John, Ashley Force teleconference, part 2

John, Ashley Force teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: You had a tough tussle with Capps. Seem to be breaking away in Funny Car. JOHN FORCE: He ain't breaking stride. The kid is good as a driver. (Capps's crew chief) Ed McCulloch, you can't get any better. They got ...

Continued from part 1

Q: You had a tough tussle with Capps. Seem to be breaking away in Funny Car.

JOHN FORCE: He ain't breaking stride. The kid is good as a driver. (Capps's crew chief) Ed McCulloch, you can't get any better. They got a good, consistent car. I believe our three Mustangs are faster, but we don't have the consistency with this new combination. We'll get right to a final, we get knocked off.

We've won a few races this year, but the championship's in sight. Now Tony Pedregon is starting to flex his muscles. The problem is there's so many cars can knock you off first round, you're really racing scared first round on how to get a few rounds to get into the groove of the day.

Q: When is Ashley going to get up there and join you in the Funny Car ranks?

ASHLEY FORCE: I got licensed in Vegas about a month ago. I've been trying every race, Mondays after the races, to get back in the Funny Car with Guido and different teams and keep practicing and training in it. We're a little unclear. We don't know what we're going to do for sure. Maybe next year, maybe the following year, maybe part-time next year. It's too soon I think in the season to tell. I'm really still focused to compete in my A/Fuel dragster because that's my car in competition right now.

JOHN FORCE: We run 23 national events. The A/Fuel dragster only runs 16. What we were looking at is not to make this move too fast, plus my other girls are moving up the ladder, which Brittany next would go to A/Fuel. But she's in (college), she really needs another season in Super Comp. What we've looked at is, Ashley's got her brand-new car, she's getting a new body. We have a couple of sponsor offers. We've got one already on the table. Naturally, all the sponsors that are with us will support Ashley: Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, Brand Source, all these people. But we've got a new trailer from Featherlite. We built a state-of-the-art trailer, expando lounge. We wanted a woman to have more room, have her own dressing room, her own powder room, big screen TVs. Everything to make the trailer a little more comfortable for a woman.

But that trailer is coming in this week. It's finished now. But it's just a matter of getting it together, if we can get her team organized. The problem is, Guido, her crew chief, we have to pull out of our team. We're training another man to take his place. We've been training a team for her already.

I think she's ready to go. She needs more experience. You only get experience by jumping into the cat fight. So we're looking at putting her into a national event later in the year, maybe Vegas, maybe Dallas. We don't know for sure yet. It's all about the points. Then if she doesn't go pro next year, and right now it looks pretty good that she's going to go pro next season, but it's partly her decision and partly sponsorship. But if not, she is going to run like a limited schedule on the circuit next year, not go after the championship, but she's going to go into competition while she drives her A/Fueler and the Fuel Funny Car at certain events.

Q: When she does go up, will there be a fourth Funny Car on your team?

JOHN FORCE: Yeah. I'm being honest, I'm under contract for another five years. But I'm looking toward retirement. If I stay good for 10, God bless him, I'll stay. I ain't getting any younger. Hell, I've lost another 10 pounds just doing this series. So I'm really good health-wise, my eyesight is good, my motivation is good. But my motivation was really rejuvenated by Robert (Hight), Eric (Medlen), Ashley (Force), my girls (Brittany and Courtney). You get 57 years old, you start thinking maybe retirement at 65, you know, 62. All of a sudden like, man, I don't want to retire. I mean, you know, Ashley is already talking smack, she's going to spank me our first time out. It's kind of like, okay, well, I'm going to stick around awhile, see how this goes. I haven't made that decision. But, yes, it will be four Funny Cars.

Q: 60 is the new 40. See you at Infineon.

JOHN FORCE: I love you saying that. 60, I like that.

Q: Ashley, I know you're asked about this a lot. Do you have a feeling that this is a real good time to make it in racing as a woman with so many people finding success now, whether it's Danica (Patrick) getting publicity, the NHRA has a great history of women. Is there a sense for you that now is a great time, that people are ready for this?

