This Week in Ford Racing: Ashley Force Hood and Bob Tasca III September 15, 2009 Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, and Bob Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car, are the...
This Week in Ford Racing: Ashley Force Hood and Bob Tasca III
September 15, 2009
Ashley Force Hood, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, and Bob Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car, are the two top Ford Racing drivers heading into 2009 NHRA Countdown to 1. They are third and fourth respectively in the point standings following the first 18 races of the season and both drivers have won twice this year.
AS THIS COUNTDOWN STARTS WITH A TORRID PACE, FOUR RACES BACK-TO-BACK, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS ON WHICH YOU NEED TO FOCUS?
BOB TASCA III - Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang - "I don't know about you, Ashley, but being a new driver, I kind of like the back-to-back. I think the more seat time we get, the more comfortable I get in the car. So being one of the new people on the circuit, the four in row, I really am looking forward to it. It's going to be an action-packed four races, and then we have a little bit of break and catch the last two."
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - Castrol GTX Ford Mustang - "I definitely agree that it seems like you kind of get on a roll, and it's nice to kind of go back-to- back. It seems like everyone gets into their routine and gets going, it almost kind of interrupts that pace when you have a weekend off or a break in between races. I think if you go over four that is a little much for everybody, so I think after the four, all of the teams, the crew and drivers and everybody, will be ready for a little bit of a break just to get re-energized for those final two. As a whole we're excited to have a chunk of them together because it seems like your momentum gets going on a good roll."
ASHLEY, BEING THE ONLY FORCE DRIVER TO WIN THIS YEAR AND COMING OFF OF YOUR U.S. NATIONALS WIN, HOW WIDE OPEN DO YOU SEE YOUR CHANCES NOW? HAVE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS KIND OF SUNK IN YET?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I don't think it's actually sunk in at all yet. It was one of those crazy and wild weeks, which most drag races are. It usually does take a few days, especially for it to be Indy. I know when I won in my A-Fuel dragster in 2004 it took a long time for it to really sink in. I didn't really realize at the time what a big moment that was. I think it will take a little bit of time to really be able to stop and look back and enjoy it and realize what a great day we had. The Funny Car class is so exciting right now, it's very close. Any one of these people in the top 10 are very likely to be able to win the championship, and so it's stressful to be in the middle of that, especially when you're a newer driver, this is only my third season. It's also very exciting and a great show. The fans are going to be following us to the very end, and I'm sure it will be down to the last couple of rounds in Pomona, but I think if we can just keep doing what we're doing, that's obviously worked for us. We've had a really great season so far. We need to make sure our minds don't get caught up in the Countdown because a race car does not know whether it's a qualifying run, a test run, or a final round at Indy. It just does its thing. If we can keep our minds set on that, and if I can just try to do my best each round and get the car down the track, and my team can prepare the car the best they can, then we give ourselves a better chance of succeeding. I'm really excited. I think it's going to come right down to the end, but I do think we have a great car this year that we could be right in that mix."
FOR BOB: WITH ALL OF THESE MUSTANGS IN THE MIX, HOW CAN YOU BREAK FROM THE PACK OF FORDS, AND THEN BREAK FROM THE OTHER CARS?
BOB TASCA - "I don't think it's about breaking away from the pack of Fords, it's just about doing what we've done all year, and that's putting ourselves in a position to win. As Ashley alluded to, the competition is just incredible. All 10 cars, even all 16 cars are capable of winning any given Sunday. I think in racing you don't want to try too hard. You just want to do what we've been doing all year, putting ourselves in a position to win on Sunday and then when the opportunity presents itself, as you start to go rounds, wins don't come around often. As you tend to go rounds in this Ford, you really want to sieze those moments. Fortunately for us, we did that in Gainesville, we did that in Reading, put ourselves in the finals at Norwalk, so we took advantage of those opportunities when we needed to and that's why we're number four in the points. The next four races will be very exciting. I do agree with Ashley, I think it will go right down to Pomona for the championship in our class, and as much as I am a driver, I'm a fan of this sport, and it's really going to be an exciting six races."
BOB, YOUR GRANDFATHER HAS A LONG HISTORY WITH FORD RACING. HE WAS VERY INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING A FORD INTO DRAG RACING MANY YEARS AGO. WHAT HAS YOUR SUCCESS THIS YEAR MEANT TO HIM?
BOB TASCA - "It's been amazing. He's so proud of what we've done. Looking back not even two years ago, to think that Ford would be the official car of NHRA, and what we've brought with Motorcraft and Quick Lane to the equation, and our activation plan, I think as successful as we've been on the race track, we've been equally successful off the race track. That goes back to his philosophy of Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday, and that's why we race. A lot of sponsors lose sight of why they race. Ford, Motorcraft, Quick Lane from day one, when we put this program together, had a very comprehensive activation plan to leverage what I call the 300 mile-per-hour billboard. I think my grandfather, as proud as he is of what we've done on the race track this year, I know he's just as proud of what we've done off the race track. To leverage the official car of NHRA for the remainder of this year and into next year, and really be the all-Ford car, and I've joked about being the all-Ford kid out there, but there really is no truer words spoken. I was born and raised in my family's business. I grew up within this operation and to be able to represent Ford on the race track and off the race track at a National level is really a dream come true for me."
