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National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Drag Racing Topics:  NHRA

National Hot Rod Association Media Conference

John Force
Ashley Force Hood
July 12, 2006


THE MODERATOR: We'll get an introductory statement from John. Do you want to give the folks an idea of what the last week or so has been like with all the promotion for Driving Force?
JOHN FORCE: Well, thank God we didn't have a race. We've been filming naturally. We do that pretty much at least six days a week, seven days sometimes. But we've been on a media push. Ash and I flew to New York Monday afternoon to do the morning shows. We did ESPN Pizza, which was a pretty exciting deal to be live on the streets of New York and in studio, then back here. We're filming right now with TV Guide downstairs, we're shooting for their cover. Tomorrow afternoon we're doing satellite uplinks to a bunch of groups, ABC, NBC, across the country.
We're just staying really busy. It's getting a little bit of stress.
THE MODERATOR: How are you doing, Ashley?
ASHLEY FORCE: I'm good. It's been really exciting, you know, just starting to see billboards go up, magazine articles coming out. Like dad said, we were in New York promoting the show. A lot of fun, a little hectic, but having a blast doing it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and take questions.

Q. John, you're going to be on the cover of TV Guide?
JOHN FORCE: We'll either be on -- no, we got a full center spread, two-page spread. We've been pretty fortunate. People Magazine came out with us yesterday, Star Magazine, Entertainment Weekly. The push is just starting. It's been starting in the last couple weeks. We're in theaters around town now, they're showing us before the opening of shows, billboards everywhere. So pretty exciting.

Q. Has this been distracting at all from your racing?
JOHN FORCE: No, because the machine that I created, been really fortunate. Jerry Darien runs Ashley's team. My crew chiefs, Coil, Bernie, Medlen, Eric, John Medlen and Jimmy Prock, they run the race teams. In fact, Coil said to me the other day, Are you still racing? I've been in the day-to-day because we've been filming for six months. We started at Pomona the opening race back in February. Now they've asked for an extension of shows. We were surprised. They've seen cuts of a lot of the shows. We hope that it's good. I hope they haven't pushed it. They've asked for four or five more shows, I think, because that's called a season. 14 or 15 shows, they consider a complete season. They've already extended it.
But, no, my focus has always been on everything, but it's been a lot on this show lately. When I get to Denver, I leave tomorrow after we shoot tomorrow, my focus will be in the driver's seat trying to get that lead. Tony Pedregon is coming on strong, and Capps, he ain't giving up the lead. We got to get our stuff together.

Q. The show was funny, very believable. Ashley did a great job. Are you concerned about animal welfare groups with whatever you did to the cat?
ASHLEY FORCE: Oh, yeah. You know, the sad thing is sometimes, you know, Timber is the most loved male in that household. I think dad gets a little jealous. That cat is more spoiled than any human I've ever seen. I don't think they'll be too mad about him. He's a big fluff ball. I think dad -- I think it's competition for dad in the house, the one other male.

Q. I was talking to your dad about a week ago. He mentioned it's stressful for you. Sometimes you try and speak on behalf of your sisters and want some free time. Even when you do get the free time, you want to leave the cameras behind because you don't want them to go on a date with you. Has been doing this, having to give up a social life, maybe more than you've bargained for?
ASHLEY FORCE: No, it took a little bit of time to adjust to it. Now they've been along with us for the ride for so many months that you almost at times forget that they're there. We forget we're even mic'd or that there's cameras around because it just become as part of our day-to-day.
You know, my social life is not affected from the show. It's really affected because I'm racing all the time, and that's what I choose to do. It's not a complaint I have, it's kind of picking priorities. I'm a little older than my sisters. My focus is more on racing where they're younger and still learning and doing other stuff, too, which is how I was at their age.
I definitely am a little more serious probably about the whole race situation, and I have a lot more responsibility on the road out there. There's no time for a love life. With dad as my father, people don't even go near me. It works out well.

