Indy ORP: NHRA press conference 2008-08-27, part 2

Continued from part 1 TIM WILKERSON THE MODERATOR: Coming into this race, the entire Funny Car class for the Countdown to One has been decided. All ten teams are already in place, and one of the drivers who will be running starting with...

Continued from part 1


THE MODERATOR: Coming into this race, the entire Funny Car class for the Countdown to One has been decided. All ten teams are already in place, and one of the drivers who will be running starting with our next race and trying to go the distance, won his first POWERade championship, is with us right now, he drives the Levi, Ray and Shoup Chevrolet. He is your POWERade points leader, Tim Wilkerson.

First of all, I know you like to put it in its proper perspective. We'd like to congratulate your son, who went to a Lucas Oil division race this past weekend, speaking of all the folks from Lucas Oil, went the distance and won the race.

TIM WILKERSON: Yeah, it was a pretty good weekend for my boy Daniel. They went down there and took it home like they knew what they were doing.

THE MODERATOR: You had a great race car all season long. That big points lead that you've built up will be 30 points after this weekend, but you feel pretty confident that you can stave them all off and win that first championship?

TIM WILKERSON: Well, I think we have a pretty good car, there's no doubt about that. My guys are doing a terrific job. The folks from Mac Tools have been behind us all year. That's been a great result to our success, no doubt about it. Dealing with Don Prudhomme all year long, that has certainly helped my team and helped all of our progress based on using his equipment, so I want to make sure to thank him and the folks from U.S. Smokeless, thank you very much for that. That really went a long way to making my car good.

I think we have No. 1 locked up, unless I oil the track nine runs in a row, which I don't plan on doing. I've got a hold of my guys, and I said, this is going to be a fun weekend for us. There's no pressure here, let's go in and see if we can win a little bit of money.

THE MODERATOR: You've got a chance to win a lot of money with the U.S. Smokeless Showdown on Sunday and then the race on Monday. How do you keep focused on the job at hand?

TIM WILKERSON: Well, I really don't get too excited about all that stuff. You know me pretty well. Every run is the only one that we're concerned about, and we don't care who we race. Every car in the Smokeless Showdown is a great car.

I mean, both the Force cars, they get to race each other first round which is really good for a guy like me. I need to concentrate on winning the rounds and whatever comes, comes. Hopefully we make it to Monday where we're qualified and we can go on from there.

We've qualified for every race this year, and that was one of my first goals at the beginning of the year. I talked to some PR people in Pomona, and they asked me a goal, and I said, I want to qualify for every race, and they looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. If you look real close, through the years, especially last year, it was tough to do that. I think if I can qualify my car first and then whatever happens, happens, like Larry said. We're a tough car.

THE MODERATOR: Tim has won this race before, and it's always interesting when you meet up with Ashley Force down there, because you've got some family members that are torn between who to cheer for when you guys race.

TIM WILKERSON: Well, unfortunately I'm pretty sure that they're cheering for Ashley, and I really don't blame them because she's more than a class act. I've said that before and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, that she's great for drag racing and she's great for us, great competitor, and I think John has done well there. I think that was Lori's fault. I don't think John had a lot to do with it, as cute and as cool as she is.

But anyway, that's a great group over there and it's going to be a tough rest of the year. We need to get by the Forces and the Pedregons and a couple Schumacher cars and maybe at the end of the year we can hold the trophy and it would be great.


THE MODERATOR: I pretty much echo everything that he said about our next driver that I'm going to introduce, and I'm also pretty sure that John may have had a lot to do with the cool, but I believe mom may have had to do with the cute for this next driver. It's also the first time I've done a press conference and used the word "cute" before introducing a Funny Car driver. Ladies and gentlemen, Ashley Force driving the Castrol GTX Ford.

Ashley, coming into this race, she'll be the No. 1 qualifier in the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. She does get a chance to race her dad. She also has been part of the victory circle here, won your very first race here, the Alcohol Dragster class here a couple years ago on the same weekend when one of your dad's cars doubled up, won the showdown and won on Sunday. With a great race car like you have right now, coming in knowing you're going to be in the Top 10, any pressure on you, or can this just be a fun weekend?

ASHLEY FORCE: Well, really, our team, we do well when we're just consistent and we don't get too excited about everything. It seems like it distracts us. We're just going to go out there, we know we have a good car, we know we have a good combination. If we can keep doing what we're doing, we'll have a good chance of winning.

But we're excited more than anything to even be a part of everything. The competition is so great in Funny Car especially that we get a chance to play with the big boys, it's pretty exciting. So we're going to do our best out there this weekend. But Indy is a fun place. I've come here probably almost every year of my life, and it's just fun to be a part of. My family will be here, my younger sisters are going to be racing in A-Fuel against each other this weekend, so I'm pretty pumped about that. I'm just very excited.

THE MODERATOR: Both of her sisters, Brittany and Courtney, will be running in another one of our Lucas Oil classes, the Top Alcohol Dragster class. It's going to be interesting; you came in here obviously very highly touted, a lot of pressure coming on as the daughter of John Force, but I think especially over the last year you've really established your own identity, and that's got to be a good thing for you.

ASHLEY FORCE: It has. The fans have been real supportive and real great, and I think they're proud to see that women can do this, as well, especially the young girls that come up to the ropes. I think I have a lot of dad's fans children at my ropes, so that makes it kind of special. It shows just what a mixture of personalities and ages and genders in the Funny Car category, especially that it's nice that we're able to have that in NHRA drag racing and I'm able to race with the guys and it's not an issue whether I'm a girl, whether I'm John's daughter. I'm a competitor, I'm a driver, and I'm fortunate that I come at a time when we can say that.

