Mike Ashley - team interview

Q&A with Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco Race Fuels, Inc. Dodge Charger and vice president of Lend America, the Official Mortgage Source of NHRA. Mike Ashley talks about his red light in Houston, the current status of the mortgage business and...

Q&A with Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco Race Fuels, Inc. Dodge Charger and vice president of Lend America, the Official Mortgage Source of NHRA. Mike Ashley talks about his red light in Houston, the current status of the mortgage business and Lend America, his feelings about mourning Eric Medlen, and the importance of Passover to him.

Q: Mike, your weekend in Houston was up and down, and it ended with an un-characteristic red light foul start. What was going on that lead up to that?

Basically, it's two things. First of all, I'm not the first person to red light, and I won't be the last. Ron Capps already redlit this year, John Force has redlit, Gary Densham just redlit. So -- the question is really why -- Why do you red light.

I've had a lot of time to think about it, and the reality is, I did have a good car that weekend, a car that can win. In fact, we had the quickest and fastest car of the weekend.

The physical issue with the red light is a simple fix, really, and I know that it won't happen again. The problem is that I was trying to operate out of force instead of power. It's an old thing that I learned many, many years ago, and it's a matter of taking my own advice. When you do something from a power position, it's because power just 'is,' you let it happen, and it moves in its normal course. When you force something, there's always something forcing back, for example, if you put your hands in a prayer position and push with one hand, the other hand pushes against it. That's what force is -- trying to put a square peg into a round hole. I'm trying to force a win, and you can't force a win. A win comes through power, and it comes when all the things you've worked for come together, and then it happens. There's no doubt I can drive the car, there's no doubt I can leave well, and there's no doubt that our car is fast - none of those things are in doubt. It's a matter of me being able to mentally accept the fact that we're going to win when it's time to win, and that I can't force it.

That's the reason for the red light. You can go to the line and think, "I'm going to win, I'm going to hit the tree, this and that..." but none of that helps. It's a very physical thing leaving the starting line, and as soon as you make it emotional it becomes a guessing game. So that's part one -- power versus force.

The other part is the question, "why did I let myself get into that position" -- why was I reacting emotionally with force instead of physically with the power.

The truth -- I'm very tired.

The mortgage industry had undergone a devastating realignment. A big part of the loans and programs that we offered are gone. Sub prime loans are just gone. People and companies that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars were wiped out in 24 hours -- literally overnight. There's basically carnage in the mortgage industry right now.

Now, at Lend America, I had vision about 18 months ago, and I started to go away from sub-prime loans and headed into government insured lending. This is an important point -- Lend America is approved to issue loans directly by the government. My model is a great nationwide model -- and thankfully that is 50 percent of my business right now, so I only lost 50 percent of my business. The key is, though, that 85 percent of the mortgage industry was into the sub-prime loans, and now that industry is massively re-aligned and people have been wiped out. The remaining 15 percent of the companies can do government insured loans, and Lend America is one of those companies. On one hand, it was terrible carnage and we're going to lose a lot of money, but on the other hand, in the beginning now, I'm experiencing a massive boom in my business. So, it's been very, very stressful as I navigated the company through the crisis. The whole company had to pull together and work through it, and, actually, things are looking better than they ever have!

I have been under massive duress with the business, but I have been able to fix it all and position the company to be just explosive. It's like I'll be the John Force of the Mortgage industry. So, when you're tired, you let your guard down, and you do things that you know better. I don't care who you are, when you're tired, you just don't operate anything, including your mind, as well as you should. And that's really what happened to me in Houston. I was tired from the stress of work, I was lying around waiting, it was raining, the emotions of losing Eric Medlen, it all just added up.

A lot of the other drivers get some down time between races. I go straight from racing right into my office, and I never get any time to let it all out.

Q: This is an important weekend for you, spiritually as well as for your family. What does Passover weekend mean to you?

Passover is very important to me. It's a great holiday. Passover signifies the Jewish people being released from slavery and their return to Israel. It's literally a month of miracles, because that was a miracle; there was the miracle of when the Red Sea parted, etc. I feel it's a month of miracles for me, and time to experience some miracles myself -- like what happened with my business.

I'll spend some time with my family, but I am working, too. My family was in Florida all week, but I had to stay here in New York to work, but I'm flying down to spend the weekend with them and enjoy the holiday, hopefully getting to turn some of this off for a while. Who knows, I might even turn off my Blackberry!

Q: How did you handle the death of Eric Medlen?

Eric's death was very upsetting for me, and was a big, big distraction in Houston. My mourning process has been to manage the sadness. I think the redeeming part of this is knowing that Eric is in GD's hands -- I believe that, I truly believe that. That helps to make the whole event a little bit palatable. Hey -- there's a hole, and emptiness there -- and I feel terrible for John Medlen and John Force and that whole team. They are such a wonderful group, and this will have a profound affect on them. It's really upsetting.

You've got to know, though, that for every negative there's a positive, and whether you believe it or not, it is the truth. There is no other way -- and there is a positive that will come from all of this - you just have to be able to find it, or just know that it will come.

I don't think that all the time it's important to recognize what the positive it -- I mean, how can you find the positive in something so devastating, but, it's more of a comforting feeling knowing that there is something positive that's going to come out if it. In time, it will reveal itself. You don't have to know why or what it is -- just that it will be.

Q: So heading into Vegas, where are things with the team and racing as a whole for you?

I'm really proud of my team, that they are doing a great job, and I think we're very competitive. We're in the top eight in points after the first quarter of the initial countdown, and I think we have what it takes, and mentally, I'm going to let the power of the team take us through and not try to force anything. I'm going to be patient for the win, because I'm comfortable knowing that we are going to win.

-credit: ma

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Mike Ashley , Eric Medlen , John Medlen