WHAT DOES MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEAN TO YOU?
BOB TASCA - "In this sport, it's all about mental toughness, concentration. You have no margin for error. In a lot of motorsports you can have a bad lap, and in our sport you have four seconds to be absolutely perfect. Anything short of that will cost you the race. I know, just for me being in my second year, and Ashley, I'm sure can agree with this, you get more confidence, you have more seat time. It's been a big year for me as a driver to have that year under my belt, and obviously heading into the six biggest races of my career, that mental toughness is going to play a big role in how we do."
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I think, everybody, especially with the Countdown about to start in a couple of days, it's so easy to get caught up in it, and you want to do so well and you want to try so hard. I don't know how many times I've made comments to my crew chief, Guido. He's so good at seeing the whole picture and balancing all of that kind of stuff. He's been involved in racing for many years, and involved with our team for many years, and he always gives me the best advice. He says, 'Ashley, you're in that spot in the Countdown because of how you've done all season long, and obviously we've done something right as a team. Why try to change it and try harder and do this or that just because it's the Countdown? It's no different than any other event.' So, we've really tried to look at it that way going into this, and it's easier said than done because there is a pressure on everybody to do well, especially when you know every single round is going to count and be so important. With only six of us we want to start strong in the Countdown, we don't want to get behind because there might be one or two that might stumble, but I guarantee you not all 10 stumble. If you're not on your game from day one, you're probably not going to have a good shot at the Countdown. We've tried to look at it like that. We've obviously done something right up to here, so let's just continue to stay focused and keep doing that. I think that's mentally how we're going into the whole game."
YOU'RE BOTH RELATIVELY NEW TO THE WINNER'S CIRLCE. HAVE YOU NOTICED SOMETHING IN YOUR TEAM THAT WINNING WAS ON THE HORIZON? WAS IT ANY DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER TIME?
BOB TASCA - "For me, my team was a group that came from another team a few years ago and they've won many races. I think for me to win, was to prove to my guys that I could win, that I could deliver a trophy, because they all had trophies lying in their offices and obviously I didn't have any lined up in mine. I know the win for me in Gainesville was pretty satisfying when the guys said they were happy they got me my first win. I was happier to get them their first win on my team. It certainly is a big confidence booster. Then to pick up a second win and go to basically three final rounds and two wins for us this year. I think we have an attitude not that we can win this Countdown, but that we are a contender. I think we've proven that to this point of the season, and to Ashley's point, it's about one round at a time. I talked to my guys this morning. Our first objective is to qualify in Charlotte. That's how you have to break this thing down. You have to qualify, and obviously you have to put yourself in the position to win on Sunday and not to try to over think it, and not try too hard. We just have to approach it like it was any other race."
ASHLEY, YOU HAVE THE MOST WINS THIS SEASON FOR YOUR TEAM, ONE OF THE MOST STORIED TEAMS IN THE SPORT. DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD BE WHERE YOU ARE AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I have been asked that a lot and it's funny because I probably need to work on the confidence end of things. My crew chief always yells at me about it, because I am surprised because we are only three years into it. We've gone through a lot of ups and downs in those three years and we've really had a great season this year. It's all kind of come together. I know so many great teams that have struggled for so much longer than we have to get wins, to get number one qualifying spots. Even watching my own dad with his team and the struggles that they've had this year, and that's a team that has won a lot of championships. To see how our team has done, there are times where I stop and go, 'Man, I can't believe that we're in this position.' Then, when you look at the other end of things, we may be a newer team, but we have really good chemistry on our team. We all work really well together, and it all really fits into place. That's not an easy thing to do, to take 10 people throw them all on the road, living together, driving all across the country, leaving their families and expect us to work perfectly. Nothing has proven it more to me than just watching them this year. I always knew how important a team is, my dad has always made a point to remind people of that because its easy to give all the credit and kudos to the driver and to the crew chiefs, but the crew members I think they get overlooked. If they don't do their part perfectly how they need to do them, this car is not going to get very far. My guys are best buddies. They love having me around, of course, to pick on me, and I like to pick up gifts for their wives and their kids, and do the girl end of things in our camp. Even separate for me as driver, to watch my guys really in the trenches every week and across the country driving, they are buddies and I think that's just as important having the knowledge and the focus. You do need to enjoy each other because you are around each other a lot. When you take all of those different pieces and put them together, with the crew chiefs that do a really good job of being the leaders, but also having the team like them. My team wants to do well, not because they are scared of getting yelled at or getting in trouble, but they want to do well because they want my crew chiefs and our team to be proud of them. I think that totally changes how all of us do our job. This is not just my car, its not just John Force's team car, it's everyone on the team's car, from the guy who does the blower to the guy who does the clutch. They all have a personal part of themselves invested in this car, and I think that shows on the track. When you put all of those pieces together and it is that important for everyone, than it comes together on the track and you have a good running car."
EVEN THOUGH YOUR FATHER IS STILL RACING, ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE A PASSING OF THE TORCH IN RESPONSIBILITY BECAUSE OF HOW WELL YOU'RE DOING?
