This Week in Ford Racing: John Force Teleconference March 31, 2010 John Force Racing is coming off a solid performance at zMAX Dragway this weekend in Concord, NC. On Saturday, Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car, earned...
This Week in Ford Racing: John Force Teleconference
March 31, 2010
John Force Racing is coming off a solid performance at zMAX Dragway this weekend in Concord, NC. On Saturday, Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car, earned his 34th career No. 1 Qualifier and set the track record to for both ET and speed. On Monday, teammate John Force, driver/owner of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car, won the Inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, his 128th career victory. Force and Hight participated in a Ford Racing teleconference today where they discussed four-wide racing and John Force Racing's contract extension with Ford Racing.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WIN ON MONDAY?
JOHN FORCE: "It's always fun when you end up winning, and we kind of stole the competition. Robert Hight was low ET with his Auto Club Ford Mustang, and Ashley (Force Hood) was runner-up and I was the winner, so there's not much more you can do in the Funny Car category. It was an exciting weekend. We had five Ford cars in the show with the Tasca family and also with Wilkerson, so Ford Motor Company had it covered. We came up with the win.
"I'm excited to sign a five-year deal with Ford. It gives me security so we can make progress in our motor program. It's a challenging program, and the employees in the Eric Medlen Project know where we're going to go in the future. The other sponsors are all pushing our contracts with extensions and we're doing that right now, and it will get done soon, so I'm excited about that."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING IN HOUSTON NEXT WEEK, THE SITE OF YOUR FIRST FUNNY CAR WIN?
ROBERT HIGHT: "That's a big race for us. AAA of Texas is owned by the Automobile Club of Southern California, and it's always special the first race you win. We're going to go down there and we're going to be working with a local Ford dealer this weekend. We always try to work with a dealer every weekend. We're kind of on a roll here. John Force Racing is up there in the points and it does give me a bit of confidence going back to where I won my first race. That was probably one of the most special wins. The race track is good there. What I really like is that our 2010 Ford Mustang is really showing some aerodynamic advantages. Ashley [Force Hood] and John [Force] both ran 316 mph and I'm not sure you could have done that with the old body. The thing with Ford and their aerodynamic staff and all of their engineering, we're definitely moving forward in drag racing."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THE FORD RACING CONTRACT EXTENSION MEANS FOR JOHN FORCE RACING?
JOHN FORCE: "Well, it just gives you the financial security for the future in this economy. Ford had a game plan years ago. Everybody is thinking everywhere that we can sell our products in this economy and I guess they feel they can do that through Robert Hight, myself and Ashley Force and the other Ford teams. I'm excited to be a part of that. It gives us security. It lets us know that we have the right partners. Our sponsors are excited to be with Ford because they know that where they give us financial support, Ford Motor Company also gives us the engineering technology that they know will save lives through our project here in Indy and will go into the cars that they put on the street. They have a business plan and what they told us they were going to do four or five years ago, we all worked with them and it's happening. Ford Motor Company is going to make it through this tough time and we're going to be part of that team and I'm proud of that."
DOES THE TRACK IN HOUSTON HOLD A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOU SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN PRETTY SUCCESSFUL THERE?
JOHN FORCE: "I like Texas. It's fun to go there and you can really run good if the conditions are right. I think I got my hundredth win there. We've been pretty consistent there over the years and Robert's won and we're just looking forward to getting back there. The new approach with Ford is the "One Ford" approach. They have the approach in NASCAR with Petty, Roush and Yates and those guys, and now we're going to work together (in NHRA) and we should because of the technology and the engineering studies could help out Ford Motor Company and their people. They spend the money to pay for that to give us a chance to build better stuff and have better performance. Like Robert said, these Funny Cars ran big numbers this weekend, big speed numbers, ran low ET, won the race, and was runner-up with my daughter Ashley. We're excited to be a part of Ford. They're thinkers and I'm liking that. I want to be a part of that think tank and we can continue to grow. Not only to win championships, but to keep our drivers safe, that's the most important thing."
