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October 22, 2014

Courtney Force

SCOTT SMITH:  We're joined by Courtney Force who in her Traxxas Ford Mustang continues her breakout season and is poised for her first Funny Car World Championship.  She's 72 points behind Matt Hagan and just behind her father John.  She has a single season career best four wins and one runner-up finish this year and four number one qualifying positions. 
Courtney, you've been so strong all season, two races left for the championship, do you and your team have a little left in the bank to make that strong push to hopefully your first championship? 
COURTNEY FORCE:  Yeah, I definitely hope so.  That's our goal so far this year.  We're in a pretty good spot right now.  I think everybody is so close together in the points for this championship that you can shuffle up and down pretty easily.  So you really just have to kind of stay ahead of the game. 
I think we've had the best car so far this season throughout the Countdown to the Championship.  That definitely gives me as a driver and I think for our entire team a little bit of a boost of confidence going into these last two events. 
I'm excited and very hopeful that we can do well.  But we're just going to have to keep pushing hard and take it round by round. 
SCOTT SMITH:  Going to Brownsburg, was that a great way to get everybody back together, refocus everybody, recharge those batteries at this point in the year? 
COURTNEY FORCE:  Yeah, definitely.  I mean, I went out to Brownsburg, visited the shop, saw my team, got to talk with my crew chiefs.  Actually got to talk with Ron about how I can improve as a driver. 
I think my biggest challenge right now honestly is pedaling that racecar down the track because it's not something you can practice so easily.  You don't see drivers practice pedaling during qualifying.  The only time you see it is during elimination rounds.  I got to talk with my crew chiefs about that.  Then I took my team out for dinner, got everyone pumped up, ready to put it all in for the last two. 
It's tough when you get a break like this.  You kind of I think lose your focus about what you're going after.  It's nice to get a little break, let everyone get rest, but for me, I'd rather be in the car, just continue on with the rest of the season because we were kind of on a roll up until Reading, Pennsylvania.  But I'd like to be back in the car.  Just wanted to get my team out to dinner, get them pumped up, excited, motivated going into Las Vegas. 
SCOTT SMITH:  We'll take questions for Courtney. 

Q.  Erica has four wins, you have four wins.  Talk about what you think that means for her, for you, for others of your gender?
COURTNEY FORCE:  Well, I think it's awesome.  I think both of us have had a pretty good season this year.  I think it's amazing to have this be the year that really shines for all the females in our sport.  I'm very fortunate and lucky to be a part of it. 
But it's awesome watching her get these wins.  She's done such an amazing job.  I've watched her race since before I was in a Funny Car.  It's really cool to take this road along with her, Alexis, my sister Brittany, all the other females.  Like she said, Angelle coming back in the car this year, I grew up watching her on the bike.  I thought it was crazy what they did. 
I think it's an amazing year for our sport, for the ladies, but mostly for NHRA to really show we've got a sport over here that might be male-dominated, but the females are starting to take over as well.  I think we're all just continuing to learn and improve and we're starting to shine. 

Q.  Do you think there's a best way for a contender to handle the playoff pressures you have right now?
COURTNEY FORCE:  For me, I mean, I look at it, my dad and I alone, we have totally different ways we approach eliminations.  My dad likes to get hyped up on coffee or Mello Yello and goes into the round.  I'm more of the type that likes to be calm, collected and focused.  I think it's a matter of how each individual driver wants to approach it. 
But for me going into these last two, I try to treat it as any other race, like the first race in the season.  I don't want to think of it as, You have to do it now or it's over type of deal.  I don't need that pressure, even though it's in the back of my head.  I'm going to approach it like any other race and keep my focus, don't make mistakes, work with my team. 
We've got two left.  We just have to hold on.  Hopefully go rounds past my dad and Hagen.  We just have to fight to stay up and ahead. 

Q.  How do you like the Vegas track for yourself and your team specifically?  How important is Vegas to have a shot to even win it at the World Finals? 
COURTNEY FORCE:  Vegas is going to be a huge race for our Traxxas team of whether or not we can even still have a chance at this championship going into the Pomona race.  We really have to keep our focus.  We have to go rounds, collect those bonus points throughout qualifying. 
It's hard.  It's going to be tough coming from the No. 3 spot.  You have to stay ahead of all the guys behind you, but you also have to almost try to go those rounds past Hagen, past my dad.  In order for that to happen, their cars are going to have to stumble somehow, which doesn't happen very often.  They're one and two in the points for a reason. 
We've just got to hold on and do our job in these last two.  Going into Vegas for us, I think we've done pretty well there in the past.  I've been in a final round with my dad last year where he went on to win the race and won the championship in that round. 
I'm hoping that this is a good track for all of our team.  Looking in the past, since we have done well here before, I'm definitely hopeful that we can hopefully go rounds here at the track in Las Vegas. 

