John Force - Ford interview 2009-03-25

This Week in Ford Racing After three rounds of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Series, four John Force Racing Mustang Funny Cars are in the top 10 in points heading into this weekend's event in Houston, Texas. John Force, driver of ...

This Week in Ford Racing

After three rounds of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Series, four John Force Racing Mustang Funny Cars are in the top 10 in points heading into this weekend's event in Houston, Texas. John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Mustang, has won a record 14 championships and 126 races in his career, and he says that the organization's depth has helped carry it through the early part of the season, and that he looks forward to a very successful 2009 season, a season he has personally dubbed "The No Excuses Tour" for all of his teams.

JOHN FORCE - GTS Castrol Mustang

YOU HAVE THREE RACES UNDER YOUR BELT FOR THE 2009 SEASON. YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW THE SEASON HAS GONE SO FAR? "I'm excited because we have got all four of the Mustangs in the top 10. That's critical. You would like to lead The Countdown [NHRA Countdown to 10 regular season], you would like to be in the lead when you get to the end of the year in The Countdown, but the trick is to be in The Countdown [The Countdown to 1 playoffs], and right now we have all four cars in. Our cars are running very well, we've been a little short-handed with John Medlen being off, but doctor's reports say that he will be back this weekend in Houston. The reason I hired Mike Neff as a driver, taught him to drive, was also to bring him into the crew chief status was for this very situation, to have back-up. John Force Racing, all four cars, are very strong because we have crew chiefs that back up these teams in case someone gets ill, or needs a break or whatever. Our cars are good, we have our motor program, our new manifolds are done and we will be testing them at Houston. Our motor is complete now, our new Ford BOSS 500 that we developed with Ford, and I think we're due to win a championship."

MIKE NEFF HAS REALLY RUN STRONG; IN FACT, HE WENT TO THE FINALS IN PHOENIX THE SAME WEEKEND THAT JOHN [MEDLEN] WAS IN THE HOSPITAL. HAS THAT BROUGHT THE GROUP CLOSER? "The loss of Eric Medlen in '07 brought this whole team together. We are a family just like Ford and if we stay together we can survive. With the loss of Eric, it changed so many things. Safety became a priority even over the cars winning because we had to get a car to protect us. Working with the Ford technicians and everybody involved we've got there, and we've gotten a good race car. We will continue to build safety, but also the mindset is back to winning again. NHRA has put a lot of rules into place. We dominated for 15 years, that's a long time, and they [NHRA] wanted to level the playing field. It's an equal field now, no excuses. We're all equal and we can still win. With John being off, my guys rallied, all of the crew chiefs, Austin [Coil], Bernie [Fedderly], Jimmy Prock and Dean Antonelli, they all rallied around Neff, and the car came out and went to the finals. It ran great. We should have won, but we couldn't make the final. We had a problem, something malfunctioned, but it happens. Last week he smoked the tires, which threw him, but we will be back in Houston and back in the winner's circle, I hope."

ROBERT HIGHT IS FOURTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW, THE LEADER OF YOUR FOUR CARS. HOW HAS HIS SEASON GONE? "Jimmy Prock [Hight crew chief] is our lead power guy. Jimmy goes for the throat. They had tested the new headers earlier in the year and the car did a big wheel stand when the header came off. It bent the chassis, so we sent the chassis back to have the front halved. I guess what happened was we only put half of the front on, we made a mistake. We put one side on it. Jimmy was noticing that in Phoenix and Gainesville that the car was torquing and he couldn't figure out why. They even created a wheelie bar system to try to stop it. Then they came to the conclusion after Gainesville that the chassis was bent. It didn't appear to be bent, but they took it back to be front-halved and they put a brand-new car in for Houston this week. There have been some changes there, but Robert is my power race car and on a good race track, nobody can beat him. In fact, his car made big power in the 1,320 and shortening it to the 1,000- foot is kind of hurting, not making excuses, but that's why his car really would run, leave it to Jimmy Prock. Right now, Robert is my lead driver with the most experience, naturally not over me, but because I was injured last year. We call this year, the No Excuse Tour. I'm still in the gym everyday, I'm strong, but I still look at Robert as my lead right now to win the championship in the Auto Club Mustang."

ASHLEY IS TENTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW. HER CAR WAS LIGHTNING FAST IN GAINESVILLE. IN FACT, SHE HAD THE LOWEST ET IN THREE OF THE FOUR ROUNDS BEFORE SUNDAY. "Even over Robert and Jimmy Prock's car, Ashley's car, with crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, it's our most consistent car. It goes down the race track every run. She's due for another win. I would put her in contention for the championship. She's still learning every day. It takes years to gain experience. She's going into her third year in the Funny Car now, and she's still learning how to play the game, what to do at the starting line, all of the things that you've got to do. There still are drivers out there that have a lot of experience against her and only time will help her get a shot at that title."

YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING THE DEVELOPMENTAL FORD BOSS 500 AND YOU WENT TO THE SEMI-FINALS IN GAINESVILLE. DO YOU THINK THE BOSS 500 IS READY TO LEAD YOUR TEAM TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Well, the motor program still continues, and we just finished a new manifold for the Ford BOSS 500 motor that [Austin] Coil's really excited about. He's duplicated them where they'll be duplicated and not do a manifold that's a little bit different because balancing the cylinders and keeping the car running on all eight, that's the most critical part of the ballgame. With the clutch program, you can make all the power in the world, but if the clutch doesn't work, then you've got a problem. We're getting our hands on that with the new clutch program that John Medlen created this year that we're putting into the cars. We are still learning, still building data, but I'm excited about my Mustang. I'm excited personally for me this year, because last year my car was there, but I wasn't. When you can't hold the clutch down because of lack of strength, you put heat in the clutch. The car then has no consistency, so I take responsibility for that last year. We did make the Countdown, we finished seventh or eighth in points. I don't want to be seventh or eighth, I want to be number one, or I don't want to be anything - that's the way I play the game."

YOU HAVE A PROMOTION GOING ON WITH A FORD DEALER IN HOUSTON. IT'S SOMETHING YOU WILL BE DOING IN EACH CITY WHERE YOU RACE IN 2009. YOU ARE GIVING AWAY A CHANCE TO WIN RACE TICKETS AND A V.I.P MEET-AND-GREET WITH YOUR TEAM IF PEOPLE COME INTO THE DEALERSHIP AND TEST DRIVE A FORD. TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING AT BAYTOWN FORD. "There's an old saying that we only use part of our brain to think. In the same sense, when you push your body, it's not like we're training for the Olympics, but we push our bodies to where we think we're tired. In this economy, even our President Obama, everyone is fighting to fix this country. Ford Motor Company is one of them in the game, like every other business in America, from the little to the big businesses, trying to fix the economy. What I looked at is, at John Force Racing, we can do more work. We have four drivers, and if we split up the job we can get it done. Sometimes we have so many sponsors that we're on overload, but we have to work for our sponsors, whether its Auto Club, Ford Motor Company or Castrol. In the next five years we have to fight, because the whole country is fighting. We sat down and said, 'Can we do more work?' and we all agreed: Yes we can! We'll have playtime, but this is about surviving in this economy. We sat down and thought about new programs, and thought, 'Let's go to the dealers.' If we can spend the time to work with the dealers, more appearances and get them excited, then why not? They're the ones having a rough time in sales, in this economy; in their repairs and paint shops and we can help them create excitement. It just means that we've got to work a little harder and we can give back to the people that got us here. We're excited about that program; we just released it a little over a week ago. We got it set up in Houston. I'll be going by the dealer in Houston saying hi. What was really exciting was the calls we got back from so many dealers across the country in the same towns that we race. You get three or four dealers in that area calling, it's going to be tough to make them all happy, but we're going to try."

YOUR DAUGHTER COURTNEY'S VIDEO ON THE FIESTA MOVEMENT JUST CAME OUT ON YOUTUBE. ARE YOU GROOMING COURTNEY TO EVENTUALLY GET IN THE FUNNY CAR AND BE INVOLVED WITH A SPONSOR? "My girls, they all want to follow in Ashley's footsteps. I have to admit, Ashley is very key to my organization. Ashley and Courtney really wanted to work on the Fiesta program, to get involved and to really create a video that is good. God bless her, she's [Courtney] studying at Fullerton State right now majoring in communications. A lot of people have come out of Fullerton. It's a great place. When I looked at the video, I couldn't believe it. Ashley's a smart cookie. Courtney is motivated to be like her big sister, but they are different. They have different personalities, Courtney's very outgoing while Ashley is a little low key, believe it or not. Courtney is more like me, and Ashley does things her way. It was exciting to see them do the video. They are excited to get the car here and drive for the next six months. Hey, you get a free tank of gas, you get some insurance and it's a way for us to save money in our household while doing something to help grow the Ford brand. I think the Fiesta Movement is a wonderful opportunity. The fans need to get involved and look at it on YouTube, it's an exciting deal. I'm really proud of my daughters and our staff when they put that video together. I give credit to Ashley, she was really thinking, she put the Funny Cars in there. When Courtney said, 'We're a typical family,' there were these Funny Cars going by, it was good humor and good stuff."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Eric Medlen , John Medlen , Mike Neff