Motorsports News and Interviews: "Our Take is Bright"


FAST NEWS  Photos by Dwight Drum   Web work by Larsen and Drum
John Force

"When you dedicate to be a champion - I don't mean just to win a race or to win a championship - when you do the things like the New York Yankees did, when you do things like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, to where you dominated, you've got to give up something because you've got to live it every day like an addiction. "

"Once you win a championship then it starts all over again and then you become this trained machine and you just go, go, go, go."

Ashley Force

"The biggest mistakes I've made, I've learned the most from."
Fourteen-time NHRA champion John Force often backs up his words with deeds, but his incredible ability to race and talk is the special stuff of champions. Force has a huge dose of internal drive that always helps winners consume their own energy and the energy of those around them -- a combination that propels their goals beyond all others.

Force has a family of attractive daughters too and all seem to love racing like the renowned patriarch. Ashley has been the first from the family tree to face the electronic tree sufficient times to support a move up to an NHRA pro class. Her hard work over the past seven years has produced the first points lead by a female in the highly competitive and incredibly speedy Funny Car class.

This very fast family recently slowed down to share a few swift words with drag racing fans.

{Venues: Gainesville Raceway 2008 Gatornationals & 2008 NHRA Teleconference}

Reporter Dwight Drum asked John Force:

Can you compare the rigors of your recovery and rehabilitation to your quest for wins and championships?
"You know, it's a complete different way of life. But you have to dedicate your life; it's sad, but when you dedicate to be a champion - I don't mean just to win a race or to win a championship - when you do the things like the New York Yankees did, when you do things like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, to where you dominated, you've got to give up something because you've got to live it every day like an addiction. I see Robert Hight the same way. My daughter Adria says 'Daddy, he gets off of an airplane, he hugs me, he hugs the baby and he goes straight to the shop,' because the race car is an addiction. You live it. It becomes a way of life. And that's what it took me to dominate.

"And once you win a championship then it starts all over again and then you become this trained machine and you just go, go, go, go. And you're winning, you're winning, you're winning; you even take the Winner's Circle for granted. You're getting awards and records - I've walked into banquets and they said 'Do you know why you're here?' Well I really don't. I just know my schedule says be here. 'Well you're getting an award because you did this.'

"It's not really about the awards. Am I proud to be making 500? Well yeah, that's something in a lifetime. I kind of joke about it; 'If you stick around long enough you'll get to 500.' What I'm more about is getting qualified and winning two rounds to get to that 1,000 or winning four rounds. You know, I couldn't even get qualified in Vegas to win a round, so I've got to get my stuff together.

"But in the same comparison, when I went into the gym this doctor that I met, Robert Ortmayer, this therapist, he said, 'You want to be ready in two-and-a-half months?' I said, 'Yeah that's testing.' Well, two other therapists didn't want the job. They said, 'You need six months and then we'll take a look at you.' I said, 'You don't understand. If I ain't back in my car for testing, I've got to turn the ride over to another kid and that means I lose the season and I've got to get back for sponsors and a lot of reasons; and because I want to.' Then the guy said, 'Well, then be prepared for a lot of pain. That means that your body doesn't bend. You've got to go into this thing and you've got to live it.' To the point that I remember having my arms and fingers bent until I cried. I was so mad some days I wanted to slug him, it was like he was being mean to me. He said, 'No, I told you. You have to live this, everyday.'

"I remember Bazemore, the one thing Bazemore said to me that stuck in my head - he called me and said, 'You've got to go to therapy because I went through it and I only had one broken leg. I didn't have broken leg, broken arm, burnt off fingers, cut off fingers, burnt off toes, knees screwed up.' He said, 'You're a mess. You better go to therapy, you know what I mean? Like you've chased those championships in the last 15 years, because if you ain't loving it, you'll never make it. It better be Disney Land,' he said, 'Everyday. Don't let anything, don't take your cell phone, don't let business' - and I turned the business off and I've got to say, my people ran it really good while I was gone.

"So, to compare the two; completely different, but the same drive, the same motivation. In fact that's how I got hooked on football again. I hadn't watched football since I was a kid when I played it in high school. I found that I could get up at four in the morning, five in the morning, turn on ESPN, start watching the football, the Tony Romos, all this stuff. And it would help me motivate to get me back; and they were showing it all day and all night. Luckily, through my rehab, football season was over and I was ready to move on. I don't know what I would have done without it. It just got be caught up. Everyday I'd live by it - what the teams were doing, what they were doing in training - and I got another addiction for it. And that's why my wife says, 'John, you never take a break, you go everyday.' Even when I'm on the road, I go to the gym at the hotel. If the gym ain't a good gym, I get the rubber bands out and my putty and I go to work with the barbells that I carry in my suitcase because you've got to live it.

