- Don Garlits
- John Force
- Kurt Busch
An Interview With: DON GARLITS, JOHN FORCE, KURT BUSCH
THE MODERATOR: We have three drivers here and very fortunate to have drivers of this caliber. Our first one, ladies and gentlemen, is Don Garlits.
First of all, congratulations, want to thank you again for being so much a part of NHRA for all of these years. Tell us what it means to you to be part of this Gainesville race. He's racing his car in Stock Eliminator. You have the Hall of Fame inductions tonight. You have the great match race with Darrell Gwynn, which will raise lot of money for charity this weekend. It’s a busy weekend for you here. Tell us about your feelings for the weekend.
DON GARLITS: This place is special to me because you know it kicks off the drag racing in the Eastern part of the United States and a few years ago this became the biggest drag race in the world and I'm quite proud of that. I think it's one of the finest facilities in the world for racing.
It is a special place and I've won the race a few times, broke some records here, became the first car, to go about 270 miles an hour, and it's just like old home week, and of course, this match race that's coming up with Darrell Gwynn and these electric cars that ought to be something to watch and see if they have got those things even enough, that's going to be the problem. But they say the cars are really pretty. I have not seen them yet but they say they are really pretty and they really look like the cars we raced in 1986.
Of course, I'm trying to run an automatic car. I really like that it's a lot of fun racing in the sportsman ranks. It's a super bunch of guys. It's like the old days they come over and help you load parts, it really is not corporate type of racing that racing has become; it reminds me of the days that I started racing and I like those days. I had a lot of fun in racing. We did it for years and years before money had anything to do with it. We did it because we just loved to run our cars. And that's kind of like sportsman racing. We do it because we love to run the cars. It's just great to be here with the NHRA and it's really nice, they have been super people.
THE MODERATOR: You said you never raced for money but you've won a lot of money over the years. You revolutionized the sport, and of course were also voted the No. 1 driver of all time in the history of NHRA (in 2001 during NHRA’s 50th anniversary celebration). So tell us, those two things, does one stand out as a highlight in the career more than another?
It is about safety and saving lives and increasing the performance and there just isn't any way to get around it.
THE MODERATOR: He’s a three-time national champion and if you don't think he's got that competitive spirit, he really wants to beat Darrell out there this week, so that should be a lot of fun when he and Darrell get on the track, relive some of the great moments, not only in Gatornationals history but NHRA's history as well. It’s great to have Big Daddy with us this weekend.
Sitting next to him is John Force, and we are two races into the season, we have had two press conferences and you sat next to Don Prudhomme at the last race and now you are next to Big Daddy this week.
For a guy that's done all that he's done in the sport of drag racing are you still awed getting to share the stage with guys like that?
JOHN FORCE: What was the question? (Laughter).
I was depressed this morning coming in because last night, late flights, I'm coming into town with Lori and Courtney, true story. Coming down, doing everything right (inaudible) ran and Smokey just pulls me over. So I go right into the John Force bull drive talk to get out; "Hey, you know how fast I'm going to be going at the Gators this weekend?"
And he said, "I don't know how fast you are but I know what my speed deal showed, and you got a ticket." Told me: Shut up, get back in the car and see you at the Gatornationals.
But he was doing his job because I was speeding. But when I got here, this is cool, because the greatest racer of all time, Don Garlits, we all know that but I'm surrounded by him and on the other side Mr. Busch here of NASCAR and I was with you guys with the road show all last week, and they are really cool, the drivers at NASCAR, like they are really hot stuff.
But when you really get on that side, they are the real deal and they are just like us. I am just honored to be sitting between NASCAR and the greatest of all time. And that ain't just sucking up. I'm trying to get into that museum one of these days when I prove myself. What was your question?
THE MODERATOR: Big Daddy would be more than happy to let you into the museum if you will pay him six bucks, just mention his name when you get there.
You mention the road show you took out to Las Vegas and that will be a big part of John Force Racing this year and it will be a big part of the NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration. Tell us about the road show. It's quite an endeavor.
JOHN FORCE: I was standing somewhere last year and they said, Don Prudhomme, 60th anniversary, and surely they are going out on the road to show their stuff and I'm like, I'm going with them. I am as old as you, Garlits, you just don't know it.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us about the John Force road show.
JOHN FORCE: It's always been my life and I love NASCAR and all types of motorsports, but it's really about putting people in the seats, and if we can help NASCAR go out there and promote and hang out with these guys and they come back here to race their hot rods and hang out with us, in this type of car.
And during the Great Depression, people had to go to movies and ballgames. Now in this economy we are in, we are trying to drive them to the races and if we can cross over, that's what the road show is. It's a combination of Robert Hight’s Dodgers car, the Elvis car, the Superman car, Driver of the Year car, every car that I had. And there's so much hype about it, but the problem is the show ain't even done yet. One of them is still being built.
Our videos are to educate the fans, and with the interviews we are going to give to talk about why Kurt loves drag racing and why I love NASCAR. It's just about how to put people in the seats and educate them, in the airports, malls, movie theatres, tell them about Don Garlits. He's not just a guy that's a great racer, promoted his cars, he drove his cars, he raced them and he survived Shirley Muldowney, that's the biggest.
