John Force, 100 wins press conference, Part I

The following is an excerpt from today's NHRA teleconference with 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, where he addressed members of the media regarding his milestone 100th victory last weekend at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals, Houston ...

The following is an excerpt from today's NHRA teleconference with 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, where he addressed members of the media regarding his milestone 100th victory last weekend at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals, Houston Raceway Park. With the victory, Force became only the third driver in major auto racing series to post 100 victories or more, joining NASCAR legends Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

Win #100 celebration.
Photo by Mike Stucker.

Q: What does this accomplishment mean to you?

Force: It's good that we have accomplished this as a team. There are a lot of good people that were a part of this and made it happen. I am very proud to be a part of it. There's several people that have already done this, like Richard Petty with his 200 wins. It's a big honor to be put up there with names like that, it really means something. It has been really tough to keep the adrenaline going for the fight over the last few weeks. I'm ready to get over the weekend and move on to Bristol.

Q: Do you get any extra satisfaction out of knowing that you accomplished all 100 wins during the modern era?

Force: There is a lot of tough competition these days. There's more racers these days and a lot more races. It does give you a shot at winning a few more times by having more races. There's really no way to compare. It's like Babe Ruth up against one of today's (baseball) players. Are baseball bats the same today as they were back then, or does Tiger Woods have an advantage because he uses a different golf ball? I don't know how you sort all of that out. I never raced against Bob Glidden or Richard Petty. It seems like there's a lot of hype in numbers and the accomplishment. I am excited about it. When people say am I going to go after Petty's record, I gotta say, not really. I never raced against Petty. Maybe it's wrong for me to think that way because I don't want to be negative about what we've accomplished. If I was going to give credit it would be to Castrol, a sponsor that has stuck with me for many years. Austin Coil (crew chief) because it takes a combination of money, talent and luck to win a lot of races. We've had the talent, luck and the money. Nobody made a big fuss when Austin won his 100th race. Austin actually beat me to 100 wins as a crew chief. It is hard for me to say if this era is better than another one. You might offend somebody that might look at it another way. I don't get into that. I am ready to take the pat on the back for the team and move on down the road. A lot of people have said to me that I don't seem excited. I am very excited. I was excited that my kids and family were there to see me win it and become a part of history, before I start losing. My kids are old enough now to realize what it is that I do. About 10 years ago they didn't know what I did. They would say, 'Hey Dad, some kid said you won a race at Ennis, Texas, what does that mean?' Well, now they know what it means. That's what's important.

Q: How important is getting 100 wins in what seems to be a very exciting time for NHRA?

Force: To hit this 100th mark, it is a big deal. The biggest reason for me is that in Corporate America they want to give their money to someone who they think can win. We have a whole new door open with our new series sponsor POWERade and TV partner ESPN and we want to move to where NASCAR is. I want to be a part of that movement over the next 50 years. I believe NHRA is going to snowball. I can say that I have the records, that I have won 100. As a team owner, I can say that I know how to win races. Who do they go to? They either go to the young guy that's up and coming or to the guy that has experience and knows how to win. Now I am after my 10th straight NHRA championship. I am proud of my Winston jackets that I have held for 11 years. Now I want to get my first POWERade jacket so I can be a part of the next 50 years of the NHRA.

Q: How much difference is there for you between win No. 1 and win No. 100?

Force: Ninety-nine (laughs). I sat in the car before the race with Coil and they joked that I was sick. We are motivated to fight the fight. You have to go in with butterflies. You always feel sick going to a final. It's kind of the way we have learned to race. My daughter told me she was so nervous for her first big race in Las Vegas that she couldn't hold on to the brake handle. I told her it was normal, that if you have that fear, then you have the respect and that means you want it so bad that it frightens you. If you can learn to control that fear then you will be good. Always carry that fear with you. I believe every fighter that goes into the ring has those butterflies. If you don't go into a fight confident but with the fear of losing, that is the adrenaline that God gives us to fight the fight. If a saber-tooth tiger is chasing me the body can run a lot faster than if it wasn't chasing me. You have to learn to control that and that will give you the energy to win. That's how we fought it for years. Coil always says, control the fear, blank it out of your mind and go in there and beat your opponent.

Q: The way I figure it, you have 400 wins since you have to win four times on Sunday to get one win. Do you think that's enough to get you included in IROC?

Force: They talked to me about IROC. I had a chance a few years ago. I would like to have that chance. I've been to the driving school. I could do the job. I was talking with Tony Schumacher the other day. He wants to do that. Not just because we can prove that we can win. We want to make NHRA a part of something that we've never been a part of. That's why (winning) the Driver of the Year was so important (1996). If I can take my fan base and go to IROC and take the potential that a race car driver can drive a car over 300 mph. Sure, I don't go around curves, but I've been on fire sideways. We've had to do a lot of thinking behind the wheel. I want to move up to the next level. Every other series participates in that, so why not NHRA? It's like when I was Driver of the Year. It wasn't for me, it was to move the racers of NHRA to say we were a part of Driver of the Year that NASCAR and every other form of racing has dominated for many years. That was important to me to build the sport for my children and for the guys that have worked so hard out here. That's the same reason I'd like to see an NHRA driver in IROC.

Q: Talk about your first victory... what was that like for you?

Force: It's funny because Ed McCulloch was there for my first win and also for my 100th win. I was racing against him in Montreal and he was on the crew for Tommy Johnson Jr. in Houston. I was always sick over being in the final round and I just decided to have fun and be proud that I was in a final round against a great driver like McCulloch. I left on the light and pedaled the car and we won. All I had to ever do was get over the sickness. That's what I told Gary Densham before his first win. I told him just to drive the car and have fun that he'd been in many races before and this was just another one. He didn't need me to tell him that, but I did. Then once you start winning, he won again a few weeks later and he won again two weeks ago at Vegas. It's a matter of getting the monkey off your back. Once you do that then the roll will start. After my first win, a few weeks later we won again in Columbus. It's all a matter of getting your head straight and believing in yourself. That's all. I didn't believe in myself at first and then I learned how.


Force - 100 Wins: Part II

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Densham , Bob Glidden , Richard Petty , Austin Coil , David Pearson , Tommy Johnson Jr.