"Getting well, you've got to live like you live winning a championship. And if a man wanted to save his marriage, you better live your marriage the same way. That's where I failed."

Ashley Force:
Reporter Dwight Drum asked Ashley Force:

Can you talk about overcoming the adversity for your team over the past year?
"We're just going to race this weekend and that's what Eric would want us to do and not think about what happened last year. We're just going to put ourselves together and get on down the track and hopefully we can get a win for him at the end of the weekend on Sunday."

You get paid to play. Do you feel there is still a kid in you and does that kid come out in you sometimes?
"Definitely when I spend time with my crew guys and that's when I probably have the most fun. Even days like this when it's wet on the track we get to spend a little more time together. They are usually traveling when I'm traveling so that's when we probably goof off the most and play pranks on people and the crew chief. Yeah, you can't get too serious."

What makes a good team scream? What makes it work?
"Getting along, No. 1, hard workers and people who love drag racing. That's the kind of team I have. I think I have the best team out here. Of course every driver thinks that, but I've made plenty of mistakes as a new driver and every mistake I've made they are the ones telling me, 'It's OK we'll get them next week.' They've never made me feel bad or anything. They've only ever motivated me to go out and give it another try. They always give me a safe race car. I always have 100 per cent faith that I'm climbing into the best race car they can give me. We just got to round by round and try to get our first win together."

Focus is so important. Is there any way to sharpen focus do you think?
"I think just experience that you learn to deal with everything else that's going on. The more practice you've got the more you can forget about everything else when you go up there and climb in the car. Dad has 30 years of experience and he is able to focus better than any of rest of us and he's gone through more than everyone else has. When he gets in his car his mind is not thinking about anything else but what he is doing in there."

You have a great coach like that in your life. Are there a few things that stick out in your mind, any advice that helps to do what you do?
"Just to not get down on myself if I mess up. It's easy to point out the mistakes that you are making. My dad has always said, 'You're not going to learn unless you make mistakes.' No one is going to come out here and be a perfect driver. It will take those mistakes to get better. The biggest mistakes I've made, I've learned the most from. It's taken going through those experiences to know this time around when it happens. I know I'm going to be different in the car. I know what I need to do to make the car react the best way possible."

Fans can't know what it's like to be in the car going down the track. Words can't really describe it but can you try?
"When you take off there is just pressure on your whole body. It's kind of like when you get the wind knocked out of you - it kind of feels like that - at least in my opinion. It's really just a rush. It happens in such a quick runt hat it really takes about 10 to 15 minutes to really remember everything that happened in the car. Like I get out of the car and you're trying to kind of just catch up on what's happening. I thought this was happening on the track but when I got out of the car I didn't remember it. It takes that long for your brain to catch up to it."

Can you explain what communication you have to do that maybe fans might not know about the camaraderie you have to have with your team?
"That's one of the No. 1 things that you need to have with your team. Whatever you do you need to have communication. John Medlin and Mike Neff, their communication is completely different than me and Guido. They are both very technical. They both run their own cars. They are able to talk about it. Whereas Guido and I, it's more about feeling because I don't have the technical background. But he is able to take things I felt on the run and show me on the computer, 'When you said that happened this is what was happening.' He can show me everything else that was happening on the car. It makes you both understand from both angles. That can help him and he can help me from that end of it. Then he can try to find that super spot in the middle."

Here at the track you are not a normal person, you are a celebrity. When you are away from the track do you feel different when you are here?
"When I'm not here I'm just family at home. It's OK when I'm at home. It's pretty normal except for the traveling that we do. I go home and I do everything that everybody does. I go into the office and check up on work and my e-mails and I do my laundry and I take my niece to the park. I try to spend time with my friends and my family and try to live a normal lifestyle. Because when you go on the road, nothing is normal about it. It's nice. I'm a stay-at-home kind of girl. When I go home I like to barbecue at home. I work on my house. I re-tiled my kitchen a couple weeks ago, just little projects like that because you know when the season gets going, you're not going to spend too much time at home."

2008 Dwight Drum