John and Ashley Force teleconference, part 4

Continued from part 3 Q: Can you put into words exactly what this day means to you with Ashley joining you on the line in a Funny Car? JOHN FORCE: Well, it's a day for me, because you dream of having sons to go racing. Then you have these...

Continued from part 3

Q: Can you put into words exactly what this day means to you with Ashley joining you on the line in a Funny Car?

JOHN FORCE: Well, it's a day for me, because you dream of having sons to go racing. Then you have these four girls. I never imagined -- maybe I didn't answer this earlier -- that one of them would step into a Fuel Funny Car to take me to the next level, to carry my name.

Ashley has a chance, and so do her two sisters. I don't want to forget my other partners, my brothers. I call them my kids, Robert Hight, Eric Medlen. They're the next generation with Ashley.

Yeah, I'm 57 years old. But I got to tell you, I'm excited because I've been more with my family, with my wife, Laurie, my daughters, because of racing, and especially because of the TV show "Driving Force." That will start again in the spring of '07. We've already filmed four shows. They're filming here today.

But it's kept me together. It's given me the energy to be with my family. Now I can be with them. So racing has really took me away from my family, but it's brought me back. I'm excited.

No, I'm going to fight every day.

I didn't answer your question at all, did I? I'm sorry.

Q: No problem. I think you're a great spokesman for women in motorsports. I, for one, appreciate that, John.

JOHN FORCE: I'm so excited, because the women that opened the door that Ashley talked about, Shirley Muldowney, the greatest of all time. Now in our sport today, Melanie Troxel, the kids that are out there, Erica (Enders), Hillary Will, that are just doing this because they love it. Ashley is going to get to be part of it. They're all friends.

The door is open for women. It's been open thanks to Shirley Muldowney. Like Ashley said, Shirley took the lumps for all the girls, putting up with the bullshit that the men gave 'em, that they didn't belong here. They shouldn't have messed with Shirley because to me she's the king, and always will be. She's Babe Ruth to me. Ashley feels the same.

Ashley has learned, she's seen the past, and she wants to be part of that future. I'm excited the road she's going to go down with so much to learn. But the road is the fun part. Being out there, being part of it. NASCAR, God bless 'em, there's women coming up through the ranks.

I know Ford Motor Company has women they're grooming. It's going to happen in NASCAR. Its already had a taste of it, I know, but it's coming. The other kid in IndyCar racing.

Q: Danica.

JOHN FORCE: Danica Patrick. Unbelievable how she zoomed up that ladder. What I saw was corporate America. I said, Wow, I'm standing around here wanting the boys to race, and the women, they love 'em. That's why I got her in the TV show with A&E. AAA of Southern California, Auto Club stood up. No, we will be No. 2 on her car. We will be there, because this woman can take us down a -- she's already made commercials for AAA.

Mach 1 come on board. We even signed a boat company, Nordic Boats, because they want the woman because she's beautiful. I don't just say that because I'm her dad. She's got my smile, she's got the brains of her mother and her mother's looks. This kid has so much potential.

I saw it in the boardroom today. I loved it watching her dazzle the people in the opening deal when dad was totally falling apart and choking it, forgetting my lines because I got emotional. She went right town the deal, showed the respect to NHRA and POWERade, ESPN. Man, she was hit with the load this morning. I really want to thank all the media that they come to bat.

NHRA was there. We had uplinks, brought their people. A&E, ESPN, FOX, everybody, L.A. Times, they wanted to see the girl. It wasn't about dad. They're over me. I'm still going to fight because she going to have to whip me and a whole bunch of others and Kenny Bernstein to get that throne.

I know I'm full of it. But I mean it here today. I'm a proud father 'm. Iproud .

Q: Kenny is coming back, but he doesn't want to run against Brandon so he's going to run against you. Did it ever cross your mind you didn't want to race your daughter, she might go in another pro category?

JOHN FORCE: I left it to her choice. We're building a Ford Motor program. Right now it's an NHRA Ford spec motor that would make it make sense for us to go into Top Fuel. A Funny Car has a Ford body, so that makes sense. We're in a tough market right now. Toyota is popping up everywhere. We got to fight the fight.

With the motor program we'll have in running by June of this year, a dragster could make sense. Ashley wanted the Funny Car. She lived it. She'd been there with me. She saw the ups and downs. That's what she wanted. 'Dad, that's where I want to be.' It made sense for her.

Maybe the door will open for my other two girls to go into Funny Car. Four Funny Cars is all I'm going to have. It's an NHRA rule. When I retire, I will go back to three unless one of my girls chooses to take it. Otherwise it could be Top Fuel, it could be somewhere else. We're excited about that.

Q: You have been the key that's put NHRA on the map. Everybody wants a piece of you. How much does experience count? Ron Capps, Scelzi, great drivers, but you beat them. How much does experience count?

JOHN FORCE: Well, different from NASCAR, we don't have to drive around for three hours where you can't see, can't think. We got to get this done in four to five seconds. God bless NASCAR, because they're our motivation here at NHRA drag racing, to go after those guys.

Those are my buddies down there. We just did the AARWBA banquet. We were honored. I told the people at AARWBA, the sportswriters, the media, TV people, that I honored them for bringing to the sport so much exposure so we can find the sponsors in corporate America because of what they write and what they film.