Q. He also said another reason he did the show was to help give you a better appreciation of what it takes to build a business, a career, a race team. Do you have a better appreciation for what your dad now has gone through building this operation to what it is right now?
ASHLEY FORCE: The good thing in this company, in a family company, is that you get to see all the different aspects of it. When you become a race car driver, it's not just that you race a car, it is that you work with media, you promote your sponsors. But there's a whole other side, which is owning teams, running teams, teaching new drivers. I don't have all those responsibilities, but I get to see my dad having all those different jobs in one and know that down the road I can start teaching and showing my sisters and helping them to learn about sponsors and stuff like that.
It's a learning process, but there's definitely a lot more that goes into it. And doing this show came along at a time when my sisters and I all jumped into this business. It's a good way of showing our fans all that goes into a race team besides just running down the track.

Q. John, Sonoma Infineon Raceway is also inducting you into the Hall of Fame later this month. I wanted to ask you about that honor and what Sonoma means to you.
JOHN FORCE: I'm really excited about that. Sonoma's fun because it's California. When you're at Pomona, you're on overload, the beginning of the season and the end. But Sonoma, even though we're there to win the race, it's fun because we work with FRAM Autolite, we get to do their banquet dinners out at the wineries. We get to see a little bit of San Francisco if we get in town a little bit early with the press conferences. We just love the area because we love the state of California.
Raced in Sacramento over the years. Naturally we got a place that we'll end up for a few days, even though they'll be shooting there again. Lake Tahoe, we go over there. It's a good time.
But the track is excellent, the fans are great because we have a huge following, as does Ron Capps being from that area up there, when we get to the racetrack there. The honor what they're giving me, when you can get up there, I joke that I'm going after the Wally for the championship, I'm going after an Oscar in Hollywood, that's kind of joking. But I'm going after NASCAR. I don't mean I'm trying to drive in NASCAR, I'm not trying to do anything like that. I want to be one with the others that help build our sport to the size of NASCAR someday. I believe there's a shot at that with NHRA and Tom Compton, POWERade, ESPN, everybody working that direction.
Whenever I'm put on the likes of a wall with a Jeff Gordon and Bruton Smith, his group honors me that way, it really is exciting to be put up because you're there forever. I'm really looking forward to that induction on Sunday.

Q. Are you going to be filming here in Sonoma?
JOHN FORCE: Yup. In fact, production people showed up here because they're having kind of a screening on Monday after Denver. We got to get back here to watch the show when it kicks off on Monday night, July 17th, 9 p.m., 8 p.m., whatever it is, across the nation. The crews are going north to Seattle. They're filming. Ashley is going to the rodeo with Eric right before the Sonoma race. Of course, they're going to do the countryside. They're going to Oakland is where you're going to film.
ASHLEY FORCE: Oakdale.
JOHN FORCE: Going to the rodeo with Eric Medlen that is from the rodeo originally, and then they're going to coming over to film the race. They're going to film naturally us being honored into that induction. They're with us all the time.
But you know what, I get up in the morning, I go to tuck in my pants, half the time I'm shoving a wire in that's not even there. Think you're bugged, right? It's just the way we live.
But what I really (indiscernible) most is I really put my children and my wife on overload. In the first few weeks, it was fun, and then it became painful. But now all of a sudden we're starting to get the grip of this deal, be yourself, do your thing, and go through the day. We spend a lot of time shooting green rooms, then we have to come back. When we did a shot, the railroad train came by, they didn't get the voice. We have to dub that voice back in.
My kids, if nothing else, I wanted to teach them the business. They're really learning it through racing, their own school. My daughter Brittany is pulling double-time with college. Ashley is flying to New York, flying to do a dinner with Oakley, then filming all the time. They're really growing fast. This has really helped us mature these kids. Ashley was already way, way ahead of everybody. As you can see on TV yesterday, she can outtalk me and throws me under the bus now on a regular basis. That's where I wanted her to evolve to, with respect.
THE MODERATOR: The show debuts Monday night at 9 eastern, 8 central on the A&E Network.

