Ashley Force, first-year driver of the CASTROL GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, had quite an achievement last week at Atlanta Dragway: She defeated her father, 14-time series champion John Force, in the first round. Then she defeated 2003 champion Tony Pedregon in the second round. The NHRA POWERade series visits Madison, Ill., this weekend.
What did your dad say to you after you beat him in the first round this past weekend? “He was excited and I think relieved just to get it done with. There’s been such a big commotion about it and we’d all looked forward to it, but the past few months with everything that’s happened, I think we look at things a little differently. I know he was nervous because I don’t think that he’s ever really not been up there behind my car when I’ve run. He’s always running around the car, checking and making sure everything is okay, checking to make sure I’m straight and this was the first time he was in the lane next to me and couldn’t watch over me. He was nervous about that, even more so than on the competition side of it. I think he was real happy for us and for our team that we’re kind of getting it together and now we’re starting to go rounds every race. He’s the one that taught us, but you know he doesn’t want to lose, of course, because he goes up against every competitor equally. It was a little bit easier to handle that because it was one of his own teams that was able to go on to the second round.”
As a racer, to defeat someONE of the caliber of John Force has got to be a huge confidence builder. “The whole weekend we were matched up against tough people. The second round we were up against Tony Pedregon, so we had a champion first round, a champion the second round and then I went up against Mike Ashley in the third round, who was the No. 1 qualifier. These were not easy rounds, but my team was not having any problems going through the whole routine. It was just a good day. Everything went perfect. Of course we wanted to win semis and win finals, but how it went was a real good way to start to make progress. We’ve kind of struggled the last few races, going out first round. Then we finally got past the first round and got into the semifinals, but now we’ve broken that second-round barrier. We’d never won a second round this year, so it was our first time in the semis.”
YOUR OTHER TEAMMATE, ROBERT HIGHT, WON FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT RACE TO MOVE TO WITHIN 45 POINTS OF THE TOP OF THE POINTS STANDINGS. ROBERT SEEMS TO ENJOY A LOT OF QUIET SUCCESS. HE’S ALWAYS IN THE MIX. “He is. That team, the first team, Jimmy Prock his crew chief, would always run awesome numbers, like crazy numbers, or they’d smoke the tires. It was always that extreme. It was obvious that their car they always ran on the edge. Other teams, like my team, we run a little more safe, we’re just trying to get down the track. It’s kind of either way you can go, it just depends on how your team chooses to tune the car. The last two years have been perfect practice for them, because now you’ll notice that they aren’t smoking the tires. They’re getting down the track every run and in different weather conditions. That just goes to show you how hard they’ve work these last few years, their whole team, the crew chief and driver together to get to that point. I’m so proud of him. He’s doing so good. He’s such a focused person. He has just as much stuff going on as everyone else. He has a wife at home, a little two-year-old daughter and all the media craziness, but when he gets into that car, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that can be that focused and be so consistent in his life and how he drives the car. He’s just a real great guy. I think these last few months, our team has had these ups and downs and with Eric [Medlen] and it’s been tough. Robert is the one that he’s been through the same things as us, but his way of dealing with it is to get to the track and going down the track in memory of Eric. I think that’s just more motivation thrown behind him that that team is going, ‘We’re not going to stop until we win every event that we can win.’ I think you’ll see that and just in how each of those guys on that team, the look on their faces, they’re motivated to win.”
this weekend is the first time this season that THE SERIES runS back-to-back. Does that change your routine at all or now that you’re running well, do you want to get back to the track as soon as you can? “These first few in a row, I think it’s easier. You kind of get into a mind frame at the races and then when you get home it takes a couple days to get back into a routine and then you get into that routine of being at home. So for me, it’s hard to me to go back and forth because it always takes a few days to get back into the groove of things. So when you’re going weekend to weekend you don’t have time get go home and you’re still very focused on racing even when you’re home. Even today, I’m running errands and getting stuff done but I’m thinking ahead to packing and what’s going on with the schedule for this weekend. I think it’s a good thing. Now, come June, when there are a number of races in a row, that gets a little tough. Not so much for the driver, but for the crew guys because they travel with the rig between races. So that gets a little tough, but I think the teams for the most part like having it because they don’t like so many weeks off. It’s just easier to keep in the mind frame of racing if it’s consistent every week.”