NHRA TRANSCRIPT WITH ASHLEY AND JOHN FORCE: ASHLEY TO DRIVE FUNNY CAR IN 2007 THE MODERATOR: It was announced earlier today during a press conference at John Force Racing headquarters that Ashley Force will turn pro this season and drive a Ford...
NHRA TRANSCRIPT WITH ASHLEY AND JOHN FORCE: ASHLEY TO DRIVE FUNNY CAR IN 2007
THE MODERATOR: It was announced earlier today during a press conference at John Force Racing headquarters that Ashley Force will turn pro this season and drive a Ford Mustang Funny Car for John Force Racing with sponsorship from Castrol, Auto Club of Southern California, Brand Source, Mac Tools and Mach 1 Air Services.
The crew chief of the new team will be Dean "Guido" Antonelli, long-time crew member for her father's team. A little background on Ashley. She's been racing in the sportsman ranks. Last April she earned her Funny Car license. Since then in testing she's posted performances of 4.809 seconds, 4.826 seconds at speeds over 320 miles an hour. Her first NHRA event victory came in Top Alcohol dragster at the 2004 U.S. Nationals (in Indianapolis).
She also won that year at Dallas, and also at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, where she shared the winner's circle with her father. It's the only father-daughter event winners n NHRA history. In three seasons in Top Alcohol dragster she won five times in nine final-round appearances, finishing fourth, seventh and fifth in national points during that time.
She'll be the 10th female to compete in a Funny Car in NHRA history. The last female to drive a Funny Car was Cristen Powell during the 2000 season. No female has ever won or qualified No. 1 in Funny Car.
The best race day effort for a female in Funny Car was accomplished by Della Woods in 1985 at Reading, Pa. She advanced to the semifinals of that race where she lost to Kenny Bernstein.
Ashley will join her father John, Eric Medlen and Robert Hight on the team that has claimed 15 NHRA world championship titles and 168 national event victories in NHRA competition since 1987. Ashley plans to test at Las Vegas this weekend, and Phoenix the following weekend before her official pro debut February 8, at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, where she will join her fellow Funny Car competitors as the 2007 NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship begins.
We'd like to welcome Ashley to the teleconference. A little later we'll have John Force on the call to answer some questions as well.
Q: Ashley, your thoughts about making the transition into a Funny Car and your goals for the season.
ASHLEY FORCE: I'm very excited. Today's a big day for John Force Racing. We've been training. I've been racing. I'm starting my sixth year competing in NHRA drag racing. I did two years in Super Comp, three years in A-Fuel dragsters with Darien & Meadows, and finally getting to jump up with my Dad and our other two drivers in the Funny Cars. I'm very excited.
Q: When did you first want to drive a Funny Car?
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, I grew up watching the Funny Cars. That was my favorite category, I'm sure because my Dad competed in it. But they've always been my favorite car to watch and root for. It probably didn't occur to me I could actually have a career in it until I was actually able to drive a normal car at 16 years old. I don't think most kids can think past the next week playing at school.
But when I turned 16 and I got licensed to drive a normal car, that's when I got to go to the racing school. That was the first time that I actually thought, you know, I could do this, I could compete, and that could be my career. I could actually have a job in something I love doing on the side. And then obviously I naturally thought, Well, the category I would want to end up in would be Funny Car.
So around 16 was when I was first thinking of it.
Q: Are you looking forward to the first time you pair up with your dad in eliminations?
ASHLEY FORCE: I can't wait to run next to Dad and his team. I'm very excited. They taught me, he did, his crew chief, Austin (Coil) and Bernie (Fedderly), and their team is who I mainly tested with. All of our teams, but they were the head team I ran with. They taught me everything in this Funny Car. Now to be in the lane next to them with Guido as my crew chief, it'll be exciting. And the fans, they'll love it, because there's never been any father-daughter teams competing against each other.
The big question we're all asking is which side my mom is going to stand on at the track.
Q: Do you think it's a safe bet it will be on your side of the track?
ASHLEY FORCE: I don't know. It better be (laughter). Either way, she can stand in the middle.
Q: With all the interest with "Driving Force" last year, with your dad being your dad, does that put any extra pressure on you to step up now? Did you think at all maybe you should put it off a year? Is the timing right?
ASHLEY FORCE: No, we talked a lot about it. We decided that the timing was right. The time in our company. I've tested for two years. I've competed already for five years. This is the time in my life to make the move.