HAVING WON A CHAMPIONSHIP, DOES THAT GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE OR MORE MOTIVATION TO JUST GO OUT THERE AND WIN ANOTHER?
ROBERT HIGHT: "Once you win a championship you now know you can go out there and do it again. It's just like winning your first race. You know you have the team to do it. Until the driver actually proves himself, there's an element of doubt in the back of your mind that you can do it. We won the championship last year and I always knew I could do it because of the team we're on with John Force Racing and Ford and all of the people that John put together, you knew it was good. Still, there's an element of doubt as a driver that you have what it takes to do it. We've done that, so the pressure now is trying to keep it. With the Countdown, anything can happen, but with the way John Force Racing is running early in the year here, it looks like we're doing pretty good."
HOW DIFFFICULT WAS IT AT THE STARTING LINE IN CHARLOTTE HAVING TO WATCH FOUR SETS OF LIGHTS RATHER THAN TWO AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF THE FOUR-WIDE RACING?
JOHN FORCE: "Was the crowd bigger? Did it fill it more seats? Did it make our TV package better? Did it run smoother except for the rain we had on Sunday? How did the racers react to it? How did the NHRA react to it? I'm waiting to hear what the majority wants. Was it exciting? Without a doubt. Was it different? Without a doubt. It's a whole new ballgame, but it doesn't work in the big picture. Bruton Smith has invested a lot of money by building the Bellagio of race tracks with four lanes and Tom Compton, the president of the NHRA said that we owe it to him to do this race. Like I said when I won, I don't know how it's going to play out, but I had a ball. It was confusing for all of the drivers. If you were watching, it was amazing the mistakes that could happen by the Christmas tree."
ROBERT HIGHT: "It was funny. John and Ashley and I got together after we heard how it was going to run and we kind of had a game plan and we talked about it. Going out there I thought I'll be able to watch everybody stage. I usually don't go in first or second, I do a timing thing so that my car is consistent every time. Then I went in and it was like my eyes were wondering around looking at all these lights blink and light up and from there I told myself I'm just going to go in there stage, and stare at the bottom yellow, which is what we react on, and not pay attention to where everybody else is at because it will drive you crazy."
JOHN FORCE: "Change is good. I'm going to have to learn to adapt. I'm waiting to see what the NHRA has to say about it and the whole organization of drivers, but it was exciting. Any time you win that's exciting."
IF YOU HAD TO VOTE RIGHT NOW ON RACING FOUR-WIDE ONCE A YEAR WOULD YOU SAY LET'S DO IT OR WOULD YOU SAY IT'S NOT WORTH THE CONFUSION AND EVERYTHING ELSE?
JOHN FORCE: "For me, I couldn't vote right now because I want to hear what the jury says. I do know this, Bruton Smith has invested in it, and NHRA gave him the shot and what I look at, does the four lane need to continue? Yes. Does it need to be in the championship points chase or just a specialty race once a year to put on a special show for the fans and utilize a great race track there at zMAX? Does it need to be in the Countdown where millions of dollars are invested? I don't know that yet. Do I love it? Yes. I guess we all have the same Christmas tree, the same four lanes, but there's a lot of issues floating around. How did the clean-up go on the track? They had a great crew, the Safety Safari crew did a great job getting in there and cleaning that race track whether there was oil down or a body explosion, or when there was rain. Was it an overload for them? I don't know, we're waiting to see. I could go either way. I'm waiting to see what the others say."
ROBERT HIGHT: "My vote is for what the majority of the fans want because that's what my sponsors are going to go with. We aren't going to sell Ford if everybody isn't watching TV and glued to four-wide racing. That's what it's all about. That's how the sport is going to continue on. It's all about what the fans want. That's the whole bottom line of this is. I don't care what other racers think of it or not, it's all about what the fans want."
AFTER WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH LAST YEAR, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE TWO WINS ALREADY THIS SEASON?