But Prudhomme was out there with his show and that was unbelievable, we saw it in L.A. They got big screen theatres to watch all this. And we just go to malls, airports but we are going to NASCAR, we are going to state fairs, we are going to the Super Bowl, Castrol is involved so just a lot of places. No weekends off is what I told Courtney and she said, "Dad, I've been to Florida four times this month and I've seen nothing but the airport and the interstate."
"I said, Welcome to drag racing."
THE MODERATOR: John Force, ladies and gentlemen.
Next up is our latest Pro Stock entrant, Kurt Busch. Kurt, welcome to drag racing.
KURT BUSCH: Well, it’s tough to follow the John Force Show.
MODERATOR: It's going to be very interesting for you this weekend. Tell us about your desire to race here in Pro Stock.
KURT BUSCH: Well, last year, with the weather the way it was and I know that it's going to be clear and sunny for the rest of the weekend, being in the garage, we sat there watching rain for four days. I'm like, really, this is my off weekend from Cup. I only have three or four a month, we are so busy on the Cup circuit but I'm a car guy and I wanted to be here racing and I only got to make two passes last year.
It's just one of those feelings where it gave me that taste, I wanted to go out there and race but I couldn't and I said, well, heck, next time around, I'm going to go into the pro division. So we ramped it up. We have Shell on board to come over from our NASCAR world, like what John was talking about, cross promotion.
If you can bring in the star power of what the NASCAR group does to the NHRA side and create this excitement in the Pro Stock division, it's a lot of fun. I hope we make two passes on Friday and Saturday and that gives us an opportunity to be there on Sunday and be there for eliminations.
It's a whole new world, I'm really excited about it, it's a lot of fun and a whole different challenge, but yet at the end of the day it's just a race car and a racetrack and I'm here to put my best effort with this great group of guys. I have nobody that I could afford to pay; all of them are volunteers. I told them I would give them a steak dinner and hotel room and they said, all right, we are in.
But a good group of guys to come down and have some fun and to be competitive and take this seriously.
THE MODERATOR: When you first started doing this, you went into the shop in North Carolina and didn't quite get the welcome you were expecting, did you. Tell us about it.
KURT BUSCH: It was the opportunity to go out there and just have fun on an open drag night and Greg Anderson came by and said my buddy is racing this bike and can I take your Viper out and I said okay, here are the keys. He takes the car out there just thinking that it's a factory vehicle, and he's going to go out there just going to lay down a run and he sidesteps the clutch all the way down and smokes it. And you can tell the car was not going anywhere and the clutch is going 1,000 miles an hour.
Brings the car back and it won't even drive itself into the trailer. Great. "Well," he says, "this isn't your car, this is a Dodge car."
I said, "No, this is my personal car and you just pulled the clutch right out of this thing."
He said, "Well, don't worry about it. I'll fix you up."
I said: No, I've got guys that have got parts. I'll fix it myself. I'm going to go to drag racing school and I'm going to prepare myself to go to Pro Stock because you're going to give me the keys to your car one day and I'm going to go pull the clutch out of your pro stock car.
If this all works out as things do in life, it will be amazing if we make the field, and I'm sure we'll be in the bottom half of the field if we make it. Greg Anderson will be in the top half. Who knows? He might match up against us in the first round and this will be an expensive clutch for him to buy if we beat him.
THE MODERATOR: Ten years ago, you were a rookie in the Cup Series, now you're coming here as a rookie. Tell us about the difference between your first NASCAR race and now your first race with NHRA.
KURT BUSCH: That's what it feels like. It feels like being a rookie all over again. To sit on the stage with Big Daddy and John, it's amazing to see what the sport has done over the years and how the cars were the attention back in the day; on what Big Daddy was building and what those legends of the sport were putting out on the racetrack.
And seeing it now, seeing it come full circle, it's the names that are here that are the attention makers, and so that's what makes this fun for me is to come out . Yeah, I'm Kurt, I drive on the NASCAR side. But I'm just the new guy. I don't want the extra attention.
But I know what I can do for the sport bringing the attention over, having those USA Today style type articles and creating the excitement for the Gatornationals and just being the regular guy and just trying to go out there and have some fun, I understand that there's a lot of responsibility that comes with it and I'm going to enjoy the weekend for what it's worth and go out and compete with the best of the best as far as what's going on out here; but also to live up to what these legends have done for our sport, this sport, because it's amazing.
Nobody does it alone. It's all a big group effort and this is like family and I feel like how the group here has accepted me as part of their family, and now we have to go out there and have some fun.
THE MODERATOR: You also have pretty high expectations for yourself this weekend. Tell us what your goals are.
KURT BUSCH: We just want to make the show. To go out there and qualify for the top 16. But I hear there are, what, 30 cars registered? That's ridiculous. I thought there would be like 18.
It’s just like on the NASCAR side, it's just about being a car driver and I think that's why we are all here, because we are car people and we generally love to be a competitor. In all that we do, whether our car looks cooler than yours or our car is faster than yours. That's why we are all here, because we are car people.