you more than anyone else. I want to ask you about Cory Mac. In a sense he's like the Mark Martin of NHRA. Nice guy. Finished runner up a bunch of times (finished second four times and third three times). Are you somewhat surprised he's never won a driving title?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Well, I am. Years ago he should have. He was talked out of going to -- I can't remember which race. I think the race in Canada. He just didn't show up for it. If he had just shown up with those ten points, I think he lost by eight.

I think he's had it hard. Just like Ron Capps (three second-place finishes), they've been an amazing team, but the bridesmaid too many times. (Cory McClenathan)'s a great driver. One of the very few people in the beginning of my career in '96 in Pomona that helped me along to drive the car and not get myself hurt.

I hope for him every time, if I can't pull it off, I'm right there. It's a battle. You know, he went out and did a heck of a job. He tattooed me a couple of time right there at the end. Man, was it costly.

But it was a great battle. A great race, definitely not someone you take lightly. He's an awesome driver. He does his job right. I think it may frustrate him a little bit that he hasn't won it. It probably plays into his mind a little bit.

But we are a really good team. I bet we're a lot like Ashley and the rest of the force camp, we work together. We talk. We help each other drive the car. If Antron has a question, if Cory has a question, we talk about it and help each other out. Figure out a way to drive the cars better.

I don't care how many laps you've made or how many times you've gone down the racetrack, there is something to be learned in every situation. Glad to be part of their team. We do a good job together, and we battle.

And Antron has not proven to be a slouch either. He's a heck of a driver. We tend to pull pretty good drivers into our camp. You know, just look forward to racing. I hope he goes on and wins that thing. One of these years, man. He sure has paid his dues probably as much as anyone in the sport.

Q: You created such a tremendous buzz last year with your title fight with Robert Hight. Are you prepared this year for what could become a media circus if you're leading this team thing from the get-go?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Well, I haven't really thought about that. We're just going to go out and do the best that we can do, as every team that is going out there. I think Melanie (Troxel)'s returning this year (with backing from In-N-Out Burger). It's exciting to have another girl. It was a little overwhelming to be the only girl in the category last season.

But she'll be out there this season as well. There will be a couple of girls in the category for the fans and everyone to cheer on.

I think we're just going to try to keep going. We've really taken baby steps. My team has never gotten too ahead of themselves. We've known each year we're going to learn and make mistakes. But if we can learn from those mistakes and keep building our foundation, we'll become a better team.

It's paid off so far. That doesn't mean you can have a horrible season and get into a slump. That's everyone's fear. But each year we've moved up the ranks. We started at 10th (in 2007). (In 2008) we moved up to sixth.

Our goal last year, I remember at the beginning of the season, if we can move up a few more spots from sixth to get up there to around four, that would be a huge success for us. And we managed to get up to second.

We were really proud of ourselves and excited about our season last year and how it went. And this year we're going to try to continue. But I had someone ask me, well, you've moved up, you know, 10-6, 6-2. So you could be pretty confident you'll move up to first.

And that is not how it works, that's for sure because our category just is so competitive and so close every race, every round. So it's going to be exciting to see how this year goes. Hopefully we can continue how we've been doing, not take a step back, but continue to take our steps forward.

Maybe the championship will be ours. Maybe it won't. You know, the talent, the skill, all those things are so important. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck, and that is part of this racing thing as well. We can just do the best that we can do. And not let the pressure that media or fans might want to put on us on this championship, not let it get to us because it doesn't help you at all. Every time you go up to run that car, we're all doing the best that we can do. Whether it's your day to win or not, you know, it's how it's going to be.

You can't get too ahead of yourself. We've got to go out there for the Winternationals and we've got to qualify. We've got to utilize every qualifying run. Get that info that we need. I need to get my experience in the car and then go out there hopefully on Sunday for qualifying and have a strong race.

