John Force - Ford interview 2010-02-04

This Week in Ford Racing February 4, 2010 Last season, Robert Hight of John Force Racing took home the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Funny Car Championship. Looking at the season ahead, team owner and driver John Force talks about where...

This Week in Ford Racing
February 4, 2010

Last season, Robert Hight of John Force Racing took home the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Funny Car Championship. Looking at the season ahead, team owner and driver John Force talks about where the team stands and what his plans are for 2010.

WHAT IS YOUR TEAM OUTLOOK FOR 2010? "Well we were able to win the championship in the Ford Mustang with Robert Hight and Auto Club and at the end of the day, that's what we tried to accomplish. I'm excited that Ashley (Force Hood) moved up to the top, to be number two under Robert, but just barely lost the title. The overall picture for Ford, if you look at it, they had our three cars, plus Tasca and Wilkerson, five cars in the top 10 in the Countdown. That's really impressive for a manufacturer. To end up getting Ford the title, you know it all made sense that we're heading in the right direction. We've worked on stimulus packages in this economy on how to cut, and how to save money from testing. You've still got to test, because at the end of the day, you need to do that to win. We've found ways to cut across the board, and we're putting this company on track. We're no different than Ford, having to make change. We've made a lot of changes with wage cuts, with a lot of stuff we had to do, but yet we still won the championship. We've got to cut all of the fluff out of our programs, or it's not financially good for our sponsors in this economy. At the end of the day we won and we move into the 2010 season with the same excitement. We have our program up in Indy running with our chassis program, and the BOSS 500 motor. The first car on my list that I'll be selling to is the other car, the Ford Motorcraft Mustang of Bob Tasca. I'm going in that direction because everyone is aware that I had to drop my number four car with Mike Neff. Even though Ford funded part of that car, I couldn't find a major sponsor for it and in this economy it was time to lose a team and to focus on the other three and keep everything financially right. That's what we're doing. That will allow the door for Tasca to be able to buy from us, and work together and head on down the road."

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING IN THE OFF-SEASON TO PREPARE FOR 2010? "Well there is no off-season. For four days I went to Lake Tahoe with my kids for Christmas, and even at Thanksgiving and Christmas, Ashley and Robert are looking over that turkey thinking about who won the championship. It was a little tense, but they all know the drill. We're still a family and we fight together, and we play together. They were both so driven to win, but so am I. I've really worked hard, being in the gym keeping my body fit all winter. I've got my fight weight back. John Force is going after the 2010 championship, but so is Robert and so is Ashley. At the end of the day we've restructured the company, that's what winter was about. We had a chance to go down to Homestead, where I got a chance to talk to Mark. Fields [Executive Vice President, Ford Motor Company]. He educated me a lot on the future of Ford Motor Company, and that I can be a part of that, but we have to address this economy and that's what we're doing. Over the winter we lost Bob Tasca Sr. That was a major blow to the family, and to the industry. This guy bled Ford blue, he really did. I call him grandpa. I'm almost as old as him, but I loved the guy. He taught me a lot about Ford, and he taught me how to keep the customers satisfied, because all of my sponsors are customers. They all have to be taken care of one-on-one because they all have their own agendas. They all have what they need in the marketplace to survive. It was a good winter, anytime you win the championship it is. I'm just glad to have sponsors like Ford Motor Company and Ford Racing to keep me in business."