JOHN FORCE: "It feels real good because I'm not getting any younger, but I do live in the gym. And as long as I can do the game and react at the starting line like Robert Hight, Ashley or Bob Tasca or any of them, a lot of great young drivers out there ... when I get too old I've got to get out of the seat. The five-year deal with Ford made me know all of the work in the gym, eating right, taking out the party life, that I changed all of that and I can still compete. It makes me wonder if they let me stay in the game because they felt they owed me, but nobody owes me anything as long as I can deliver, and I was able to do that so far this year. I just have to keep trying, keep doing what I do and that's really what it's all about - doing what you love. At the end of the day you have to take care of your family, your fans and your sponsors. I'm on a real big high right now and just excited that I can be here with Robert because last year he was running in the championship and I wasn't in the game. That really hurts. You don't say it, but it really hurts."
HOW MUCH HAS TALK OF YOU BEING "OVER THE HILL" MOTIVATED YOU?
JOHN FORCE: "I motivate myself. I have always been the kind of guy when somebody tears me down it builds my strength. If a driver gets after me, it makes me work harder. I was like that as a kid playing Pop Warner football. I never had a lot of talent, but I stayed after it and I lived it. You know what I went through with the crash; there was no reason to get up in the morning except for my kids and to show them that you never give up. I just kept staying after it and I am excited that I can play the game again. I am 60 years old and I intend to race until I am 65 or better, if I can do it. It is all about motivating yourself, when you have days that you are down to just fight it. I want Ashley to see me this way and Robert to see me this way and prove that I could come back, so that if it ever happened to them they would know that if you want it bad enough you can."
IS IT SWEETER TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT YOU STILL HAVE IT?
JOHN FORCE: "Yes, it was. I got a call from Ron Capps last night and he said, 'Good to have you back and we have to fight everyone, but we want to fight you.' He wanted to win and he was right there. He and [Matt] Hagan were right there, but at the end of the day, he showed that respect. Drag racing is a family of people and we know that we can lose the loved ones that we have lost out here over the years. When we leave that start line, we go back to just being people that really do care about each other. It was great to get that call from Ron Capps."
HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE HAVE THESE FOUR RACES BUILT FOR YOU AND ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE REST OF THE SEASON?
JOHN FORCE: "Well, you are really on a high, but you want to be careful not to get caught up in that. I want to keep going the way I've been going. I looked at Robert's car last year and how much he struggled, but we made some changes and it bounced back slugging. The more I worked in the gym I had to get myself back. I will never be as physical as Robert Hight is but I know what I can do in the seat of that car. I needed to get a race car back and I learned a lot watching the news and talked to people that dealt with putting companies back together in this economy. I read a book about what you need to do to stay in the game, mentally. It is about marathon runners and how they get through the pain and move on. I really studied this book. I got there and then I was hit with the economy and everything. Now I am reading this book called Lynchpin and it talks about Henry Ford and talks about how you lead. It talked about [Alan] Mulally and when he came to Ford. He talked to his people about change and instead of just saying make them work harder he figured out what to do to be cost effective. I took that stuff from him and [Mark] Fields and [Jim] Farley and [Ken] Czubay and took it to my race team. With budget cuts and everything, I just couldn't go on. We had to let it go, but through educating my own people we made it work. We all agreed on cuts and we did what it takes to cut cost. We still deliver safety and performance. If Ford can do it and come back in this economy without a bailout, then John Force can do it. It really is working and as we go forward, working with [Bob] Tasca and [Tim] Wilkerson and any other Fords that come along, we will be selling parts to these people and exchanging data. I want to be clear, however, that on race day we race. We put on a show for the fans and we race to win. We have to share the technology because Ford can't afford to give it to each of us separately."
ASHLEY SEEMED DISAPPOINTED AFTER THE FOUR-WIDE RACE. IS THAT HER COMPETITIVE NATURE, OR DOES SHE PARTICULARLY NOT LIKE LOSING TO YOU?
