This Week in Ford Racing: John Force October 20, 2009 With only two races remaining in the Countdown to 1 - at Las Vegas on Oct. 29-Nov. 1, and at Pomona on Nov. 12-15 - Robert Hight and Ashley Force Hood are 1-2 in the Full Throttle Drag Racing...
This Week in Ford Racing: John Force
October 20, 2009
With only two races remaining in the Countdown to 1 - at Las Vegas on Oct. 29-Nov. 1, and at Pomona on Nov. 12-15 - Robert Hight and Ashley Force Hood are 1-2 in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings. Team owner John Force, who has won 14 titles as a driver, talks about both his son-in-law and daughter competing for the championship.
CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING ALL FOUR OF YOUR JOHN FORCE RACING FORD MUSTANGS IN THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR. "A lot of work in this tough economy has gone into these Championship race cars. A lot of money, but a lot of work, and to put four Mustangs into this Countdown is quite an accomplishment in itself. Then to have Robert Hight with Auto Club, and Ashley with Castrol in those Mustangs, one and two, I hope we can pull it off."
YOU HAVE TWO GREAT STORIES THERE WITH ROBERT MAKING THE COUNTDOWN IN THE LAST RACE OF THE REGULAR SEASON, AND THEN ASHLEY HAVING THE CHANCE TO BE THE FIRST WOMAN TO WIN THE NHRA FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP. "Robert had no previous experience driving cars, and Ashley came up through the ranks, Super Comp and the A-Fuel Dragster. She had won Indy in the A-Fuel Dragster, and then she came back this year in the Funny Car and was the first female ever to win Indy in a Fuel Funny Car. It was quite an accomplishment, but they evolved in two different ways. To see them both at the top of the points is really exciting. Robert has done great as a driver, and at the end of the day, to watch him evolve, it's been really exciting for me. It would be really exciting if I could get out of the rut that I'm in. I made the Countdown and so did Mike Neff in the Ford Drive One Mustang, but we really struggled all year. We will see what's going to happen. I still have a long shot at the title, probably not going to happen, but I'm sure going to make a run for it, hoping one of these Mustangs will get there."
YOU CURRENTLY HAVE TWO STREAKS GOING. YOU HAVE 24 CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH ONE FINALS APPEARANCE AND 22 CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WHERE YOU HAVE AT LEAST ONE WIN. WITH TWO RACES LEFT, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN EXTEND THOSE STREAKS? "That's what I've got to do. We've really struggled, we've found a lot of things and we made a lot of changes. We went back before Maple Grove, I even went over and drove Jimmy Prock's Auto Club Car and Robert came over and drove the Castrol for me. We were trying to find out, just a mix up, change things around and see if that would bring them out of the rut they were in. Jimmy Prock's car evolved over a number of weeks and he bounced back in the points and moved to the top to catch up with Ashley, but my car is still struggling in the number seven position. We found a lot of things, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, the brain trust, they tell me that they can turn these cars around. Mike Neff is turning over, running the number four car for Ford. John Medlen is working with Bernie and Coil on my car. We put the original brain trust of those three back together and kind of left Mike Neff on his own with John Medlen over-looking him. The car has started to show potential over the last couple of races and I think we're going to be okay. If nothing else, I would like to keep those records, but in the end, the championship is what it's all about. If I can get my car back in the game, that will get them a shot at the title in 2010."
DO YOU EVER WISH YOU COULD JUST FOCUS AS A DRIVER ON GOING DOWN THE DRAGSTRIP, INSTEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT THE OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES YOU HAVE AS AN OWNER OF A FOUR-CAR TEAM? "That would be nice if you could do it. Winning used to be everything, but now safety goes hand in hand. If we can't be competitive, number one, and we can't keep these cars safe to protect these drivers, then we don't need to be in this business. It's important that we make every dollar fit, but you can't give up performance and safety. Safety has probably become my biggest overload with the Eric Medlen Project in Indy. We just unveiled at the last race in Richmond our new Funny Car chassis. We're really excited about, it's really a great piece, but it has all of the stuff that all of the Ford engineers have worked on for the past two years after we lost Eric Medlen in '07. When he lost his life in the Funny Car we got into safety. In the roll cage six months later, I got in and broke my arms and legs, but I had no head injuries. So out of all those studies that came out of Ford Motor Company, and their engineers and the Eric Medlen Project, my life was saved. These race cars have evolved, and when we unveiled our car, built under the Eric Medlen Project at John Force Racing, that car came out of the box and it was a fast race car. It ran the quickest 60-foot that we've seen out of our race cars in years. We're really excited that we have safety and we think we have a better race car, and that will only be proven when we take our car to Las Vegas. Only time will tell."
