Pomona II: John Force - Ford interview 2010-11-10

This Week in Ford Racing Novemeber 11, 2010 After losing his points lead to Matt Hagan following a first-round loss in Reading and falling to 64 points back from the lead, John Force came out with guns blazing at the recently completed NHRA Las...

This Week in Ford Racing
Novemeber 11, 2010

After losing his points lead to Matt Hagan following a first-round loss in Reading and falling to 64 points back from the lead, John Force came out with guns blazing at the recently completed NHRA Las Vegas Nationals and drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car past Hagan in the final round to pick up the win and pull within 37 points of the leader heading into this weekend's NHRA finale in Pomona. Force participated in a NHRA teleconference earlier this week and the following are some highlights from that teleconference.

JOHN FORCE - Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car

YOU DID WHAT YOU NEEDED TO DO IN LAS VEGAS TO KEEP YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES ALIVE. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IN POMONA TO CLINCH THAT 15TH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP? "It seems like we had this conversation a few weeks back before going into Vegas. We held the lead all year. We made a mistake very critical at Reading that opened the door for (Matt) Hagan and he took advantage of it. It put us in the No. 2 spot. Right now I've got to come in with an attitude that there can be no error, there can be no mistakes. We have to gobble up every point that we can. We didn't get every point at Vegas. But my daughter (Ashley Force Hood) outran me and had a shot at the record there. We can't wait for Hagan, like I said before, to fail. That's too good of a race team. There's good money with Schumacher. You have a driver that knows how to win a championship. He's in this game. He's very focused. So we can't wait for him to err. That means we have to do everything we can. We have to stay ahead of him in those qualifying points just during the four sessions that we get before the race because if he picks up a couple more points there, then that's another round that I've got to gain on him. Like I say, I may be pushed to setting the record and having to win the race might be my only shot at getting him. So it's a shot, like Schumacher said. But right now what we're focusing on is weather. We're watching that to see if there is a potential of how we can race him. But he knows how to run in the cool air, too. Otherwise, I'm in the gym every day making sure I don't get any injuries, watching getting colds or flus. I can't afford to get sick. You have to have everything you can to throw at them because they're going to throw everything at us."

HAS THIS SEASON BEEN ONE, IN YOUR EYES, OF ALMOST OF DESTINY THE WAY YOU'VE COME BACK FROM HAVING SOME TOUGH TIMES, HOW EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE FALLING INTO PLACE? AND DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO WATCH THE BREEDERS' CUP OVER THE WEEKEND? WERE YOU DISHEARTENED IN SEEING THE RESULT OF THAT? "That old horse, after winning all those straight, I think it was 20 wins or something in a row, to lose (her) final race when (she)'s retiring. The only difference is I'm not retiring. I'm going to sign with Castrol for five more years. I've been 25 years with them. Another record I'm going after is Bernstein's record with Budweiser. I always set my goals at that. I believe you got to make your own destiny, you know what I mean? I watched yesterday part of the NASCAR race, trying to follow them. I think it was Denny Hamlin that won and Jimmie Johnson was struggling all day, on the phone yelling back and forth at his crew over mistakes being made. They put Jeff Gordon's whole team over there. Well, I take my team in early in the week. We'll have meetings like we have since the Countdown started. We'll have meetings that will hold this thing together as a group. If we fail, we fail as a group. But we can't afford any mistakes -- none. That's a hard push. I can't count on a national record like Schumacher pulled off a couple years ago because, boy, that's a tough one to get away with. Then there are the conditions we got to watch. We watch weather. It was supposed to be cold. Now the rain came late. Now it's supposed to start warming up again. Cards can play into Hagan's hands. "

"NHRA threw in a curve ball because they had so many oil downs last week. I sat on a conference call with the team owners. Schumacher and everybody was there. I don't know exactly, I haven't read it yet, I'm the kind of guy I play whatever they give me is the same they give everybody else. But in this situation, when you have to push for the record, you have to push your motor to a point. That could mean breakage. You could lose points, pay fines. I don't know exactly how they've set it up. It's a little different during qualifying than it is on race day. They're trying to be fair to the people in the Countdown. I don't just look at Hagan. I look at the other kids that are out there, the Pedregon brothers, everybody else shooting for the fight out here. I have a chance in my career to come back where sponsors at my age and injury should have let me go. They want a kid that's strong like Hagan. I have to work every day just to be able to play the game with him. At the end of the day, this isn't just John Force trying to win 15 championships, this is John Force trying to stay in the business. I've always said, when I can't cut it as a driver, I'll step out of the seat. I'm trying to get this win. I can keep my job. If the fans keep rooting for me, and they do, of course, they root for Hagan, too. At the end of the day if I can't deliver a win, I guarantee you I will go down swinging, as will Hagan, or anybody else out there. We're going to need a lot of everything to be right, and that's what it's going to take. It's going to be tough."