Q. John, it seems like in the preadvertising for this show, they really in their teaser ads emphasize the sort of sex appeal angle with your daughters. Was that shocking to you at all or did you think this was just part of the business?
JOHN FORCE: I was a little upset because, you know, my wife has raised these kids, and I've been around all these years, I just missed everything. Like I said, I only see them in the winner's circle. At the end of the day when my work was done, I always tried to find some time. I really kind of failed as a father. In fact, if you get National Dragster this week of Denver, there's a story in there where I try to explain the mistakes, how racing took me away, but it's given me a chance to come back.
But, you know, to be with the family, we have our issues, real-life issues that they don't want to be told, and mother doesn't want to be told. There's just a lot of everything. Like, what makes you come back now and you want to run everything? I don't want to run everything. I want to teach them the business so if I was to fall over dead tomorrow, I know my kids will survive. I know that Eric and Robert will survive.
But the girls have so much to learn. Ashley is really their teacher. She's the one that's really leading the two little ones. But the sex was something. When they come to us and talked about magazines, they wanted to put us in FHM, Maximum, them half-rated magazines, I really fought against it. We showed up in People, Star, a lot of them. But I was shocked when I saw the commercials. I called my attorney. I said, This wasn't supposed to be. We know what we agreed to. There would be no porn. Well, you're overreacting. I got to show my wife. We had the rights to approve. The problem is, in my overload, I've approved a lot of stuff I never really looked at. Somebody shows you a little tiny picture, you approve it. Then when it comes out, it's zippers undone.
But my girls are good. They really worked. They don't let them go too far because they're just really good kids. But you can't stop it. There's nude scenes of me that's going to probably ruin my career because I don't look so good. My kids look great, I don't look so good.
Did I answer anything? A&E has control. The bottom line is they have the final word, but they have to work in good faith. They say, Come on, John, we're selling Charlie's Angels, three girls that race cars and live day-to-day putting up with you. That's what this show is about.
Like we said, if you want to see good racing, nobody does it better than ESPN-2. If you want to see a little bit of racing and the day-to-day lives of building a business, families trying to stay together like every other family in America, that's what this show is about, the ups and the goods and bads.

Q. John, are you going to be glad to get back to racing this weekend? Sounds like you've had a pretty hectic schedule.
JOHN FORCE: You know, we spent -- if the other fellow is there from Memphis, if I didn't lose him, we're looking to film Graceland, Beal Street, because I have a car in Graceland. There's a lot of opportunities. But, boy, you know one morning we left for the airport at 5:00. The camera crews were loaded in a truck behind us. They made a turnoff on the San Diego freeway. When we got to the gates, we checked our bags, it was like when we went through the metal detectors, my kids, it tripped me, they were jumping up and down like, We ditched them, we're free. Everybody was laughing. Then they call come running through the door with their cameras. They wouldn't let them with us.
It's almost like freedom. You don't realize what you appreciate just having your space and not being watched all the time.
But, boy, to go to Denver tomorrow afternoon when I'm done with my last show tomorrow at 1:00, I'm going to get on that plane and I'm ready, you know.

Q. You had a tough tussle with Capps. Seem to be breaking away in Funny Car.
JOHN FORCE: He don't -- he ain't breaking stride. The kid is good as a driver. 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 school, she really needs another season in Super Comp. What we've looked at is if we can get Ashley's -- she'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, 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 comfort 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 movie, 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, Eric, Ashley, my girls. 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 getting publicity in the IRL, NASCAR has a couple people coming up, 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 is 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, she's doing great in Pro Stock, and Angelle. 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 like 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 begun 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 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, 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 of 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 'cause 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 that guy had two little kids? You know what I mean? While I knew him well, knew he was married, just so many things that in this rush to be a champion, there was 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. I think this is what you were asking.
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. We'll see. 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 ESPN-2, 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.
Adra running the business, the bookkeeping, with their 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.

