Continued from part 1 Q: Your sisters (Brittany and Courtney) are around. What do they say about your moving up, and them not following? Who will they cheer for? ASHLEY FORCE: My sisters are very excited to have me jumping in the Funny Car...
Continued from part 1
Q: Your sisters (Brittany and Courtney) are around. What do they say about your moving up, and them not following? Who will they cheer for?
ASHLEY FORCE: My sisters are very excited to have me jumping in the Funny Car because they grew up around the Funny Cars, too. They loved watching Dad and rooting for Eric and Robert. They're excited because they understand. They're drivers, too. They race Super Comp. They see the hardships, struggles, ups and downs. They kind of understand that with me. They're starting that. I'm going through that at this time.
They're very excited. I think it will be a good year for our family to have Dad and I in the same category, on the same schedule. It will be a little easier. Last year I was all over the country doing divisionals, at a lot of races when Dad was in other states in nationals. This year we're all together. We can compete with each other. I think it will be a good time for our family.
Q: Are your sisters looking to move up in years to come?
ASHLEY FORCE: They are. They're just doing Super Comp part-time because they're both in college. That's a struggle, with qualification and elimination time on Thursdays. They have to be in school. They've grown up with it and they're addicted to it just like me. It took me a few years in Super Comp before even I thought to run up to A/Fuel. It wasn't until I ran the A/Fuel cars that I got really hooked.
I told them, Super Comp is a tough category. You only go a few rounds. It's extremely hard to win because there's so many cars out there. In A/Fuel, it's a little different world. It's a lot more like what we're used to in watching Dad.
I hope one or both of them will kind of follow up and maybe move into the Darien & Meadows dragster. It's too soon to tell right now. They need the time now to just learn the basics of driving, just like I did.
Q: What is it like driving for a team owner who is also your father? He is a guy that has brought attention to drag racing. A couple years ago there were more Funny Cars because everybody wants to beat him. What is it like to live with him, know everybody is shooting at him, and now his daughter is also taking a shot?
ASHLEY FORCE: He trained me. It's his own fault now I'm coming after him. He knows every aspect of the business, where the rest of us are just drivers. He runs the business, makes all the decisions. He's got a lot more on his plate than any of us. We get to strap in the car and have fun. He's been my teacher the whole way. I think it will be exciting to have the two of us competing with each other. It's not about beating Dad or beating Eric or Robert. It's about any of us beating everyone else, getting one of the John Force Racing cars into the winner's circle.
Q: When you're doing the television show, do you find yourself trying to dumb down or portray the sport in terms that people will understand or how you feel people will understand it better in the general public?
ASHLEY FORCE: The fans that understand racing, they watch ESPN-2, it has the best coverage of our races. Our "Driving Force" reality show, it was really to catch the main-stream audiences that don't know about drag racing. It can be a confusing, crazy sport to catch on to. We wanted to show not only the basics of racing, but really a family in racing, what we go through just on a day-to-day basis. We live normal lives half the time, and half the time we're going 300 miles an hour.
It wasn't trying to put a negative spin at all on drag racing, just to cut down to the basics so people will understand and want to get more involved in it and get hooked on it like we are.
Q: I was curious if that was something you discussed as a group, how we're going to portray this to somebody who doesn't know anything about the sport or has very minimal information regarding the sport.
ASHLEY FORCE: As they filmed, they really wanted to just capture a reality show, what we do day-to-day. It wasn't us trying to explain anything or change anything. They would take what they would film of us in our weekends on the road, our weekends at home, they would put it together in a way people would understand.
They're starting to film today. They were here filming the press conference. They really want to show what we do, our day-to-day lives that we travel on the road, that we compete, have ups and downs, hard times, fun times. But that's all a part of it. In the end, we're a family who is just hooked on drag racing.
Q: Regarding your dad tutoring you. Knowing you would progress more than likely to a Funny Car, why wasn't there that opportunity for you to drive in the alcohol Funny Car class? Since you've been in the Funny Car, and learning the process of driving one of those, what are the biggest tips your dad has given you as far as handling the car differently from the A/Fuel dragster?
ASHLEY FORCE: When I was moving up in the ranks, I made the move to A/Fuel dragster. We looked at alcohol Funny Car, what category I wanted to make the move into, and it was really more about in that category: There's alcohol Funny Car and then there's alcohol dragster and A/Fuel dragster. The perfect scenario would have been A/Fuel-Funny Car, but there's just not that category.
I can learn to drive a Funny Car under the body, but what I do as a driver will be completely different than when I move up to Funny Car. The alcohol Funny Car that I ran, they bring up the motor when they're staging. They shift going down the track. Completely different routine than Dad's. Or I can learn in a dragster, which is going to be different than under a body, but my routine will be identical to when I move up to Funny Car.