That is the way that we believe and every team, you know, might have a philosophy how they do it. But we try to not even go so far ahead of the championship points. For now we want to win the Winternationals. We want to qualify and win the Winternationals. So that's where our goals are set as of today.

Q: I understand that all the Force cars are using the in-house chassis and the 500 motor. Are you comfortable with that combination now through testing? Is it a huge difference from what you drove last year?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: No, we have the new 2010 Ford Mustang bodies on which we just tried out in testing and will be running in. I love it. My vision, I can see. It's amazing I didn't notice it before in the older style car, but now that I have the new body it's like, oh, my gosh, I can see so much more.

Not that you need to see all that much more. I don't need to look at the guy next to me. But your vision has definitely opened up as far as being able to see out of these Funny Cars.

But it is a process to get everything. With the four teams we had last year, just getting everybody -- you don't just need the stuff in your car that you're running down the track. You also need a spare, you know, a spare everything if something goes wrong. You need back-up stuff.

It's been a process getting everything caught up. Getting extras for each team. But that's part of it. You know, hopefully we can get ourselves all caught up.

But as far as the difference that I see, it hasn't affected me at all except the vision is better, I think, in the new bodies which is really exciting.

Q: The Yas Marina Program, could you comment on that a little bit. Did you ever think you'd sore to be teammates with Rod Fuller?

TONY SCHUMACHER: No (laughing). I don't know, you know. The way my dad hires people, I thought I'd be teammates with everybody right now. I don't know. I think it was a great deal for my father. I don't know too much about it, because really they own the car.

I think my dad's just basically assembling everything. That is what he's the best at. There is nobody out there that is as good at putting a team together and a group of people on short notice. We went back even in '98 when we had to build that Exide car. We're good at getting it put together quick. He's sharp that way. He's a great businessman.

This was a business deal for him. People came forward and asked him to help him put a program together, and he did it.

You know, I don't think it makes me teammates with Hot Rod or Tommy Johnson. I've got to win a race for the U.S. Army.

All the other guys on my team, we're teammates, but we're not out there bumping and shoving them to the front. So when it comes down to them, if I have to race against them, he's just another guy in the car next to me that we have to battle against.

Q: Although probably know nobody knows as much about winning as you do, certainly more than most. One time you had to have a record to get to your championship. This one you had to get two points just by barely getting it. So my question is do the close ones, you know, do they feel different to you? Do they mean more to you? And does winning ever become routine for you?

TONY SCHUMACHER: You know, man, that's a good question. I like that it's routine. I mean, I wouldn't want to be routine stinking because there are guys out there that would routinely get beat. So we make extra effort to make sure that it is as routine as possible.

But the close ones are simply amazing. What we did last year, to be part of a team capable of that is just, there will be -- I'm not going to say there will never be a time where it is equaled, because I have lived some great moments in racing. Just each and every way we've won championships has been so special.

But those close ones, having to set the record against Kalitta, what a huge, massive, bone crushing pressure weight of the world moment, and we pulled it off.

Whether you pull them off or not, the key to that is leaving nothing on the table, nothing is left. If we didn't pull it on off, we could have said we did everything we could do. We left nothing on the table.

And the same thing in beating Hot Rod the next year. We went out and did what we had to do. And last year was amazing. When he smoked the tires, it was funny. I got beat by my teammate right after that. Five minutes after Dixon got beat, so did I. The pair behind them.

But the fact that I got to watch it unfold, I probably dropped my guard. At that point it was hard to focus on driving at all, you know. Game over. We did what we had to do. And I think fantastic, you know.

So if we win another one this year, if we win another one the year after that, I don't know. I do hope that they're close. Anymore, they're not going to be that far away. With the Countdown, it's going to be fairly close no matter what. With the amount of good cars out there, there are going to be no blowouts anymore.

So for my last few years racing, and whether it's two or ten, who knows. It's going to be close. It's going to be dig deep. And that's what you want to be known for. The guy that can rise when the occasion is absolutely mandatory. So I'm just glad I've got a team capable of doing their part. We're all good together.