ASHLEY FORCE: I think it's a really exciting time for women in all different kinds of motorsports. I'm happy that I came in at a time when people want us there and are excited to have us in the lane next to them competing. A lot of people ask me, Oh, why suddenly are women racing now? That isn't true. I know for years and years there's been women involved in drag racing. Sure Shirley Muldowney, Kim LaHaie, tuning cars. They've always been there. Now it's all of a sudden up a notch and being noticed around the world. It's a good time. I've had a lot of fun.

I'm excited to have my sisters here with me competing and watching and rooting for a lot of the other women, Melanie Troxel, Hillary Will, see them move up to Top Fuel has been exciting. I'm having a lot of fun. It's a great time. I encourage any women out there, I have a lot of fans come up to the ropes, a lot of young girls saying they're getting a new junior dragster next year and they're excited to start racing. I encourage them. When you put your helmet on, it doesn't matter if it's a girl or a guy competing. All that matters is that you want to be there competing. So I'm having a lot of fun.

Q: Is it also a certain amount of pride because while there are these other women in other series racing, really it's been the women in drag racing that have actually won, won championships, won races, taken it to that next level? Is there a certain amount of pride and potential that you feel because of that, too?

ASHLEY FORCE: Yeah, I don't know that much about other types of racing. But I know in drag racing a big part of it, I think why there are so many women, why they're so successful, it's definitely a family sport. There's a lot of the sportsmen teams that they start out racing on the weekends in Super Comp and Comp where they have their kids out there helping them work on the cars. It's kind of a family thing. And those are the kids that end up starting the junior drag racing, then they would move into the Super Comp, then they kind of move up along the ranks.

It's great to see, Erica (Enders), she's doing great in Pro Stock, and Angelle (Sampey, who leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle category). There's women in all the different categories, not just women can only do this category or that category. It's now spread through all the categories. Jumping in the Funny Car, I hope to soon get a woman in there because there hasn't been one in the last few seasons. We need a girl in there. That would be awesome to have a girl winner in each of the categories. I think it's only a matter of time before that happens.

Q: Do you think also, with the show you're doing, is it important for you to kind of get your personality out there, too, not just on the racetrack? Arguably a lot of people would say part of Danica's appeal is she does all these shows out there, has this personality, she's very outgoing. Do you think that's very important or is it just that's how it is for all racers, you don't need that necessarily because you're a woman?

ASHLEY FORCE: I think that the good thing about drag racing, there are so many great personalities in it and the fans get to interact with them, where you don't just see the person from far away, you get to go right up to the ropes and meet them and get autographs from them and hear fun interviews from them. You don't have to be like that, but I think it makes you a better driver. You know, whether you're excited to be out there or not doesn't affect maybe how you drive when you're on the track, but I definitely think it affects how your sponsors see you and helps you to get sponsors and helps you to keep fans.

So I think I've been fortunate. I work with my family. I'm very comfortable in my job. I have a lot of people around that support me where I can really be how I want to be, having fun out there, that it's not all business, I can go off and goof around. I think the fans like to see that. When we pull pranks on dad sometimes -- not during race day! -- but during qualifying, I think the fans like to see that. And with our show Driving Force, it really makes us more personable that we're just a normal family, we're not just professional race car drivers, but we're still young girls, you know, having fun, having boyfriends, and of course picking on dad along the way, but learning the racing business as we go.

Q: Champ (John Force), we've seen you on TV with your 120 or so wins. You have a chance after you left the track to see yourself on TV, the way you behave in the role of winning races and being a racer. Being involved in a project like this, seeing yourself as a father in a family role, what have you learned about John Force?

JOHN FORCE: Well, to be honest, I thought I knew everything. Being around these girls, you know, maybe I'm guilty in life, with a lot of employees -- except for Austin Coil -- people a lot of times tell you what you want to hear. In the world, in the business where you're a celebrity and you win, in the boardroom it's a little bit different. But basically in life everything kind of went the way that I wanted it to be because that's how I believed it ought to be because I was trying to direct and control my life.

By opening up with my girls in this show, I saw another side of me that was wrong. It really shows in the show, and it's a struggle, but even the way that I thought I was really close to my employees, so many things that I missed along the way that my girls would say, 'Dad, did you even know that (one of my employees) had two little kids?' You know what I mean? While I knew him well, knew he was married ... there's just so many things that in this rush to be a champion, there were so many things that I really wasn't in tune with.

