National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
April 11, 2013
SCOTT SMITH: Next up we have current points leader in Funny Car, and driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang, Courtney Force. She holds the lead at the strength of one win in the season-opener back in Pomona and at runner-up finish at the recently completed race in Las Vegas.
First of all, Courtney, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.
COURTNEY FORCE: Sure. Thank you.
SCOTT SMITH: Courtney, in your second season of Funny Car racing, is this where you thought you would see yourself, leading the points four races deep in the season?
COURTNEY FORCE: No, not really. It's still pretty surreal to me. I mean, just the fact I have the opportunity to race a 300-mile-per-hour car, have such amazing sponsors backing me, I'm very appreciative, I'm very lucky.
I'm still learning as a driver. Only 13 or 14 in the points lead right now. I think it's great. We've done it twice this season so far. It's only the fourth race in. But to say we've already picked up a win in Pomona, taking the points lead back in Vegas, going to the final round, I'm very proud of my team and what we've accomplished so far this season. And I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how we progress and hopefully continue the success throughout the year.
SCOTT SMITH: You talked about your second season. By no stretch are these cars easy to drive. But is it getting easier each time down the track? Are things slowing down within the car for you?
COURTNEY FORCE: Yeah, definitely. I mean, my dad always told me the more and more seat time you get, the better you're going to be at driving. The more passes I get to make down the track, I'm definitely learning something new every time. I don't think that will ever go away. I still make mistakes as a driver, but I try to do the best I can to fix it immediately on the next pass because you don't want to lose a run for your team when they put a great racecar for you.
I do the best I can driving this car and I'm very fortunate that I have such an amazing group of guys working on my racecar. They're very good at their job. I have Ron Douglas and Dan Hood that do an amazing job tuning my car. We were I think one of the most consistent cars out there last season. I think we've done a good job so far this year to kind of continue that rhythm.
So I'm definitely looking forward to it, but more and more seat time I think the better and the easier it will get. But, you know what, I learn something new every time. So I just got to keep making passes and hopefully I'll improve.
SCOTT SMITH: We'll take questions for Courtney.
Q. Courtney, starting out at the beginning of the season, you had the luxury of bringing momentum to the next race. Do you believe in momentum? What does winning and good results do for you and your team?
COURTNEY FORCE: Well, it's definitely a feel-good thing for a driver and a team, you know, when you start out at the first race of the season and you're leaving there with the trophy and the points lead. It's definitely a good feeling.
But when we went into Phoenix, it didn't really continue the rhythm like we had hoped. I think I went out first round there. I mean, it's always good to have rhythm. But every track is different. You have to tune it different. You have to learn how to drive on the tracks different.
I just think that you hope that the rhythm continues, but I think it's more of the positive attitude and going into the next race with your head held high, just trying to do better than the next time.
Q. The good results you get, does that put a little extra bounce in your step with your team?
COURTNEY FORCE: Yeah, it definitely does. Once we get a win, we all kind of look at each other, high five, congratulate each other on the success of the weekend.
I always say, It starts all over next weekend. We could be No. 1 qualifier in Pomona, next race not even get qualified. It's different at every event. You never know what to expect. You don't want to go out there thinking you're the best because it's not going to get you anywhere.
You have to start from the bottom and work just as hard at every race.
Q. Courtney, can you explain the difference between yourself now and what you saw in yourself last year as you went through being a rookie.
COURTNEY FORCE: Well, last year I was really focused on just the basics of driving. You're still just trying to get down the routine of everything in the car and not screw up, just to be able to remember all the things you have to do at the starting line, the Christmas tree, how to keep your car straight, trying to back up, do the burn-out. It's all those little things you're learning about in the first year.
I've noticed it's come a little more naturally the second time around this year. I was looking back, it was kind of funny, I kind of took notes at every event last year. Every single round I was writing down on my computer, in a notebook, what the pass felt like, what the car was doing, what I was feeling, what was going through my head. It kind of made me laugh when I looked back at it. I was like, Why did I write this down? It wouldn't help me at all. It was funny how I wrote down all these details and it comes a lot more naturally now.
I definitely thought that was cool to look back at and realize that I have come a long way since last year and I've definitely learned a lot more just through all the seat time, the passes, just working with my team. It's great to have a group of guys that are honest with you and can tell you if you screw up a little bit, they can tell you how to fix it.
Yeah, I mean, I think I've improved a little bit as a driver, but I've definitely learned a lot.
Q. Courtney, you had a really, really good year your freshman year, winning Rookie of the Year, winning some races. We've seen it time and time again in the history of NHRA where in your sophomore year, you stumble a little bit. You've come out swinging for the fences and have hit some homers. What kind of confidence does that give you going into the rest of the season?
COURTNEY FORCE: Everyone started telling me about the sophomore slump. I don't know why, but I didn't know about it. Then I started kind of thinking about it. It was getting in my head after doing all these interviews, everyone is going, Going into your second year, you think you're going to have a sophomore slump? Wait, I didn't know about that. I hope not.