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I think now that I'm out racing on the road with him, he'll be racing longer because he really loves being a team owner, and he loves coaching us along and helping the next generation drivers, but he also loves his race car. He loves his Funny Car. I can't imagine him quitting. We always joke, what will the world be like when dad retires? Which nobody wants to imagine because that just means he's going to drive everyone more crazy than he does now. Someday, eventually that day will have to come, and I do think that just as much as he loves his team and everything, you can't take that out of him. He loves driving that race car down the track. It's beyond our imagination that he wouldn't be in one forever."
BOB, YOU HAVEN'T BEEN OUT DURING THE FIRST ROUND SINCE BRISTOL IN MAY. WHAT DOES THAT STRING OF CONSISTENCY MEAN FOR YOU, AND YOUR TEAM?
BOB TASCA - "I think I alluded to this in my earlier comment, its actually putting ourselves in a position to win. Nobody can guarantee a championship, no one can guarantee a win in this class, and it's so competitive. It's about being consistent, making your race car go up and down the race track the four qualifying sessions. We really try to be in the top five. At the end of the day, that's how we measure ourselves during Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday if you can be in the top five on Friday and Saturday, you put yourself in the position to give yourself a car that you're confident is going to go up and down the race track Sunday morning. Even if you qualify number one in this class, that doesn't mean you can out- run a guy by the name of Ron Capps, who may be number 16. There's no easy draw, but I do feel if you're consistent Friday and Saturday, you give yourself a better chance on Sunday, and we've certainly have done that for many races now. Obviously that only sets you up to go rounds Sunday, so I'm very proud of the guys for the race car they've given me. I know that as a driver, I can tell you it's invaluable to know that when you hit the gas that the car is going to go down that race track, and it's certainly made me a better driver this year."
CHARLOTTE IS A FAIRLY NEW TRACK. THIS WILL BE THE SECOND TIME NHRA HAS RACED THERE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TRACK, AND IS IT A GOOD PLACE TO START THE COUNTDOWN?
BOB TASCA - "Well, I'll kick it off. I can't wait to get to Charlotte. It's the grand opening of our new race shop, which we moved into in March, but it's the official opening. We have the unveiling of our Juvenile Diabetes car which is a promotion that we've done with the JDRF organization to raise money, and a big part of that promotion is to raise awareness, and that's where that program kicks in. We're going to unveil the car and run it at this race. What can you say, it's the mecca of racing, Charlotte, and it's a mecca of a track. Every time I go to the race shop I'm just amazed with the facility Bruton Smith has built out there. I'm really looking forward to it in a multitude of ways, to get to Charlotte and get the Countdown to 1 kicked off."
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I'm really excited to be going back. It's a really beautiful track, its really beautiful countryside. It's exciting to get to go to new spots in the country and really introduce a lot of new fans to drag racing and how exciting drag racing can be, especially with the four lanes. I hear they're going to be doing an exhibition round Sunday, hopefully Tasca and I won't be in exhibition because we'll be in the finals, but I think its just the perfect spot to kick it all off. Hopefully, the weather will stay nice for us and not get too hot and you'll see some great times and some close races. That will be a great way to start this Countdown."
BOB TASCA - "That will be pretty historic, the four lanes. I really want to be a spectator on that one. That will be something to see four fuel cars hit the gas at the same time. Hopefully we'll be enjoying it from the stands."
WHAT DOES HORSEPOWER MEAN TO YOU?
BOB TASCA - "Well, it meant real hot in Indy to me when we blew up. These cars are amazing. It's amazing what we ask them to do. I think you get a sense of the power. We had an explosion in Indy, and Ashley had one in Reading. It puts it into perspective how serious these machines are. They are full of horsepower, they are very violent, but, man, when they're happy they can do amazing things. I know that I take it very seriously. You've got to pay attention when you're driving these cars. It takes an awful lot of concentration and I think as a fan, watching this on TV doesn't do it justice. When you're in person, and you can feel the power and smell it, it puts it into perspective just how amazing these race cars can be."
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD - "I think watching, when you watch an event, we used to always laugh at dad when he would be out of breath after running one run. We would say, 'You were only working for five seconds, why are you out of breath?' Now, on the other end of things, to be a driver, it's really just showed the adrenaline and the horsepower, and the G that you're body is going through. It really wears your body out. You get out at the end and you're doing everything just to catch your breath. About every interview you see, every driver, unless they've had a little bit of downtime to get their breath back, they are out of breath. Its still amazing every pass I make I can't even believe it that these cars pull as hard as they do, especially down track when it's on a really good run, you can feel it. It's almost like getting the wind knocked out of you, you can't breath in or out, you're just kind of there in this car. It sure is exciting to be on the track in one of these."
BOB TASCA - "I tell people all the time the most amazing perspective for me is the finish line. I tell people all the time, that I drive them and I can't believe there is a human being in that car when two fuel cars come by going over 300 mph. It is unbelievable just how fast these cars accelerate, and I think that's certainly one of the things, the key things of our sport, that keep it so exciting."
-credit: ford racing