Q: I promise not to ask you another Danica question again this year. But if you could comment on what you think of her chances and how you think she's doing? And what kind of special challenges does very have that you think that you could describe and maybe have a little bit of insight on it that a lot of other people wouldn't?

ASHLEY FORCE HOOD: Well, I don't know exactly what her plans are for this season. There are all kinds of rumors going around. But I think she just needs to do her thing. A lot of people have asked me about her. I've met her a couple of times. She was real nice. Came over, introduced herself.

I don't know that much about the Motorsports that she's involved in. I kind of am just an NHRA girl, and I always have been.

But as a fellow female racing, I think, you know, the best thing she can do is just do what she wants to do and not let other people's opinions and thoughts get in the way. It seems like she's able to do that very competent in doing that.

I think it is going to take time. Especially if you jump into a new type of car or Motorsport, you're not going to just get it in one day. That is been the fortunate part in my upbringing in this, that was clear from day one.

I never felt that pressure. Oh, you've got to go out and win it all and do everything. It was made very clear to me this was not going to be easy, and there was going to be a learning curve. It has to be there. That is the only way to learn to drive these cars. You're going to hit walls, and hit cones and things are going to happen, and you're going to make mistakes. But you can learn from those. That's the only way to learn.

I've had some really great teachers. My father has won, you know, many, many championships (14) and races (126). Yet, he can try to explain to me for days at a time, and sometimes those speeches go on for days at a time... But the experience that I get on my own in that car teaches me a hundred times more.

So I'm sure she'll go through some ups and downs. But I think it's easy for people watching to give their opinions and maybe be a little tough on her if she does have any bumps or tough times. But they've got to remember, you have to start somewhere. You have to learn. It's not going to be a flawless performance. You're going to make mistakes.

If you can take that with a grain of salt and say these mistakes are carving me out to be a better driver and you're willing to take that and not have a problem with it, then you'll become a better driver some day.

So, I don't know her that well, but I always root for the girls, because it's not an easy thing. These cars are very challenging to drive. Just like for the men, it's no different. You know, we all face the same challenges, and some people have different ones. I know for me it's always the reaction time that's been a battle that I've dealt with. And for other people that's nothing that they even think twice about.

But we all have our own things that we work on to become better drivers. When all those things come together, that's when you start winning. That's when you get championships. So I think she'll be just fine if she does decide to jump over. I don't know, they were talking about NASCAR or whatever she decides to do.

She needs to not let the opinions that I'm sure are all around her get to her. I've always had a nice protective bubble around me with my father and our team. So I've had probably an easier path than maybe she's gone through. But I've had a lot of support within the NHRA, even my own competitors.

I have people I compete with, (Tim) Wilkerson, (Tony) Pedregon. They come over. If you need help, if you need to talk to someone else other than your dad or you need another opinion, and that's pretty cool. I don't think it's like that in all different types of Motorsports.

But I'm proud in this Motorsport (NHRA), we are competitors on the track, but we appreciate that these cars are not easy to do. We're all in the same boat.

Q: I understand your teammate Antron Brown is on a cruise right now getting rested for the season. What is your working relationship with him? Do you guys share information, or is it every man for himself? He's going to be a contender for the title, I'm sure you see that, right?

TONY SCHUMACHER: Oh, for sure. No doubt. We talk all the time. We talk about everything from the seat location to the pedal location, so what we look at down the track, everything.

When he was driving the U.S. Army bike and wanted to go to Top Fuel, we talked about it before he even made the move.

He's a genuinely good guy. He's a good competitor. When you beat him, you feel good. Beating a guy that's really good at what he does is what it's all about.

I think there is nothing held back there. There is no reason in the world that I will not teach him or he will not teach me whatever he learns or I learn to move forward and be better as a driver. We just always have.

-source: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , Cory McClenathan , Cory Mac , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , Mark Martin