Q.  Obviously you and your two sisters have competed before.  Can you talk a little bit about the biggest personality differences between you guys.  I know you passed Ashley for most wins by a female.  How did she take that? 
COURTNEY FORCE:  You know what's funny, Ashley has really always been the one that's very supportive.  She obviously is a very competitive driver, as well.  But it was actually kind of funny to see a little spark of competitiveness.  She renewed her license in Funny Car earlier this season in my Funny Car actually at the Las Vegas track.  I went on to get that win in Sonoma, passed her in wins in Funny Car. 
My goal was always to just reach as many wins as my sister had because I looked up to her so much.  I knew she had done so well in Funny Car, I obviously kind of wanted to be just like her.  But when I passed her in wins, I didn't even know what just happened.  It was a very surreal moment for me. 
Ashley was so excited and so supportive.  She never really compares her stats to mine and vice versa.  It's always just been her full support on me, Brittany's support on me.  Ashley, actually after that round, great, my little sister just passed me if Funny Car points.  Maybe one of these days she'll get back in and try to get that back. 
It was kind of cool to see a little bit of that competitive fire in her.  It got me excited because I would love to have her out here in Funny Car with me competing. 
Brittany as well.  We competed in the Top Alcohol Dragster category years back.  We had a lot of fun with it, but we were always supportive of each other.  Win or lose, it was just great to have my sisters by my side. 
Brittany went into the final round in Reading just a few weeks back.  I was really bummed she didn't get that win.  She and her team are coming close to their first win in Top Fuel.  But it's great having my whole family out there.  We're competitive drivers, but we really haven't been towards each other with my sisters and I. 

Q.  Talk about the conflicting emotions when you go head-to-head with your dad. 
COURTNEY FORCE:  It's tough.  I think at the beginning when I first got into Funny Car, I was thrilled.  This was a dream of mine.  I grew up watching my dad race a Funny Car.  Just to be paired up in the lane next to him, it was the most exciting, surreal moment I've ever experienced.  I didn't care if I won or lost.  I was in a Funny Car about to race my dad.  I still get that every time I race him.  It's still a surreal moment every time I pair up with him. 
Once you pass the finish line, all your emotions kind of change.  You think to yourself whether you won or lost, someone's going home.  Either I sent my dad home packed on the trailer or he sent me home.  It's a little bittersweet.  It was definitely bittersweet when he beat me -- well, the few times he beat me it is a little hard.  When he beat me for the championship last year, I was going after that win, trying to move up to fifth in points last year at this point, and he took home the championship. 
I think the hardest thing for me was, yeah, we didn't get the win, I was really bummed, we didn't make an improvement on where we were at in points, but I also couldn't really celebrate with my dad for the championship.  I think that was the hardest part for me.  As his kid, I'm usually the first one there standing by his side, hugging him, congratulating him.  It's a different feeling when you have your own team and you're going after your own personal goals. 
Definitely makes it hard running against him, and my brother-in-law Robert, as well. 

Q.  You've talked a little bit about your sisters.  At the same time have they stepped up at all to give you the confidence that you can get the job done over these last few weeks? 
COURTNEY FORCE:  It's kind of been something we haven't really discussed.  Brittany is still doing her thing in Top Fuel, trying to move up in points there.  Dad is fighting for it.  It's kind of hard for them to cheer me or dad on because they have to pick a side.  I think they stay pretty neutral.  They give me the confidence of there's two races left, staying positive, keeping your focus. 
Ashley will be at the next two races.  She'll be there definitely for support and to help my confidence.  But I don't really think we'll have a discussion until we actually get to the track.  I mean, I think it will kind of change up then. 

Q.  Being that you and your dad are fighting so hard for this championship, is he still giving you driving advice when you're ready to go for rounds, prior to the racing?  What is his attitude towards you since you're fighting for the same championship?
COURTNEY FORCE:  He does still give me driving advice.  It's great having him because obviously he's the one who taught me how to drive.  Nothing really changes. 
We're still one team over here at John Force Racing.  I think it would be exciting if either of us could get there.  But the goal right now is that one of our teams does. 
So I'll be happy if dad can get the championship done this year, and Robert and myself.  If one of us can get there, that's the ultimate goal for all of our sponsors, for Traxxas, Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource, Mac Tools, Peak.  We've got to make these guys happy. 
I'm with Ford Driving Skills for Life, this is actually National Team Driver Safety Week.  It's great being a part of all these programs.  But all these guys want me as a driver to get the win, get the championship for these sponsors. 
But dad's always there by my side.  He's always peeking his head under my Funny Car body, giving me driving advice.  I think that kind of stops when we have to drive against each other.  That's when I'm kind of on my own.  He just looks at me, tells me to have fun with it.  If I'm not feeling safe, get out of it, don't make any mistakes. 
It's more that he's there for support 100% of the time.  But the driving advice comes about 99% of the time as well.  I don't think he can ever stop.  To me, I may be a competitor, but I'm still his kid.  He still wants me to do well in the sport.  Doesn't matter who I'm racing.  Obviously when I have to pair up against him, it changes a little bit.  I'm kind of on my own.  I take from I've learned from him and kind of use it to my advantage. 
It's a lot of fun racing with him.  He does great giving me advice all year long. 
SCOTT SMITH:  Courtney, thank you very much for your time in joining us today.  We'll see you at Las Vegas October 30th through November 2nd, then Pomona to close out the season. 
COURTNEY FORCE:  Thank you. 

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