Q. Ashley, do you have any thoughts or reaction to what Richard Petty recently said about women not belonging in professional motorsports?
ASHLEY FORCE: I think everyone has their own opinion. I know that the world has definitely changed over the years. I've read books and stories about Shirley Muldowney, the struggle they went through in the beginning. It's not that any person is right or wrong, it's just what people are used to. Years and years ago, there weren't women in racing, so it was hard for men out there racing, building these cars, to understand and accept, Why do women want to race? How can they be good racing?
But you can't be upset about what people say or think; you can only do what you want to do. I know me and a lot of other women out here, we want to race. We want to compete with the guys and we want to compete with the girls. That's really what I focus on. I've been fortunate in drag racing. They're all excited out there to have women in the race. The men I compete with have daughters that race junior dragsters. They're happy to have a woman in the lane next to them. It's a great time for women to get into it. You will always have people who won't like you and won't like your team whether you're a guy or girl. It's just what is going to happen. You can't maybe everyone happy. You can make your fans happy and your sponsors. I know I enjoy racing. Even if everyone around me hated that I raced, I know my team, my dad, our sponsors, they're happy to have me there racing so I'll continue racing for them.

Q. Do you see anything at all that gives men an edge over women in professional motorsports, drag racing?
ASHLEY FORCE: It's not strength, a situation with strength. It's not like we're lifting weights or anything like that. In drag racing, a big part of it is being focused and being quick on the tree, reacting, not just reacting on the starting line but going down the racetrack, reacting to your car, if it's going out of the groove, dropping cylinders, making the right choices and doing it. I'm learning that with a Funny Car. A big question I got, since there hasn't really been women in Funny Cars, do you think you're strong enough to handle this car? It's shorter wheel base. It's not just going to go straight down the track. It gets in your heard where you think, Am I strong enough? I look at Scelzi, these other guys, muscles. I think, I don't have that. But getting in that car and having the team I have, it's not about strength and muscling the car down. If your car gets out of the groove, then it's going to be about strength. But it's really about being quick and reacting and making the right decisions.
So I don't think -- I don't really think that it's a gender thing. It hasn't been so far. Look at Melanie out there winning all these races this year. I don't think that's really the issue. The only main issue maybe is when we pull our helmet off, we have mascara running up the side of our face and men don't have to worry about that.
JOHN FORCE: Can I jump in with something real quick? In all respect to Richard Petty, because I was along the same road, even though I loved Shirley Muldowney, and I've watched how women have evolved. Richard Petty had sons. His sons evolved into NASCAR. He's from the old school like me. And that's the way that he kind of sees it day to day. I can see why his thinking was the men should stick to the racing and the women, they shouldn't.
Along the way I had daughters, so I didn't have the option of sons. But I remember when Laurie said, Ashley wants to go to driving school. I was like, Oh, Jesus. Do you know what it's like just having to put her in a fire suit, tuck her long hair in a helmet? This ain't going to work. I was very just like Richard Petty. I had the same thought because I didn't want to address it.
I'm not taking sides with Petty, because now that I've seen the other side, wow, this girl licensed in a Funny Car, there's a whole show on A&E on Driving Force about what she went through to get to the licensing. It was unbelievable. We set her on fire at Vegas. She gets out the car at the other end, I'm down there about to throw up. Jesus, she'll get out, she'll say she's finished. She took off helmet, she was covered with oil, and she's smiling like a Cheshire cat. I'm thinking, Boy, did I misunderstand this girl. You know what I'm saying? Then all of a sudden Melanie Troxel is out there winning in the points lead, Hillary Wills is out there. It's like, you know, Danica Patrick. It's like, boy was I wrong.
So, you know, we kind of got on Petty, but I can see why his thinking was that way. Us men are very stubborn. I think the door is open. We were wrong in our thinking. But also let me say this, what women bring. Besides the ability to drive a race car that men don't bring to the racetrack, unless you look like Ron Capps, 'cause everybody loves Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, right? Well, I don't look like Ron Capps. So when I go in the boardroom, I got to sell that I'm a tiger, that I'm going to win, I can out-talk everybody.
When a woman walks in, when they're -- I don't mean a beauty queen, but when a woman walks in and she looks good, and she can talk the talk, like Ashley, it's like Danica Patrick, like Melanie Troxel, it's like, Boy, the boardroom lights up, and they never lit up for me in all my years until I started winning. So what women bring to the table is the door is open for women in this sport. The kids that are thinking, Is there a chance for us? 10 years ago I wouldn't have said, No, Shirley Muldowney was just one that happened to make it from a lot of hard work, but few more will come. Well, buddy, the world's going to change because there's big money out there. Corporate America, this could change the face of drag racing that the fact that women are going to bring more corporate dollars in here because it's never been tapped on till now.
Sorry to drag that out.