HOW DID THE TEST GO IN PHOENIX? "Testing was great. Out of the box our cars were fast, but let's all be fair, it was a real tricky race track. Even though we made probably 15 to16 runs, we probably only got down the track five or six times, probably 50 percent of the time. If you look at the numbers, Robert ran .05, Ashley ran .06 and I ran .09, so the paper said we were the quickest in the Phoenix test. We didn't test in Vegas because we felt our cars were ready to go. We came home to let the troops rest, but nobody wants to rest, they're all geared up. But the track was tricky, so were we great? Yeah, the numbers showed we were the best, but the truth is, we struggled with a tricky race track. Only Pomona will tell, but I think we are ready to go."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THE TRACK WAS TRICKY? "Usually there are a lot of pro cars and there weren't that many. Tasca, Bernstein, Wilkerson and a number of teams there testing. There was probably a third of the cars that we usually have, but then we didn't have any of the stock cars. When the stock cars run, that's really exciting because they put a lot of rubber on the track. So you would have one day when it was good and then the next day it wasn't so good. Tasca struggled, we struggled, but we still got some good numbers, so we're happy with that."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SEE THAT NO. 1 ON ROBERT HIGHT'S CAR? "At John Force Racing, one because he's my son-in-law, he's married to my daughter Adria, and Auto Club, with 10 years of paying in, they got themselves a world champion. That was big for them. My grandbaby, Autumn, says, 'Daddy's the champ now.' She's all excited. That's big for him. He's been with me for 15, 16 years as an engine guy, as a clutch man and making him a driver in the last three or four years to win a championship. I know how to win championships. I know how to put them guys in the hunt to win. At the end of the day, it's about winning. We changed a lot of things last year, the game plan of how we are moving ahead with our BOSS 500, with our chassis program, with the number of cars that we have under the Ford Mustang brand and the Ford Drive One brand. We've got that put together. When Jamie Allison (new director of Ford North America Motorsports) came in, we had a lot of meetings on these same subjects, it was business as usual. It's about safety priority and winning right next to it. We proved we could win last year on a budget and we'll do it again this year. That's what the game plan is about. Pretty exciting times, I think. When you look at this economy with all the things that are going on, Ford Motor Company has a strategy to come back where the other manufacturers are failing. And I'm playing ball with them. I want to be here in the long run because I want my family here in the next 25 years. My girls are important, Ashley is out there, Brittany and Courtney got one more year of college and they can go pro. We're trying to line up drivers for all the sponsors and the women are really critical in this market place because there's only a few, and half the women in the stands buy these Fords, that buy Auto Club, that buy whatever. There's a lot of women out there and I have the women to do the job and I have the men too."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR BRITTANY AND COURTNEY THIS YEAR? "Right now, Brittany will be coming out in A Fuel driving one of the Brand Source cars. I haven't announced it yet, but Courtney is coming out all Ford, that will be her lead with this program. I have a set budget, but what I'm looking at is building the future for Courtney. What she did with the Ford Fiesta Movement, not just the work and the good that she did for Ford, but it's what it taught her - working every day, making videos, going to college, winning that contest of the Ford Fiesta, being selected as the fan favorite, that was big. We're trying to build her future, where maybe one day she'll be all Ford. That's what I'm looking at. Right now, Ashley is caught between the other brands that she runs for and Ford, but I think it would be somewhere that Ford could have a woman out there in one of their cars. Preferably a Mustang, but they may chose to put her in a Taurus or a Flex, who knows where she could go. Put her in a Funny Car or maybe in a dragster because we have the BOSS 500 motor, it now makes sense to own a dragster, possibly, but we're addressing it. All I'm doing is grooming a woman that can be all Ford blue, if Ford chose that. They liked the work that she did, they told me to keep her working. Brian Wolfe was very positive about Courtney's future. I know Bobby Tasca talks to me about what Courtney could be to this company as Ashley is, especially if she was all Ford, so we're addressing that right now. But Courtney will be testing in a fuel car this year. We're not allowed to do a lot of testing because of the rules, but I'm starting to groom her for the future. That's my first statement on that, but it's going to take place. Right now, she's still in college, but she did a lot of work with Ford. We've already put her in that machine and that's where she needs to end up. She looks like she could be a champion. She is driven and this is all she wants to do. She's the same way Ashley was, so what I'm looking at is that Ashley has a major, I have a major and Robert has a major. We all drive the Ford brand. Courtney doesn't have a major and Ford is the one she spent a whole year with. She just turned 21, and she graduates from college. I've got one year to look at her future and I'm going to start addressing it now. Maybe she won't go pro for two years. I think she is going to go pro in 2011. That's my goal. Nobody knows Ford Motor Company better than the Tasca family, and Bobby says you've got to keep pushing her that way. I'm going to be working with Bobby this year, he owns his own team with Motorcraft, but we're going to start doing business together, that's our future and Wilkerson. We're going to move ahead."

-source: ford racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Robert Hight , Mike Neff