THE MODERATOR: And I think you might also have some of your dad's grandchildren's fans over there. That's how long he's been out there racing.

ASHLEY FORCE: Yeah, maybe.

THE MODERATOR: I just mean he's been around a long while.

Have some fun, especially that first round on Sunday, Round One of the U.S. Smokeless Showdown, 100 grand to the winner. You get to run your dad in the first round. Not a lot of people have beaten him in Round One in that event.

ASHLEY FORCE: I know that. I was a kid watching him when he doubled up and it was the Big Bucks Shootout years ago. A lot of people have brought that up, are you bummed that you have to race him? And really we're excited. Up until last weekend he wasn't even going to get to race in that race, so that he made that spot, we knew he'd probably be either running me or Robert, and he drew me, so we'll have some fun out there.

We know one of the Force cars is going to the semis and hopefully one of the Force teams will get into the winner's circle.


THE MODERATOR: Our next driver is going to come up and he's had as much success here at this racetrack and almost anyplace else, won it four different times, but he is the consummate professional in our sport, 126 national events, 14 POWERade championships, like I said, four wins here, and huge success at the U.S. Smokeless Showdown. Ladies and gentlemen, John Force.

It used to be that we introduced drivers after you and you were a tough act to follow, but your kid is a tough act to follow.

JOHN FORCE: I know, Bob. I heard all the insults. I used to be The Champ. I fought for years just to be like Don Prudhomme, they finally called me The Champ, and now I'm just Ashley's Dad everywhere I go.

THE MODERATOR: I remember the very first race that she ran, you went out and promoted and you signed the hat that I gave her in the winner's circle, Ashley's Dad. You should have known what was coming.

JOHN FORCE: Well, you know, she's really evolved as a driver. She grew up, Shirley Muldowney was her hero and just all the excitement of can a woman do this in this sport, and again, she's showing that she can. She represents Mac Tools, everybody, and coming into this operation, she drives for Castrol, so many people, Ford, but at the end of the day she really loves what she does and she's having a lot of fun.

We've got a big shop in Brownsburg now, we're Indiana, too, we're rooting for the Colts. But at the end of the day we work on safety working with NHRA and Ford Motor Company and Murf McKinney to build cars that are safe because we want our children in the future, Lucas and Bernstein and all the young ones to help -- Wilkerson is young to me. I'm waiting for him to fall off the planet. I'm trying to explain to Ford why I've got four Funny Cars and I can't whip this guy, and now his kid shows up.

The neatest highlights of my career was standing -- you have highs. We were at the end of Norwalk in the final at a match race there, and I was out, Wilkerson was out, and it was Ashley and his son, and we both found ourselves not praying for who would win but praying for the kids to get out at the other end and be safe. It's really quite a trip to be part of it.

Coming here to Indy I'm excited, and I just want to put on a race, and I'm just glad to be coming here to Indy walking. That's quite a deal just for me.

THE MODERATOR: You gave up two races in the Run For the Countdown of the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Showdown when you were out there for that Dallas thing. Going into the last race, I mean, you needed all the stars and planets to align perfectly just to have a chance to continue your streak of being in that thing for 24 consecutive years, and it worked out right. In your wildest dreams did you think you'd be racing for that 100 grand on Sunday?

JOHN FORCE: No, I was in bad shape over the winter, but you just work and do what you do, do what you love. In the name of Eric Medlen that's what it was all about, and so many people involved to build a program to build better race cars, and there was expense to a lot of the teams. All of us had to scrap our cars by Denver.

But at the end of the day we all felt like we did something right. And me, I just wanted to come back and play the game, whether I stunk or not. I just wanted to get in the car, especially with Ashley and her sisters. You go back to when I won the Shootout, and I did this whole deal with winning Indy, and her mom says, "You're out there parading, put Ashley on your shoulders." I put her up on my shoulders, and her ice cream cone fell right in the middle of my hair. I was like, my big day here and my kid is ruining it.

But then you realize what's most important, it's your children. Yeah, I got her in the first round and she's going to be driving a AAA of Southern California Rookie of the Year car, and it's all pink. It's for the women, but Girl, move over, your old man is coming out swinging and you're going out, trust me.

THE MODERATOR: You think a little ice cream in your hair is bad, wait until she puts you on the trailer in Round One.

JOHN FORCE: At the end of the day, if she does, I'll be just as proud. The one thing, I spent -- if you look at the category of Funny Car today and all the categories, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and the bikes, but if you look at Funny Car, it's the toughest that I've seen it. I worked just to beat Don Prudhomme and Bernstein and Tom the Mongoose McEwen, and then Prudhomme went to Top Fuel and left me there, but I've never seen a field as tough with the Pedregons, with the Worshams, with the Capps, with the Schumacher teams and Wilkerson leading the way just killing us. You know, I've never seen it so tough since I left Prudhomme.

I was talking with Prudhomme last night at the shop, and he has teamed up here with Wilkerson and they're doing a heck of a job. What I said to Ashley, just being a part of this era of race cars and that a female, however you got to that lead in the Shootout, I don't have a clue, but you did, and you ought to just be honored to be there with them, whether you get spanked or not. But she said, "Dad, I ain't getting spanked or I'm going down swinging."

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank everybody for coming out.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , John Force , Don Prudhomme , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Eric Medlen