Q. John, I've watched you from before when you started, have the utmost respect for the way you've really built yourself and your career. Nobody's worked harder than John Force. Ashley, last year, I can see where this show has had a tremendous effect on you. When I interviewed you last year, you were articulate, but you were a little more soft spoken than you are now. You're much more fluent, speak with more confidence. It's had a great effect. I'd be interested to hear about that. The big thing is, when one of these reality shows hits the airwaves, you have the Internet today, all these bulletin boards, they're going to light up with opinions. There's going to be a thousand opinions like there already is on your driving. Are you ready for this? Would this have an effect on whether you do more shows or not?
ASHLEY FORCE: I don't -- it's hard to say. I try not to get into all that. I can be pretty -- take things personal. I know there was times when I first started racing, I'd read the Internet, it would take over my day. You don't read all the nice things that are said, but you remember the one bad thing. It was hard for me to handle that.
But dad taught me, you know, there's always going to be people that like you and don't like you. You just got to do what you do and do it in a way that you want to do it. I think it will be hard. It will be strange to have people maybe putting opinions. We're already having people trying to compare the three of us sisters.
The good thing about it, though, is that's not really our world. We're suddenly in Star Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, but our world is still racing, our fans that know we have helmet hair. We're just out there having fun, racing. They're people we've grown up with. I think if we can just remember that, kind of keep in our own group, with the people that love us, keep doing what we love doing, that's kind of the path I'm going towards.
I don't know. I'm not even really knowing what to expect when next week hits. Maybe got to get some tougher skin.
JOHN FORCE: A&E took us up with (indiscernible) Production Group, Stephen Hopkins and Brent Travers, went up to Hollywood to show us all the good stuff. Then they sat us down and said, We want you to know you're going to get blasted. Some are going to love it, some are going to hate it. You better get used to that.
I worry about my two littlest ones because they care what their friends think. I've learned to not watch the Internet. I do read the papers. If there's some issue on the Internet that's bad, I try to address it. But everybody's got an opinion. Nobody's going to love you. Some are, some aren't.
Ashley has really evolved. I want to say this to you. I've become so proud of her in the last few months, my wife said, Yeah, because she drove a Fuel Funny Car and got her license. No, she's really helped me so much with the two little ones. I'm so overloaded, I can't hardly get the day-to-day work done. She's really taken over teaching Brittany and Courtney, not just about how to do a reality show, because reality shows just happen, they follow you, but how to get my girls out of bed, get them to the tracks, get their credentials, get them to do interviews, to really open them up.
Ashley, I want to say this. She has been fantastic. This kid has really evolved. She's going to evolve way beyond me because she's smart. I listen to her on the TV show. Yesterday when we did the morning show, I've had comments just like you said. People are saying she's evolving. Maybe I did all the talking. That was the problem all these years. But she's coming out of her shell. She's going to be great for drag racing. I'm really glad that I have these girls, and especially her.