Yet my daughter Ashley, it's tough out there. I don't have to retire at this age. All I got to do is stay sharp. Yeah, the partying, the beer drinking, all that, it's pretty much gone away. You know what I mean? I've gone back to what it takes to win. Ron Capps fought a battle this year, and I was lucky. I barely got him. Robert Hight, if he hadn't lost at Vegas in that first-round run because of a (parts malfunction), he might have won the championship because his hot rod was the fastest out there. It is about reflexes, keeping the mind right. That's what I've got to do to stay in the game.

I know my time is numbered. But I'm going to stay here for NHRA and my family and my sponsors until I build a group. I've got Eric. He's done a great job, won national events. Robert Hight, rookie of the year. Now my daughter Ashley. That's where I'm going in Funny Car. When they've accomplished this, because they're not going to be great overnight. If they do, God bless 'em. Luck was a big part of it. To become a championship, to win 14 or 15 times.

You know, to become a Kenny Bernstein, a Don Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, to be those people, you have to have the experience. That's what'll make you win. Ron Capps is there, Gary Scelzi is there. So many more, OK? The kid Schumacher is there. They've all learned.

It's going to take my guys years, and my gal. But that's what I'm here for, to protect 'em. I got to tell you, they bring a lot to the plate, the young kids, because you get so caught up in corporate America. A guy like me trying to get the buck, you forgot why you came, you forgot the love. These kids show me the energy. I'm out of energy.

When I watch Ashley drive the car, you look in there, this monster on the starting line, pounding the ground, this huge motor on nitromethane, pounding the ground. I look in there, I want to cry because you know what I see? I see that little girl with those little glasses, the same little girl with her little eyeballs through those goggles that she races with, the windshield, the same little girl that was on a tricycle when she fell over and cried, the same little girl that fell off the big pyramid at cheerleading and she cried and got right back up and did it again.

But now this is a 300-mile-an-hour monster. I don't know what to do to fix it if she falls off. I didn't want to say this in the room in front of her. I'm scared. But I believe she's made the decision.

One of my best friends in life, a kid named Bob Fisher, I asked him the other day, 'I want a slogan for her.' He said, 'She's a kid. She's a child. But what she really is now, she's going to the world because she ain't your baby. They're going to take her now and run with her.' He called her Nitro Child. She's Nitro's Child.

Look at the USA Today this week on Friday. You'll learn where we're going with NHRA. You'll learn about Ashley Force, Nitro's Child. I'm really excited. A 330-miles-an-hour Funny Car.

Q: Do you like the points system change?

JOHN FORCE: I don't get into the politics. It appears it worked for NASCAR. Tom Compton, president of NHRA, made a decision we're going to go with this. It's not because of NASCAR. It's because in every sport, football, basketball, baseball, they have a World Series, and drag racing did not have the World Series. Now we got it. It goes beyond the final eight. It goes down to the final four.

You know what, I'm not smart enough to get in the game of what's right or wrong. NHRA gives me a playing field that I can drag my hot rods to, send my kids to college with the money I earn there. I don't question what Tom Compton does. I might ask why, but at the end of the day he makes those decisions.

Tom Compton doesn't tell me how to run a Funny Car, and I don't tell him how to run NHRA. He's doing a damn good job. I think the PRO organization is behind him. Kenny Bernstein leads the PRO organization. Kenny Bernstein, one of the pioneers out there, I don't question Kenny. Might get mad at him sometimes.

At the end of the day we do what we do to be a team and to grow this sport. We want to grow it. We want to grow up there to NASCAR.

If you read the headlines the other day in USA Today, they called it NASCAR, then NHRA drag racing, then went on to the other sports, IndyCar, F1, CART, all of that down to the roots. Doggone it, they're starting to talk about us. I want to stay alive long enough to be part of that, and be with my children. That's what is most important to me. I want to be with my kids now. That's what I want, to be with my team.

Q: When was this decision made? Was it a close decision or kind of a foregone conclusion?

JOHN FORCE: It was never a secret. I joked today that we're going to make the announcement. (NHRA announcer Alan) Reinhart said, 'Force, everybody knows you set her on fire in Vegas. All the way to New Jersey she's been on fire. You don't think everybody knew she was going pro?' There were issues with money, who was going to finance this team, where it was going to come from.

My partners, Castrol and AAA of Southern California, Tom, the president, said, 'We want the woman.' She jumped right into the fire. Now some new partners have come on board. We're really excited.

But the decision was when she got licensed. In my heart, when she ran 330, she got out smiling, 'cause when we set her on fire, she wasn't smiling so much. When she said, 'I'm ready, Dad, let me go.' I said, 'Well, baby, until I get the money, all my ducks in a row with all my cars, the sponsors have to fund you. This is big money out here.'

I had to put money together. We basically knew weeks ago. We wanted to announce it before testing. My teams roll for Vegas tomorrow to test. It's time to make that announcement today.

We had a plan. But my friends in the media knew, you all knew, that the kid was going pro. I'm sure you knew it was this year. But that decision was really made here probably in the last let me say 60 days to be safe.

THE MODERATOR: That wraps up our teleconference today. We'd like to thank John for joining us as well as Ashley. Congratulations on adding another car to your team, getting Ashley into Funny Car. Wish you best of luck this season.

JOHN FORCE: Thank you very much. Thank you to the media for being here today, for Ashley and John Force Racing.

-credit: nhra v

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Kenny Bernstein , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Don Prudhomme , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Robert Hight , Hillary Will , Danica Patrick