YOU HAVE REALLY MADE GREAT STRIDES WITH SAFETY IN THE NHRA. "I've always said that I've lived by Vince Lombardi, the legend, the football coach, thinking that winning is everything. When we lost Eric, it was kind of like, winning is everything, but maybe Vince Lombardi never lost a man on the playing field. Football is different from race cars. It was a real wake- up call for us. Every time we crashed a car or set it on fire, we just drug out a new one, and proved we could go out there and win, or we would fix the one, but we never really addressed what happened because there wasn't any time. The race-car chassis and the technology kind of evolved. We know that we're doing good moving down that road, and we're going to continue to do that."
ROBERT IS YOUR SON-IN-LAW AND HE LEADS THE POINTS, BUT WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOUR DAUGHTER TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? "My oldest daughter, Adria, runs my business here in Yorba Linda. She's been with me since she's been out of college. It's as important for me for her husband to win. My grandbaby Autumn says 'Grandpa, can Daddy win, he's got to beat Ashley?' I tell her that he doesn't have to just beat Ashley, or Ashley has to beat him, there's a whole bunch of other racers out there shooting for the championship. Tony Pedregon, Beckman, Capps, Worshem, they're all going after it. We're going to have to fight that fight. If either of them would win, I would be happy. If we get a win at the end of the day then we've done our job for the fans, for the sponsors, and then we've done the jobs for the drivers, the teams and the families of John Force Racing. Of course, the fact that Ashley is my daughter, and that would be a little extra icing on the cake if she could do what no other woman has done before in the history of fuel Funny Car. That would be special, but Robert is going to be in there punching it out. He's tough, he's lived it, he's dreamed it, and he's very emotional. Robert Hight wants that championship. Ashley Force wants that championship too, and so do eight other guys, including myself and Mike Neff. We're going to see what happens, two races to go, Las Vegas, Pomona, the World Finals, we're going to be there."
YOU'RE 60 YEARS OLD. DO YOU SEE THE DAY WHEN YOU'RE GOING TO BE STEPPING OUT OF THE RACE CAR? WHAT WILL YOU DO AFTER THAT? "I'm going to be honest, they always think of retirement at 65 years old. I'm 60, and I have contracts that go out for three or four more years, so I'm going to be in the seat for a while. I used to joke that I would spend two hours of my day, before my crash, in the bar. I was a party animal, I fought the fight, and I did everything. Physically, I thought, hey, you're getting older, you're tired, the days are getting longer, and then I crashed and I was in the hospital for two months. When I came out of the hospital and I went back to my race car I realized some things. I was a guy guilty of chasing the dream, the championship, and I kind of left my family behind. I always say that NHRA took me away from my family, but with my kids racing, the NHRA gave them back. I thought I was going to lose my life when they put me in that helicopter in Dallas after I crashed. I seen it with Eric, and it gave me a wake-up call for two things. One, get your mind right with the good Lord, and two get your mind right with your family. Beyond those two things was driving that race car. Now I'm in the gym two hours a day, and my guys say if you don't take Sunday off you're going to kill yourself, but I love the gym. It made me a different person health-wise. I actually have got muscle. I haven't seen a muscle on my body since college. I believe that I said that I'm going to drive this race car until I drop. I can't stay in this car when I can't drive the car and do the job, but I'm better on my reaction times now then I was five years ago. I get up every day with energy and I close every day with energy. Every day that I dream and I turn on the radio, I think about winning, and that's what makes me tick."
-credit: ford racing