JOHN FORCE: "It's not just me. It is really funny. Robert has been miserable because he didn't feel he had a good weekend and Ashley has been feeling the same way because of how bad she wanted to win. Her light had come on in her lane, but she was runner up, not winner. She thought she won and then she saw them with me and I ran over to her, but it was draining on her. That is what you have to have in your heart and your mind. You have to be a fighter. You can't say, 'Oh well, it's okay cause my dad won,' - you've got to have that fight. Later she told me she was sorry and she should have celebrated with us, but she wanted that win bad. She told me before we ran that she wasn't leaving anything on the tree. I would have been proud if any of them would have won, as long as we get the win. She was mad, but she is so much her mother, but that is the one bit she got from me, the temper. She wanted it so bad, but it meant a lot for me to win. Luck plays a big part of it, but we got there."
WOULD THE FAIREST THING TO DO IN YOUR MIND BE TO RUN FOUR-WIDE AS AN EXHIBITION, NON-POINTS RACE?
JOHN FORCE: "I am hearing positives and negatives. If they took the points out of it the money would still be there. At the end of the day, that would make everybody happy. I don't really know. I would like to talk Billy Meyers there in Texas. Does he want to invest and build a four-lane? It is a lot of money. In this economy, maybe it is a test to see if this works. I haven't seen the TV ratings. If it doesn't put people in the stands and the ratings drop and sponsors don't make sales then it doesn't work. I go with what works best for everybody."
ROBERT HIGHT: "I remember back in the day when we would have the Winston Invitational and the other All-Star race where John beat the dragsters with the Superman car. It would be cool to have an All-Star race like that. What better place to do it than zMAX. It is really up to the fans and what they like."
JOHN FORCE: "What is really key here is that the tree is confusing to us and they are going to address that. Maybe it wasn't confusing to some. There are just so many things to work at and we are trying to figure out which way to go. I am not trying to dance here in giving you and answer; I just don't have one yet. Another issue is, do the sponsors get the TV time when you are trying to watch four cars at once? Maybe for TV, a shorter day is better? There are a lot of positives and negatives, I just don't know which way to go with yet."
WHAT DOES HAVING A HEADQUARTERS IN INDIANAPOLIS DO FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM?
JOHN FORCE: "I met with the mayor of Brownsburg this morning because I am bringing new businesses in here. Simpson is going to be moving in with his company and Chuck Davies because I wanted to get him close to me for safety and technology. I want to know what they do, and what we do and I want to learn. I have 160,000 square feet here in Indy. I am down here because I am hiring more people. I didn't want to move until I knew where my contract stood. I know where I am with Auto Club. Castrol says we are going to talk in the next couple weeks. I have two years left with Castrol, but we want to go after the all-time record that [Kenny] Bernstein holds with Budweiser and see if we can make 30 years into 31. I didn't want to move if I wasn't going to be with Ford. Working with Bobby Tasca and Wilkerson will be great. I am really excited because it is about growth. In the last year and a half we were in a stall and I can't think without thinking the dream. When they park the dream, I am history. Growth is starting here at John Force Racing and we are going to build better race cars at a better price. I'm going to make the BOSS 500 motor available and with the help of Ford we are going to keep this ship afloat."
YOU RAN THE QUICKETS ET IN THE 1,000-FOOT ERA, COMING IN AT 4.02. WAS THE CAR LOADED UP TO BACK UP THAT RECORD?
ROBERT HIGHT: "Well, that was our plan for sure. Jimmy [Prock] told me that we had a shallow stage and try to squeeze every bit of ET out of that Christmas tree. In reality our car ended up being weak and it shook. That shows you how temperamental these cars are and that is what got me into trouble. Finally, I pedaled it three times and got it back up and thought I would be just fine. It lit three of the four cylinders all at once and that is what shot me over into Jeff Arend. That was really unfortunate and I really feel bad for those guys, but we were definitely trying to set a national record."
IF YOU WERE RACING TWO LANES AS OPPOSED TO FOUR, WOULD IT HAVE CHANGED ANYTHING YOU WERE TRYING TO DO?
ROBERT HIGHT: "It is hard to say. When you are going down the track you can't see both directions. You definitely know in four- wide racing that the top two advance and since you can't see them you just try to get to the finish line. I probably stayed with it a little too long."
-source: ford racing