Las Vegas: Mike Ashley preview

Ashley Guarantees Gotham City Turnaround After earning the No. 6 spot in 2007, Mike Ashley had high hopes for his Gotham City Racing ventures this year. He added Melanie Troxel and was looking to make another big splash on the drag racing...

Ashley Guarantees Gotham City Turnaround

After earning the No. 6 spot in 2007, Mike Ashley had high hopes for his Gotham City Racing ventures this year. He added Melanie Troxel and was looking to make another big splash on the drag racing scene. Now, after several bumps in the road and a less than stellar start, Ashley has drawn a line in the sand and is guaranteeing a turnaround.

Q -- After such a great 2007, this probably isn't the way you wanted to start off this season. A -- Definitely, you know, it's been a strange few months to start off. I believe that 'Great' always follows 'bad' -- it's something you can count on. First we had the thing with Evan getting sick and Torco backing out, and then something great happened in that I got to get together with Roger Burgess. Then, with Melanie driving the car, we went out to Pomona, qualified No. 3 and ran pretty good, and then it seems after that that we couldn't seem to find our way.

It's been a struggle for the past few races, but you have to realize something -- there is absolutely no question that this team will be back. Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald -- these guys know how to tune a car. Melanie definitely knows how to drive a car. I have to say, I'm very, very impressed with her -- she' s as determined as anybody could be to making sure that she follows up in learning how to drive these cars, but it's a difficult proposition.

You saw that Ashley Force had a learning curve; anybody who knows me personally remembers that I had a learning curve in the Funny Car. I think what we' ve got is a combination of events: we've got an additional 100 lbs on the car and we've changed the chassis around so we're trying to work our way around the tune up on one side of the coin, and on the other side, Melanie's getting adjusted learning how to drive the car. Maybe there were a couple of runs where we might have gotten into the field, but overall, I think the most important thing is, we are absolutely on top of it. This is a team that's resilient. We've had our backs against the wall before, and we've got the same people and even better leadership because Roger is involved, and he is a great leader as well, and I've got all the confidence in the world in Melanie. There is absolutely no question that we'll be back in the running really soon.

Q -- So, what specifically are you planning to do?

A -- One of the major things we're going to do is make a car change. We've been making some changes to the car, and it isn't responding really well and Melanie isn't really comfortable driving it. One thing we've got is plenty if cars, so we're going to start off Las Vegas with a different car. We tested that car in Houston and we liked what we saw. Another thing we're doing is changing the setup. We tested a couple of things with the tune up in Houston, also, and Brian feels like he's got a handle on how to get the car moving a little better early in the runs. When you look at Funny Car class, the entire field is struggling, but we're struggling a bit harder.

One thing is, I guarantee this team will be in the top ten. This is a championship team, everybody on the team and every position they are in, they are all champions, and I guarantee that we're going to make the top ten. Like I said, great follows difficult times. As bad as something seems is as great as it becomes as long as you see it through, and that's what we intend to do. No pain no gain -- it's the price you pay for success.

Q -- What is Roger's role in all of this.

A -- I'm actually running the team, but Roger is helping me. Roger has some excellent life experience that he brings to the table, and great opinions. He' s got the ability to look from the outside and say, 'I think we should try this or that,' and in terms of a partner I couldn't ask for anyone better than him. He's obviously a successful guy in life, and he is able to apply those successes to racing, and it's been a real help for me. In the past where I' ve kind of had difficulty towing that line myself, it's been great to have someone to help out. One of those areas he is very active is in sponsor development. We have Simayof Jewelers on the car for the Vegas race, and we're talking to other people as well. Some people might be fooled that it says ProCare Rx on the side of the car, but that's actually temporary. We'd rather have a full-time sponsor on there -- it's more of a placeholder right now because Roger has invested money. He's really leading the charge for new sponsors.

Q -- How do you feel about Frank Hawley's performance in Gainesville?

A -- Frank is such a great guy; he's been another one who has really helped me over the past several months. Frank's done a great job and is a huge asset to our team. That's a team we want to get out there as soon as possible, and we're looking to get funding for that car as well.

Q -- Will we see you behind the wheel of a Funny Car at all this season?

A -- I'm on the fence as to whether or not I'll come back and defend the races I won last year, but we'll see down the road. For now, Frank is driving that car, next in Atlanta. I'm in the mental and familial negotiation stage right now. In other words, I'm talking to myself as much as my family to decide if I'd like to run some more races this year. Once I sort through that process, Roger and I will make a decision. It's exciting to be a team owner and it' s an adjustment not driving. I'll leave it at that.

Q -- Speaking of Atlanta, what are the plans for that race?

A -- We're going to be racing a special car in Atlanta. It's Roger's hometown track, and we want to go out and do a good job. We'll have all four of our cars there -- both Pro Mods and both Funny Cars. We've sent out a press release about a special cause we'll be racing for, something that's very, very special. Remember that the last time we ran for something special we won, and we want a win all the way around for the cause we will represent at this race. That's one of the things I enjoy about Roger: he and his wife are very active in a meaningful way in some very special charities. I am excited and honored to be a part of that.

Q -- But, coming up in Vegas, what do you have planned for that race?

A -- This is where we turned our season around last year. I ran the fastest speed in the class in history there last year -- 334.32 -- and that is still the fastest. We're looking in Las Vegas to turn it around. Here's the thing: I haven't forgotten how to run a team, Brian hasn't forgotten how to tune a car, and Melanie hasn't forgotten how to drive. All the pieces of the puzzle are there, and we will absolutely be a championship contending team. And in the next race or two, I think you're going to see a very quick turnaround because we're closer than it looks. This is a game of thousandths of a second. Again, it's no secret that the whole class is struggling with the weight change, us just a little bit more.

Q -- What do you feel about those rule changes and the track preparation issues?

A -- I think there's a lot to talk about there, I hold my opinions to myself on a lot of that, but, here's what I think: I will focus on what I can do something about -- and that's turning this team back to its winning form. I can' t focus on the weight or track prep, because I have no control over those things. I prefer to focus on the things I can control, and for me, that is leading Gotham City Racing back to contention. I'm definitely going to be spending more time with the team coming up over the next few races. I believe that times of crisis are when leadership is important, and I believe these guys are the very best in the world, and I wouldn' t want anybody else in my corner. This is a team of champions. We're not winners for winning, and we're not losers for losing. We're always winners. You don't become the result -- whether bad or good. I believe in us, and I know we're on the doorstep of a turnaround. I guarantee it.

-credit: gcr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Mike Ashley , Frank Hawley , Roger Burgess