On top of that, the Darien & Meadows seat opened. It was the perfect. I thought 'Here we go. We have a perfect learning car I can jump into.' I talked to other drivers that moved up. Dad is good friends with Scelzi. Morgan Lucas I'm good friends with. That seat opened. That was kind of like, 'Here's our chance.' We made the jump.
It really was the best for me. My routine is almost identical now that I've jumped into the Funny Car. Really the only changes I'm learning is how I steer it, what I see out of the windshield of the car.
The second part of the question about, oh, learning with Dad on the Funny Car. Probably the biggest question I had for him, and that's because a lot of people asked me, was, Well, there's no girls in Funny Car right now. Are you strong enough to handle a Funny Car? I had that concern, too. I talked to Dad. He told me, 'It's not about strength. It's about how quick you can react to the car. If your car gets completely out of the groove, you could be a muscle man and you're going to have a hard time getting it back in. If you can catch it before then, you can steer it just as good as any guy.'
In the last year and a half, he's right. If I'm on my game and doing and reacting to the car like I should be, a woman can drive it just as well as a man can. That was probably the biggest issue that I was concerned with. I was thinking I need to go start weight lifting, go down that path. It wasn't about that, it was more about reacting to the car.
Q: With you being a rookie this year, you're going to be needing as much seat time a possible. I assume you're going to be testing a lot of Monday mornings after the national events.
ASHLEY FORCE: Yes.
Q: Have you given any thought to running match races or running competing sanctioning body or Spokane, Wash., any special meets?
ASHLEY FORCE: That's something that our team all gets together and they kind of meet and decide. I'm not sure. I think we're planning to run the main circuit, the NHRA POWERade circuit, and then any Mondays that we can stay after and test. That's not just because I'm a rookie, that's just what our team likes to do: Test new things, get more practice for the crew guys and the drivers. I'm sure that we'll be staying all the Mondays that we're able to.
Q: No thought for match racing at all?
ASHLEY FORCE: Not that I know of. I haven't heard that, no.
Q: Not taking anything away from your father, because I'm sure he's the most awesome coach, leader, won the hearts of thousands if not millions, but is there a woman or woman racer that you look up to or consider a mentor?
ASHLEY FORCE: I always rooted for all the gals in every different category. Of course, Shirley Muldowney. She's a good friend of my dad's. I met her a handful of times. She let me sit in her car at one of the events when she was racing. She's talked to me a lot about it. I've seen movies on her, read books about the things she went through. It was a whole different world when she started. She paved the way. I couldn't imagine.
Right now I go to all the races, all my competitors and other racers are excited to have me out there, excited to have women in the other lane. I can't imagine it not being that way. I'm very lucky to come in at a time where it's not only accepted, but people are happy about it.
That wasn't the case back when she started. So definitely, of course, Shirley.
Other gals, just women I've met through racing. Hillary Will and I raced together in A/Fuel. I was excited to see her move up. Melanie Troxel. She actually went with me when I first went to the Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School and got my Super Comp license. She came along with me, kind of helped me through it because she ran Super Comp when she was younger.
Those are all the gals. There's just gals I've met. There's not many of us up in the A/Fuel and alcohol ranks, in the pro ranks. You got to root for them because they're the gals and they're beating up on the boys.
Q: As the daughter of a famous racer, do you feel like you're going to have any influence over other daughters of famous racers? I'm not trying to compare NASCAR to NHRA, but looking at famous racers in other avenues, it doesn't appear their daughters are encouraged or even interested in following in their father's footsteps. Apparently from your point of view, it was expected. I think it's fantastic.
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, the fortunate thing about drag racing is NHRA provides a lot of different categories. You don't have -- if you want to race drag racing, you don't have to be in a pro category with a huge sponsorship to get to race. You can race Comp, you can race Super Comp, junior dragsters. There's all different categories you can get into.
That's where you see a lot of the people and girls first jump into the cars because you can start small and race on the weekends with your family and still go back to your normal job during the week. Those are the ones that move up the ranks that end up in the pro classes. I think that's why you see a lot of gals in our type racing than in other motorsports.
Q: Can you compare the challenge of learning to the challenge of moving up to this class?
ASHLEY FORCE: Well, the good thing is I've already been through competition in the other categories. I've been up against people before. I've lost to people. I've gone through all that. Now I'll just be doing it in a Funny Car. In learning, you're expected to make mistakes. You're kind of taking it a little slower.
We gradually went through the process of getting me licensed. Now when I jump into competition, you can't make mistakes any more. You have a team that's working really hard in between rounds to get your car together. For you to go out and make a dumb mistake, it ruins the whole weekend. You'll have another weekend to race again. I think it just puts a little more that pressure and nervousness that any racer feels on race day will be true here, too, in Funny Car.
Continued in part 3