It felt good to get a win right off the bat at the first race. You know what, it's not just me as a driver, it's really my team behind me. They do such a great job keeping the car consistent. Ron Douglas knows how to tune this car in a lot of different conditions. I'm very lucky as a driver. If you have a consistent car, you can learn a lot more, make more passes, learn as a driver.
It's definitely a good feeling to come out and be in the points lead only the fourth race in. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. I really am trying to push hard to not say, We had a good year last year, just not try as hard this year. I'm definitely working twice as hard because I think we've got a good team, I think we have a lot of potential.
I'm excited for this season. I mean, so far we've done great. We've made it to a final round just this last weekend in Vegas. Although there might be a few races you stumble a little bit, but as long as you can kind of pick yourselves up, work even harder the next time, I think we'll be okay.
Q. There was something you said that brought to me, all of this time that you spend, you've also had an extra situation in that you seem to do a lot of help with your sister. How does that work with you? Do you think it makes you feel better also as a Funny Car driver?
COURTNEY FORCE: Well, it's definitely a lot of fun to have my sister out here. Last season it was all about driving out to the track with my dad and him teaching me everything from the morning till the nighttime. I mean, he was just going on and on with advice. It was a little overwhelming in my first season. But dad means well.
It's kind of cool to have my sister out here, although she's in a different category, she's in a Top Fuel dragster, and I'm in the Funny Car. It's still kind of cool she's been able to come to me for advice and I've been able to talk to her. I try not to shove it down her throat and throw a bunch of advice at her because I know how overwhelming it can be the first year out. You don't need to hear someone telling you about all the little things to make it a perfect run, you just want to get it down there.
It's been kind of cool. She's come to me for advice, asked me for different ways of staging. I go to my dad still about advice for pedaling. It's kind of cool we all get to work together as a family. Even though dad drives us a little crazy sometimes, he still makes it fun out there. I think that's kind of the coolest part. The three of us get to be out there racing. My mom and my sister Ashley are always out there supporting us.
SCOTT SMITH: Courtney, talk about going into Charlotte, the Four-Wide Nationals. It's such a sensory overload for the fans, extreme thing to see, incredible sight to see. What is it like for you as a driver and what is your mindset going into this event?
COURTNEY FORCE: I'm excited. Obviously the Four-Wide is one of the very unique tracks on the circuit. It's the only one that's obviously four lanes of drivers competing and about 40,000 horsepower at one time. It's a little bit overwhelming for a driver. I was definitely new to it. I keep talking to Brittany about it going in. So I'm a little nervous for her. There's so much excitement. There's so much horsepower. It's so much louder at this racetrack with four lanes.
I'm excited going into it. I love that it's unique. I love that it's different. It definitely makes it cool for the fans, and it definitely is fun to put on a great show for them.
I'm excited. Bruton Smith built the Bellagio of drag strips out here. It's always a fun track. Although it's going to be nerve-wracking because there's so much going on, so many other cars, lanes to focus on, the Christmas tree to really kind of relearn at this track, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a challenge, but that's what I like about it.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you very much, Courtney. Through the years we've seen the Force versus Pedregon, such great battles out there on the track with Cruz, Tony and John, and now Courtney getting in on it.
Courtney, for you, you were on the losing side of it. Do you think it was kind of neat for the fans to see Cruz/Pedregon/Force battle with a newer member of the Force clan?
COURTNEY FORCE: Yeah, definitely. It's always fun getting to race the Pedregons. I grew up watching my dad race them. I'm sure it was as exciting for them as well as the fans. The fans always love a good drag race. I think Cruz and my dad always put on a good race. It's fun to watch.
It's cool to be a part of it. I raced Cruz a few times before. He kicked my butt two weeks ago. But you know what, it's always fun racing him. It's just exciting. I mean, no matter who's in the other lane, it's going to be a good drag race. It's always fun racing the Pedregons.
SCOTT SMITH: Cruz, your thoughts on that?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Like she says, they asked me how do you feel about racing Courtney? I'm thinking, Man, I'm racing John Force there because the team he's put together. I know he's trained her well and she drives like a veteran. She stages just like she's been doing it for years.
When I race her, I'm not thinking of some cute little 20-something-year-old, I'm thinking I better stage properly or if I do something wrong because I'll get John over there trying to engage in some kind of little scrap there.
But it's always fun, like she says. I got to hand it to them, they put, both Courtney and Ashley, when she came onboard a few years ago, good cars. She's not only fun to race, also a John Force family member, but they drive good cars. When you race them, you better have it together because, like I say, they're driving great cars.
SCOTT SMITH: Courtney, I think that will conclude our portion with you. Thank you very much for joining us today. We will see you in Charlotte.
COURTNEY FORCE: All right. Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|