Q. John, you said it so well on the Richard Petty thing about the old school. There is always that one factor about women in racing. I think it's the same issue about women in the battle zone. That is, when the first female driver really gets seriously hurt or killed, then what is everybody going to say?
JOHN FORCE: I fear that like you can't imagine every time she goes down the racetrack. But it was not my choice. But you're right, what is the world going to think? It's going to be tough because women are different. I'm not siding with Petty. I'm not for him, I'm not against him. But women are different. I said in interviews, you know, you can set a man on fire, burn his hair, nobody thinks nothing about it. But you burn a woman, it's a little different deal. You burn your kid, it's a different deal.
But this is her choice. But you are right. You know what? She sucked it up. I've seen her get in and out of the car. All we can do, hope to God, and our crew, that we give her the best we can because sometimes you create your own destiny. We can't count on God to do everything. He's on overload now. But this is what she wants, this is her choice. If she decides to walk away because of a bad crash, that's going to be her call.
I'll tell you, I saw her get out of a car that was a pretty good fire, covered with oil, got out of the seat. When her helmet came off, I figured she's going to be crying. I've seen her cry at the end of a racetrack when she hit the wall at Indy during testing. But the emotion wasn't of fear. She had that, too. The emotion was she crashed dad's race car a week before Indy. She was upset she let me down. She got out with a big old smile because you know what, sometimes it's just exciting being in the heat of battle. If you love that excitement, then you're going to want to do it.
But you're right, what is the world going to say when shit does hit the fan? I don't have an answer for that. Do you, Ashley?
ASHLEY FORCE: No. It definitely has to be something -- for a guy or a girl, you can never put a person in a race car that they don't a hundred percent want to be there and let them know that things can happen. We're not naive. My sisters and I, we grew up in racing. We've had friends of ours killed. It's horrible to go through. But in drag racing, it even brings them closer together like a family, where when things like that happen, you want to be at the track because they're the ones there for you that support you and you get through it together.
It's something in the back of your head that you think of, but you can't go up to the track, go up on the starting line, think something is going to happen to me on this run. It's out there. But I trust my team. We take every safety -- every new safety thing that comes along, we check into it, put it on.
It's strange now because dad is always worrying about me. I'm like, Dad, this is what I want to do. I feel safe in my car. But now I see my sisters get in the car and I do the same thing. Are you sure you want to be here? It would kill me if something ever happened to them.
But they know the dangers just like I do, just like the other women out there now. Just because we're a man or woman, it doesn't make it any harder I don't think if you lost one or the other. The pain is still going to be there if it's a person you care about. It's there but you can't think about it, it's what we want to do.

Q. John, what is the time span or Driving Force? You mentioned it starts with early films of your kids, the beginning of the season. With the extension, do they plan to carry it throughout the 2006 professional racing season?
JOHN FORCE: They don't really. The production company, headed by Stephen Hopkins and Brent Travers, they have what they call show runners. They watch the trend of the family. The show started one direction in the beginning, and they realized what the story was, because the story was real. They try to capture that. They're all trying not to just go to a TV audience, to a drag racing type audience, they're trying to go to an audience that someone out in the middle of the country in Missouri that gets off work from working on the farm or they work in a Dairy Queen in the town, they come home, they sit down to dinner with the family, a normal typical American family and they turn on TV. They want to see the problems that other families have, whether you're the president's daughter or you're a drag racer's daughter or you're the daughter of a local banker or a mom that's a cook. That is where they're trying to do. So the story does jump around.
It's not about opening at Pomona. It's not about going to Pomona. You'll see scenes of Pomona, you'll scenes of Gainesville, yet later in the season you'll see Pomona again. It's about different things that happen to different individuals. Brittany had a fight with her boyfriend at Pomona. That's something you'll see in a later segment. It does jump around, but it's still giving you the racing and how we're doing in the points. Right now Ron Capps at Topeka was a big show we filmed with Ron Capps and myself and Gary Scelzi fighting for the title. In fact, we went and filmed at Hooter's because they wanted more sex. We wouldn't give them more sex, so we went to Hooter's to give them girls in bathing suits, you know what I mean? So it does jump around, but it captured a lot of the girls racing Super Comp and their friends, Ashley, her winning Gainesville, Ashley, her evolvement (sic) in Funny Car because it's really about teaching them the business. It's not about winning the championship. This will come later if we get more shows. Right now we will film through Indy is where our first 14, 15 shows will go. Then if they take more, we'll move on from there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, John and Ashley, for giving us an hour of your time. Thanks for the media for joining in today. The debut show will be Monday, July 17th, at 9 eastern, 8 central, on A&E Network.
JOHN FORCE: Thank you, everybody.
ASHLEY FORCE: Have a great week.



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