I've really gotten an education from my own children. I tried to open up myself more to my people. I have a good rapport with our people. They like me as an employer, as a boss and as a friend. But there's so much more you can do to build your machine stronger.

By building the people around you, as teammates, making everybody equal, that's what we try to find in our TV show, that we are a family, like Ashley said. We're just kids. I might be the champ, but I'm just like any father in America making mistakes, raising his kids, yelling and getting mad, apologizing, and loving them every day. You know what I'm saying? But I got a real wake-up call on a lot of mistakes I made in the last 25 years. I wished I could take a lot of it back, but I can't. I'm just going to try to fix the future. And that's the message we're trying to send in this show.

It isn't where the show started, it isn't where the show came from. The show was about just this family the show-runners never really knew. Then after they watched it for months, they realized, This guy is trying to teach his kids that he's really screwed up, and how can he fix it. I'm trying, as much as I'm trying to teach them the business.

Q: John, at the very beginning I missed how long the show is supposed to go on. How long have you signed the contract and how many episodes are there supposed to be?

JOHN FORCE: We signed the show -- most of the networks like MTV, Disney Channel, they all wanted one to three shows. A&E came in and said, We'll take six. Then when they met us, the family, they jumped at the 10. They have seen four or five of the cuts already. They've ordered another four. That's in the contract. So we have 14 shows.

Anywhere from 13, 14 or 15 shows is what they call a season. So we've been filming now for five almost six months. We got a lot of work in the next two months to finish up the 10 shows, even though we're starting to roll next Monday, we go on July 17th. They've ordered more shows.

I was surprised that they did that. So was my attorney. But right after the kickoff, that's kind of when you'll find out if it's what the people want. Yeah, we have 14 shows now under contract.

Q: Is it fair to compare this to American Chopper or the Osbornes? Which show do you see it similar to?

JOHN FORCE: That's a good question. I see it -- you know, we've said, if you want to turn on drag racing, turn on ESPN2, nobody does it better. If you want to watch a family that has the problems like every family in America, yeah, they have a dad that has 13 championships, four beautiful daughters, a wife that's really raised them, and in the middle of that what their day-to-day lifestyle is, and now evolving them into the business.

Adria running the business, the bookkeeping, with her husband Robert driving, then Ashley, Brittany, Courtney evolving. It's what it's about day to day. It's not just about them going on dates, it's not about them going to prom night, graduation. It's a lot about that, but it's a lot about them learning the business and the fights they go through. They're real. It's brought them to tears, it's brought me to tears. Sometimes it gets really personal. But at the end of the day, it's what we do. It's 300 mile-an-hour drag racing. The show jumps around. It might go from the opening race and jump to the fourth race. Some shows may only have a little bit of racing in it. Some shows have the drama of racing, of winning and losing. It's a combination.

Like I said, the first three weeks, everybody was loving it, we're going to be in Star Magazine, we're going to be on TV, billboards. Then after about two months, it was like, How in the hell did we get into this mess? You don't have a life. I've had to hire more people in here to help run the business just to take over my day-to-day stuff. But now all of a sudden after five months, now we're starting to see the finished product, whether it's good or not. There's a lot of old-time movies in it from the old days of the kids when they were little, relating to who was competitive then, who was a rebel then, to how they are today. It's really funny when you look at that.

Pretty exciting times. It's definitely a lot of work. We've debated whether we want to do more shows. We agreed to take another four. Now we don't know where they'll go. We know they have an option to go to 20 if they like the first 14 or 15. So we'll see. A&E really has the control. I've got to say for A&E, I've done a lot of stuff before and been made a lot of promises. These guys are marketeers. You get off the plane in New York, you're on billboards on freeways. You're down in Madison Square Garden, you're on buses going by on the highway and in town. Out here in Hollywood, down on Sunset Boulevard, right in the prime spots with all the big TV -- news shows, Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp. Our sign is about four signs down from him. They've done their job to promote. I hand it to A&E. They definitely can kept their word. They're promoting drag racing. NHRA is everywhere we go.

Continued in part 3

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Tony Pedregon , Melanie Troxel , Hillary Will , Austin Coil