Friday, November 20, 1998
NHRA Drag Racing
JOHN FORCE, WHO CAPTURED HIS EIGHTH NHRA FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP, AND SECOND CONSECUTIVE IN A FORD MUSTANG, TALKED ABOUT HOW VINCE LOMBARDI, A FORD DEALER FROM RHODE ISLAND, AND YELLOW FOOTBALL JERSEYS ALL HAD A HAND IN HELPING HIM CAPTURE THE 1998 FUNNY CAR TITLE.
FORCE ALSO TALKS ABOUT THE 1999 MUSTANG HE WILL CAMPAIGN NEXT SEASON AND HOW IT WILL HELP HIM AS HE CONTENDS FOR HIS NINTH CHAMPIONSHIP.
HOW WAS CHAMPIONSHIP NUMBER EIGHT DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS SEVEN? "It was as hard as the first one. We were sweating it down to the wire whether or not we were going to make it. We spent a lot of money working with Roush in Detroit and with Ford, Lee Hampkins and the guys, to put together a new Mustang for the 1999 model which we unveiled with Jac Nasser at SEMA. It was probably the most nervous I have ever been. When I drove the new car out from behind the curtain at the show I think Jac Nasser was afraid that I was going to run over the crowd. We wanted to run the new car at the end of this year but we were not able to because of the rule change. We will have the new car on display at the Detroit Auto Show in January. We are excited about the new Mustang.
But the bottom line is that I think we could have done a lot better. The new car had a lot more downforce, about 17-percent more as matter of fact which puts us closer to the Camaros and Pontiacs. The old Mustang didn't have that, but we were able to still win the title and we fought it down to the wire. The NHRA made a call late in the year that did not allow us to run the new car at the end of the season. They called the rule "In the best interest of the sport" and I have to agree with them. It was an umpires call, we went with that and we still won. We just want to keep winning for Ford. I know that Jarrett and the guys are really fighting in NASCAR against Gordon and we just want to hold up our end."
LOOKING BACK, WAS THERE A POINT IN THE SEASON THAT DEFINED THIS YEARS CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? "I had an individual by the name of Bob Tasca, Sr., a Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealer out of Providence, R.I., who was the one who introduced me to Ford, gave me his word that we were winners. He told us that Ford would not join a team that would take the money and become a looser. Many athletes today sign up coming out of college and when they get to the Pro's they can't hit their butts. We really worked hard to keep our word for a man who kept his word to us. Back in Englishtown in May after we ran the 323.89 mph, the quickest run in history, which is even quicker than the dragsters run, we thought at that time we were really on top of the game. But after that win we were dry for months. Ron Capps and Don Prudhome and the Chevrolets kept knocking us out. In Indy we sat down with the guys and made up a bunch of yellow football jerseys that said "Untouchables" on them and made a pact to go out and kick some butt. And we came out of Indy with the points lead and never looked back. I thought that was the turning point. It jumped around for months, but it seemed like we had the consistency. Although we were not winning races, we were winning rounds. I also had Tony Pedregon taking out Ron Capps, taking out Chuck Etchells, his timing was always good. It was like the good lord wrote a script. When we would stumble, they would stumble worse."
WHAT MAKES JOHN FORCE SO GOOD? TO WIN ONE CHAMPIONSHIP IS AN ACCOMPLISHMENT, BUT TO WIN EIGHT IS EXTRAORDINARY? "It takes big bucks to do it. Castrol puts a ton of money in this car. You have also got to have the right team and I teamed up with the right guy in Austin Coil. He is a genius in the sense that he creates his own technology. That's why I am excited about him working with Ford and Visteon to create new ideas and technology for this car. I have Bernie Fedderly backing up Coil, a guy that ran his own team and won championships. I have hired the right people. On top of that, I read the book, You Will Be Satisfied, by Bob Tasca and also a book about Vice Lombardi which taught me how to coach a team, how to keep you word and make things happen. Besides having the right people and the right money we had the right attack plan. We love what we do, we lived it and we won."
HOW MANY CHAMPIONSHIPS IS JOHN FORCE CAPABLE OF WINNING? "I am going to go until the graveyard. This is what I do. I don't have any other life or any other hobbies. Drag racing, trucks, hot rods, neat paint jobs, shows and the fans is what I do.
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE NEW MUSTANG IS GOING TO HELP YOU TOWARDS CHAMPIONSHIP NUMBER NINE? "It's going to help a lot. This years car, even thought we had the big speed, we had no drag on the car which means no downforce. Yet, when it hooked on a racetrack we would run a good mile-per-hour because it had not drag. The bottom line is that the new car may not run the speeds, but it will run quicker E.T.'s which is how you win races. So many races this year, like Seattle, I would be hooked up with the clutch and on my way to the win and the tires would start to haze and the car in the next lane would go right by. The '99 Mustang gives us some more downforce, about 17-percent more. We thought we were about 25-percent off in the downforce department from the Camaros and Pontiacs, so if we can pick up 17- to 18-percent and a percent over here and a percent over there we will be back where we can race them. Now that we will have the downforce, we can outrun them."