Continued from part 2 Q: I'm in Daytona for the NASCAR pre-season practice. I can assure you NASCAR has a diversity program. They would really like to have the situation of what you are bringing to NHRA. Could you make a comment on that, being...
Continued from part 2
Q: I'm in Daytona for the NASCAR pre-season practice. I can assure you NASCAR has a diversity program. They would really like to have the situation of what you are bringing to NHRA. Could you make a comment on that, being a female driver, coming into the top ranks.
ASHLEY FORCE: I'm excited to join the Funny Car class because I was raised with this group of people, with my dad, rooting on all the drivers. To be a gal in it, there's not any women right now in Funny Car. There are women in every other different pro category. That's probably one of the most exciting things that I'm looking at coming in.
There are girls in Top Fuel dragster, in Pro Stock and in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Now we finally kind of finished off the package. I'll be a girl in Funny Car. Maybe we can get out there and have a race that is all women winners in the pro categories. That would be pretty awesome.
Q: When you get out of a car that ran a 4.80, are you physically more tired than you were in a longer dragster?
ASHLEY FORCE: Climbing out, I'm learning, is a little more difficult for me. I think it's just 'cause it's a different car. But you are out of breath. I always wondered that when I was younger and I watched on TV. The drivers would get out, and they'd be out of breath. I'm like, What are they so out of breath for? They weren't running a marathon.
Now being a driver, I don't know if you hold your breath or it's just the adrenaline of it. You are out of breath when you climb out of that car at the end of the track. I think it's more just how pumped up you get going down the track in a 330 miles an hour car.
Q: Any early memories, the first memory of your dad's Funny Car, which car, what the sponsor was back then?
ASHLEY FORCE: I think a lot of my memories are from pictures because I picture his Coca-Cola car a lot of the time. Probably my earliest memory that stands out a lot in my mind was at the Pomona -- one of the Pomona races. I was only six or seven. My dad had a big wreck where he hit the sand and it flipped over, end over end.
We got down to the end. I was crying. I remember seeing the car on fire. Nobody was really that panicked. I thought he was still in there. I was just hysterical. I didn't understand why everyone wasn't rushing to get him out. Then come to find out, my mom picked me up and brought me around the fire truck, and my dad was on the other side doing an interview. I'll always remember that. It was very traumatic for me.
He picked me up, put me on the flatbed with the ruined Funny Car. We towed back and waved to the fans on the way back to the pit. But that's probably one of my earliest ones that really stands out.
Q: Any special one-off bodies that you've heard about coming up for 2007 of the car, paint scheme-wise?
ASHLEY FORCE: You're asking?
Q: I saw the beautiful matching paint job with your dad. Do you think there will be any special paint jobs throughout the season?
ASHLEY FORCE: I don't know what the plans are. We just finally have got -- the paint is barely drying on these two cars. I went down to the paint shop. Eric was down there, Dad was down there, putting it in the big -- they called it the oven where it bakes the paint on.
I don't know what the plans are for this year. They come up with cool schemes every year. Those are some of the funnest cars to see go down the track, the special car, like the Superman car, the Elvis car. I'm sure there will be different ones as the year goes by, but no plans that I know of yet.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ashley, for joining us on the call today. We wish you the best of luck as you begin your Funny Car career.
ASHLEY FORCE: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me on.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll open it up for questions for Ashley's father, John, the 14-time NHRA POWERade world champ.
Q: Did you imagine 10 years ago one day you'd be racing against one of your daughters in a Funny Car?
JOHN FORCE: No, you know, it's a big day for me here and my wife Laurie. We're pretty excited. We had a great kickoff here with all the sponsors and media. She's really performing well. It's a lot of pressure. I never thought that this day would come. I'm really excited about the value in NHRA drag racing of a woman.
Selling the men, it's a tough sell. It was tough for me. For Eric and Robert it was tough. With Ashley, AAA Auto Club stepped right up and said, you know, 'We want No. 2 on her car. We want to be the No. 2 sponsor.' Castrol, it was announced today they took the rights to her. They wanted to keep the heir to the throne, as they say, and to keep the name going, which I'm excited about.
But to dream her in competition -- and it's not just driving the car, but watching her evolve. We've signed the TV show another reason, Driving Force, on A&E. It's a lot of work. She's going to have overload. But she handled the media real great today. Working with the people and staff from NHRA and our people. I was very proud of her. Listening to her, she knows the drill. She's been listening a lot of years. I'm excited about her.
Q: See you next weekend.
JOHN FORCE: Heading to Vegas. She'll be driving the Castrol GTX with AAA. As secondary, naturally Ford Motor Company, they've been there from the beginning with her. We're pretty excited. But my car, it's reverse. She's all white with green. I'm in all green with white. At my age, I got the high-mileage car, Castrol high-mileage.