Doing the show last year really prepared me, if anything, for this year because it brought a lot of media attention. I did more interviews and more photo shoots, got more attention with fans at the ropes last year than any other year of racing, which was hectic and crazy at times, but it's really prepared me for moving into the pro categories this year.
Q: Are you going to be doing the show again this next season?
ASHLEY FORCE: Yes, we will.
Q: The decision (to turn pro) was almost a foregone conclusion. Most people had suspected this was going to happen. How difficult was it for you to make the decision, because it is a big leap from where you were to the Funny Car?
ASHLEY FORCE: As far as from a driving standpoint, I gradually moved up through the ranks. There was no other category I could have prepared in. The next step up was either pro dragster or pro Funny Car. I went slowly through the process. I experienced many different sensations in the car last year, tire shake, pedaling it, getting sideways, dropping cylinders, catching fire, setting fire bottles off on accident.
I went through a lot of that in testing, getting all the kinks out because your car will not always go A-to-B. That's the easy part of it.
This is kind of the next step. My crew chief, Dean Antonelli, he came from Dad's team. Watching Dad run all these years, watching me now get into it, he felt that he was comfortable having me move up. My Dad felt I was ready. I was ready to make the move. All the puzzle pieces fit together and we decided to make the jump.
Q: Now that the die is cast, what are your expectations for your first year?
ASHLEY FORCE: I know it will be a learning curve, but thankfully I did all those other years in racing. I don't need to learn how to do a burnout or how to stage, how to do any of the basics. I did that in A/Fuel and Super Comp. I can really focus on the differences moving from the A/Fuel dragster to the Funny Car as far as how it steers and feels.
I totally forgot what the question was (laughter).
Q: What are your goals for 2007?
ASHLEY FORCE: I have a great team. We have great sponsors that are very supportive of us. We have all the right parts, everything here. We're getting our trailers loaded now to head on to Vegas tomorrow to test. I just hope that I can learn from the mistakes I make and go out there and be a good driver for my team because they work so hard. We have a new group of young guys this year coming on the road with me. I think it will be a good year for us. If we can go around, get qualified, maybe beat up on Dad one or two times, but really go out there and have fun.
I think you do better if you don't get too caught up in the nervousness and expectations, really just try to go out there and have fun because we do have one of the funnest jobs I think in the world.
Q: With the team you have behind you, you're poised to break new ground for women in Funny Car.
ASHLEY FORCE: It will be exciting. We're excited for it.
Q: You talked a little bit about why you chose the Funny Car. A lot of fans are going to be interested in why you did choose Funny Car over Top Fuel dragster. And how much testing have you done in a Funny Car? Do you feel pretty comfortable in one?
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, answering your question about choosing the Funny Car, I grew up rooting for the Funny Cars. Since I was born, I was raised around them. Actually, I'd looked -- we have (the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League), NHRA offers that for kids seven to 16 or 17. I waited and waited for a junior Funny Car. They weren't safe enough so they stuck with the junior dragsters. I never jumped into that.
Then it came to the point where I wanted to start competing. I hopped in Super Comp. I always felt kind of like a traitor. I was over in the dragsters with my Dad and our teams were in the Funny Car pits. It's exciting to come full circle and be back with the Funny Car guys. That's where I was raised. That's what I know.
I think it's a real exciting category. The cars have such personality, to watch them go down the track, not always perfectly straight either, but that's the exciting part about it. The header flames, the bodies, how the cars look, and how they are struggling sometimes to get down there straight. That's what makes it so exciting to watch.
As far as testing with the car, we've run a little over a year and a half testing in the Funny Car. I didn't get licensed until last April. That's when I started making full passes. I've had a good eight, nine months -- seven or eight months of making full runs in the Funny Car.
Q: We talked about some of the things you wanted to do before you got into a real race at a national event. The two things were run with somebody in the other lane and run at night. Have you managed to do that yet?
ASHLEY FORCE: That is on the agenda for this weekend actually. No, I made a pass against Eric. Other than that, that will be new in the Funny Car. The good thing is I did it in the dragster. I have run at night, have run against plenty of people. It's really the sensation of running under the body of a car that will be the bigger difference for me.
Q: Who is more nervous, you or John?
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, we kept dad away from the coffee today, so he's pretty calm. I think dad is more nervous. I'm kind of fine going into it. I'm new at this, I don't know what to expect, and he's been through everything. He knows a little more what I'm going to go through. I'm not quite sure of it yet. Maybe that's better.
Continued in part 2