DRO: It was that simple?

FORCE: I was talking with [daughter] Adria, and she made me realize it's all about family. Tony's like my own kid, and I was upset. And she kept telling me, "It's all about family."

DRO: How do you think Tony will do this year?

FORCE: Tony may be the baby [youngest of the three Pedregon brothers], but Tony's a survivor. He's smart, and he's building his career. That heart will carry him through.

DRO: How do you feel toward Tony now?

FORCE: I'll always leave the door open for Tony. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it. He's like my kid.

DRO: Will Eric be like your kid, too, even though he has his own dad right there?

FORCE: He's going to be just fine. You know, Eric said, "Help me here. You know how to talk to the media." I told him, "You have to be yourself. It'll come in time." He's always smiling. He's always got that grin, like he got away with something. [At Las Vegas] I told him, "You've already impressed people enough by running (4.70s). You've made a good impression. The rest of it is just learning."

DRO: We all know Ashley is going to drive Jerry Darien's Top Alcohol dragster. How is that going?

FORCE: She hasn't set the world on fire. She's got a great team, the car goes A to B and it's fast. But anybody can be fast. For sure, I'm proud of her, but I'm still worried about her. I've never driven a dragster, so I haven't a clue what it's like.

DRO: That could be good for her.

FORCE: She really likes the Funny Car best.

DRO: We're told that's why you sent her to Frank Hawley's driving school, to see how she would react to having the body lowered.

FORCE: She said she felt protected.

DRO: How do you deal with the dangers of it for her?

FORCE: She doesn't really know what it's like. She knows what's it's like to drive the car and go fast, but she has never experienced crashing. First time I did a burnout, I ran into the wall. She doesn't know that sensation. That's why I want her to get the love of the sport. I took her for a ride [Saturday at Las Vegas]. In fact, I kind of got my mind right. I've been worried about people getting hurt and to think that I opened that door. Some song came on and I started thinking, "If this is what you really love and you really want to do it, you could get hurt. You could die. You see what happened to Darrell (Gwynn, who was paralyzed following an accident) and different folk along the way. She's not really aware of what can happen. It's terrifying to be on fire. I've been on fire and trapped in a burning car. You talk about a panic. You learn to know your car well enough to know what to do. It's pretty scary, more after it's over than during it. I was trapped upside down in a car once at Pomona, and that scared me. I was in the sand, and everything went dark and I couldn't see. I remember thinking, "This car is going to light up on fire and I'm going to burn up in here."

DRO: So how did you convey those feelings to her?

FORCE: I rode around with her and I said, "I've been so worried about you. I don't want to be worried anymore. Do you want to do this?" And she said yeah. You either love it and you love that car -- If you went and asked Shirley (Muldowney) where she lived she'd say, "You mean, where do I sleep? Because this race track's where I live." She loves it that much. I said to Ashley, "If you truly love it, you've got to become one with that car." It only comes with time. I used to sleep in my car at night. I got where I knew everything in the car. That's why I didn't want to change chassis [from Pfleuger to McKinney]. I still go by my other cars in my shop some nights, and if I've had a beer, I'll cry. I'll tell 'em, I'm sorry I left you behind."

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