Q: Do you think you'll still be driving when Robert's daughter is driving a Funny Car?
JOHN FORCE: Autumn Danielle. Another girl in the family. I have five years with Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, Brand Source. We got some new sponsors that come on board, Nordic Boats because they wanted the woman. They weren't interested in me. Mach 1, a huge air service group has joined us. We're really excited about that.
I want to say something. In this media room, there's a lot of media right now. We're with Motorsports Authentics out of NASCAR. They're the biggest. It was the action group initially. But we're looking at doing Wonder Woman with Ashley, so that's pretty exciting.
One of the fellas here said it, but actually it's something that we're talking about right now. That could happen because it would fit this girl in a 330-miles-an-hour Fuel Funny Car. It would make sense. I was Superman. She could be Wonder Woman. We'll see what happens.
Q: John, you have one-fourth of the field in Funny Car.
JOHN FORCE: They asked me what it was like being in the championship. I want to be in the game with my kids. In the TV show, you see Brittany and Courtney, and naturally with Ashley racing. My oldest daughter Adria that didn't want to drive. She has her own band. She's run the business since she come out of school, working alongside my wife and myself.
She wanted her husband, if she got married -- and she did. We have a grand baby Autumn -- but Robert Hight was the choice to go in the seat. Naturally Eric driving the other Funny Car. We're really excited we have a four-car team.
People ask me why I didn't build a dragster. I don't know how to build a dragster. I've been a Funny Car car guy since the early days. I'm glad I stuck around because Kenny Bernstein is coming back. A friend of mine from the early days. I'm excited. It's going to be the toughest Funny Car field, I believe, in the history of Funny Car because the competition is so tough.
Ashley has so much to learn. She's going to be thrown right into the fire. She hasn't had much side-by-side, not hardly at all, only with Eric Medlen. No night driving in the Fuel Funny Car. We set her on fire already. She got that big old smile.
But today was the real pressure with the media. The rest is going to be competition. I'm excited. It was kind of surprising, sometimes she gets lost in an interview just like her dad. I love her. I think she's trying to make so many people happy today. It's overload.
Q: Kenny is coming back. It's going to be an interesting 2007 season. I asked Ashley what her goals were, if the did team had set any goals. What are your expectations? What do you think she can deliver in her first full year of competition?
JOHN FORCE: When Ashley and I talked, she said, 'What should I tell them, Dad, because there's expectations because of you?' I said, 'This isn't about me, baby. My days are numbered. I'm fighting the fight for Ford Motor Company and Castrol.'
I said, 'Ashley, it's going to be a journey, kid. Where you think you've been in the past racing since you were 16, it's all going to change 'cause you're playing hardball. You're in the pros.
'The women in Funny Cars, Shirley Muldowney and the other ones that went down this road, that was years back. You're in there in the game now. But if you give any expectation, you'll only muddy the waters because people will grab on to that. You've got a lot to learn, kid.
'Let me tell you, your best teachers are your competition. Those people will become your best friends. You've got a great team around you with Austin, Bernie, Jimmy (Prock), John Medlen, Robert Hight, Eric Medlen, and naturally Dean Antonelli, the lead crew chief. He's been taught by the best.'
I said, 'Girl, there's no more I can tell you, but to be there with you under the pressure. You got to learn. The way you learn it is getting beat up every week 'cause the media, they're going to love you when you're good, they're going to beat you up when you're bad. But that's what it's about.
'They're the ones that are going to teach you the game, the media. Three people: The media will teach you, the fans will teach you because they're the ones that you have to be loyal to, and the sponsors. But at the end of the day, it will be Gary Scelzi. It will be guys that were there for me: Al Hoffman, (Kenny) Bernstein, (Don) Prudhomme that taught me the ropes.
'Now it's going to be Ron Capps and (Del) Worsham, your own teammates, Robert and Eric. The more they beat you up, the better you will be. Don't come out thinking you're going to win Pomona. And if you do, God bless you. But get ready to go into hell because you will wake up every day with a gut ache and you will go to sleep with that gut ache, because now people are paying you big money to perform. They're going to expect a lot of you because of me.'
I wanted to clarify this. That's why I'm really getting on this. But it's a journey that you're on with the greatest teachers in the world. Those guys are the drivers of Funny Cars. And I hated losing (Whit) Bazemore (to Top Fuel) because that son of a gun beat on me every week, jumped on me, but he made me tougher. I thank him for that. He's going to be missed. He'll be back someday in Funny Car because it's his roots.
It's a long road. I'm not going to give you where she's going to go. I can only tell you she's got the best money, the best sponsors, the best team behind her. But only God knows what's going to happen because I don't. We'll just see.
Continued in part 4