YOU'VE BEEN TALKING IN THE PAST COUPLE WEEKS ABOUT KEEPING THE WEIGHT DOWN BECAUSE OF HAGAN BEING LARGER THAN YOU. ARE YOU STILL FOLLOWING THAT REGIMEN GOING INTO THIS FINAL? "You know what is funny? We made a lot of changes. We left Ashley's car alone. We changed mine around and my hotrod, and it got faster in the 60 foot, where we could run like Hagan early. Robert's car wouldn't go down the racetrack. We changed Robert's car back and he ran a 10, and an 06 at Vegas on Monday in the Auto Club Mustang. At the end of the day, there's a lot of reasons because of safety that we took on weight. But I can't change that. And the other guys, they have weight on their cars where they can move it and hang it. I don't know how Hagan's car works. We're still trying to figure out the body, as big as the kid is. Big as a football player, yet his old hotrod will outrun me. We made changes, maybe it will work. I need three good cars to fight these guys this weekend. If I run good to gather points, I'm not going to run into him early if he runs good. It's really a strategy. We can't make those decisions until we get there to look at the weather. That's when we'll make our calls. We'll have motors setting that are not even put together until we get there Thursday morning to evaluate the weather and then we'll go. The weather's a big player in this Countdown. I like the Countdown. It changed it from the old days. It's more exciting. It's exciting for me. But even if Hagan whips me and I'm like a guy running for the deal, they ain't going to count me out till the last minute if I fail. I would even thank Hagan then because if nothing else he's driven me to win, to keep my body in shape. I was in the gym yesterday. I pushed it. I'm going to keep pushing it. If I lose, then I'm going to start pushing it for next year. Hagan is the call right now in my head, but I got to focus on everybody. I appreciate that he offers that to me, a competitor with a great race team that will fight, because that motivates me."

YOUR CREW HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME, PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE. YOU SAID YOU MEET EVERY WEEK AND TALK TO THESE GUYS. "Everyone has their own approach. Tony has his. I come in the gate yelling and screaming. Not in a bad way. I try to keep the energy high. I try to keep these kids going all day long. The families all show up, mom, and dad and grandpa show up for the last race of the year. But this is our boardroom. This is our workplace. You can't allow them to let their minds go outside. They've given up their families and their kids all year. But we're down to the last race. If we win this thing, they get the money. The money goes for Christmas, new cars, new shoes, maybe a down payment on a house. I can't even allow them to get lost mentally. That's why we have the meetings weekly, to get their heads right. Any of you got any problems, girlfriend ran away, you know what I mean, or you got the flu this week, somebody has to get in there and back him up because a mistake will be made in preparation and you won't find it until a couple rounds in the race and then it's too late, you're out. It's my approach, maybe not like Jimmie Johnson, yelling and screaming, you know, that they're failing, but to keep the energy up, to keep the process going. That's what it's going to take to beat Hagan. I keep Robert up, Ashley up, or they keep me up. But I'm excited. When you set out there and look at those stands, an Auto Club race, you have sponsors like Mac Tools, DeWalt, Stanley, people that have paid millions of dollars, they didn't come to see you fail and you better give it your all. If I got to look them in the face the day after the race and say I lost, I want to be able to say, if they ever do complain, and they've been really good standing by me, that we did everything we could, okay. That's all we can give you. If you want to take your money away, then go somewhere else. That's what I got to believe that I did. Then no matter what any sponsor says, and I've got great sponsors, but I know what we did on the playing field."

"That's really what it is. We're not in Iraq like the kids in the military that fight and give their lives. They know what they're up against to protect this country that we live in, this great country. We're in the entertainment business. Every now and then somebody gets hurt. It's a shame, but it does happen. So we have to live under that blanket also. But we still have fun with what we do. The crowds cheer. At the end of the day, I love a great competitor. If I'm going to get the sword, get whacked, I want it done by a guy that just didn't walk in and stumble and because we failed he got it. This kid's good and I want a competitor that fights. But I got to get to him first. There's a whole bunch of others I got to get to. You know what I'm saying? We'll see what happens.

THE TITLE CHASE ASIDE HERE, DID YOU SEE THIS SEASON COMING FROM HAGAN? COULD YOU SENSE THIS GUY WAS ON THE MOVE BEFORE THIS SEASON HAPPENED? "I watched early in the year. We saw his car run big numbers at Charlotte. Hell, I knew his crew chief, but I never put him in the ranks of a guy that could contend. I didn't know him. You only know when they get there. It's like, Who in the hell is running the car over there? This (Tommy) DeLago kid, sometimes they come along and find that place. That's why I wanted Mike Neff on my team. When he took me out with Scelzi back in (2005), whatever it was, it's like, 'Who are those guys?' I wanted to know how they beat us. Probably the best decision I made was putting Mike Neff in the Funny Car to let him learn more about what it was like to drive a Funny Car. I'm not a real mechanic. I tried to for years. I did bottom end, I did it all. Austin Coil said he could never relate to me. I'm like Tom Cruise in that movie in NASCAR. I understand the car, but I don't know how to talk the lingo. Mike Neff could really relate to me."

"We won all those championships. Coil won 17 or 18. He won with Frank Hawley before I came along. Neff, merging that young group, all the kids looking at that team, This old man going to drive for us? I worked really hard because of this young team I've got that came over with Mike Neff from the No. 4 car has really pushed me every day in the gym, just to work, just to stay up with the guys. So, yes, I knew this kid. I like his style. You know what I mean, they all have a different style. It's like right now on this conference call, I'm talking way too much. You need to get in there, Hagan. This is your day, too. Hagan is respectful. I watch him. I'll be honest. That's the kind of guy that bothers me. Even though I'm saying I've won championships, I'm a big-mouthed guy. He's not. He's very quiet. You got to watch that guy that's quiet because while you're talking, he's thinking."

YOU'RE SO GREAT AT SPEAKING OUT, SHARING YOUR PASSION, EXCITEMENT WITH THE FANS. DO YOU THINK YOU NEED SPECIAL SKILLS TO CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS DURING COMPETITION? "No, no. When I get in the car, it's kind of where I really love to be. All the stuff I have to put up every day trying to keep this ship afloat in this economy, I wish I could just be a hired gun. It would make life so simple. I might even get on the golf course one day, you know what I mean? That wouldn't be pretty."

-source: ford racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeff Gordon , John Force , Jimmie Johnson , Ashley Force , Denny Hamlin , Matt Hagan , Austin Coil , Tom Cruise , Mike Neff