Reading: John Force - Ford interview 2010-10-20

This Week in Ford Racing October 20, 2010 John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, has dominated the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Series leading the championship since his season opening win at Pomona in February until he lost...

This Week in Ford Racing
October 20, 2010

John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, has dominated the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Series leading the championship since his season opening win at Pomona in February until he lost the points lead at Reading. Now with just two races remaining the 14-time champion faces the adversity of overcoming a 64-point deficit to capture his unprecedented 15th championship. Force participated in an NHRA teleconference on Tuesday and following are highlights from the conference.

YOU'VE HAD AN IMPRESSIVE SEASON THUS FAR. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO MOVE BACK IN THE TOP SPOT AND EARN YOUR 15TH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP?"Well, number one I've got my daughter Ashley who is still trying to shoot for this championship, and [Jack] Beckman is still got a shot. At the end of the day we can't count on [Matt] Hagan to make mistakes, too good of a race car with the toolers that he's got and the financial backing that they've got from [Don] Schumacher, and he drives good. We've got to go and make change. First of all you can't allow errors and we had an error on the first round [at Reading]. We addressed that. We tried to look at why Hagan's car was running times that our car wouldn't run and basically the weight factor is the thing we thought was the biggest problem. Even though he's much bigger than me, the Schumacher cars are light. We put our car on the scale, I guess we've taken 40 pounds off of it, so we have to go into Vegas make sure that it scales right. We've done ever thing we can to gobble up the points like he did. He did everything right, we did everything wrong. The fact that Cruz [Pedregon] was able to get him in the final that still kept our hopes open. The national record [Hagan set at Reading] hurt us, we did run for it in that late session, we ran the 4.05 and he ran the .01 because we were trying to get qualified. We had to get it in that first session so we could get in that second. The air is supposed to be a whole different front than we thought in Vegas. Even with the altitude, we're going to have good air, so that record is still out there and I'm going to need every point that I can get if I'm going to catch this kid."

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO HAVE THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE COME DOWN AGAINST A DRIVER LIKE MATT HAGAN WHO IS YOUNG ENOUGH TO BE YOUR GRANDSON? "That's trying to get into my head again. The kid already has me where my back is up against the wall. I always try to look at things happen for a reason. He's a good driver, a good respectful guy. I saw his emotion when I couldn't make the run there first round and he ran over to me and said that he's sorry and he didn't want to see it happen this way, and I liked that attitude. Maybe I watch too many movies but when I see movies about the warriors who died on the battlefield, they wanted to die by someone who was worthy, and he wanted to fight the fight and he didn't want me to go home because I had some dumb mistake. I told him that that was part of the deal. We made the mistakes, and you gain on it. I'm hoping that he'll make a mistake but he doesn't make too many, not as a driver that I can find. The car just seems to have the magic. I just went to see a movie this weekend about a race horse, Secretariat, who just stomped them to the ground. I have to look back over the years at the times when they called me Seabiscuit because I was so old. Seabiscuit made a run that came from behind, just a movie, but my life has just been about dreams. Seabiscuit went to California and won the last two, well I'm going to have to make a stop in Vegas first, but that's what I'm going to have to do. I'm going to have to win two races if I'm going to beat this guy. The air is coming in, and we know that there's going to be a shot at the national record. A week ago Coil and Neff told me no national record in Vegas. The altitude is too high and the sessions aren't at night, but if we get a cold front than I'll get a shot that he got to get that record and gobble up some of them points. Then every round you've got to run hard because he picked up a bunch of points on me there. I think he got points every round, and I got them in one session, so that's what I'm up against."

IN NASCAR IT'S ABOUT WHICH TWO DRIVERS ARE GOING TO TRY AND CRASH THE OTHER ONE OUT AND THE COMMENTS AGAINST EACH OTHER AREN'T THE NICEST IN THE WORLD. NOW TO THE FOUR OF YOU IT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD. YOU GUYS RESPECT EACH OTHER, YOU'RE NOT AFRAID TO SAY IT. IS THAT JUST THE DRAG RACING COMMUNITY? "I've had the media say, and the TV people [say], this is bad for ratings, you guys have to get in each other's face. Every time I got into someone's face I got a $10,000 fine. I've got mixed emotions here. At the end of the day, I've seen drivers die out here. I've seen people on fire, and I've seen Hagan shoot the body out into the air and I'm praying that he's ok and I know that he's in the points chase. I don't know why they do what they do in NASCAR, but I know in this world that I don't want to see anyone get hurt. I want to race as safe as we can because I care about these people. They're probably the only friends that I've got. I've got a helmet in my museum with a set of horns on it that says Die Hard that come from his Dad. I just can't seem to find the hate that they find in NASCAR and if that's wrong than I don't know what to say. Earlier you said on a serious note, I was being serious about going West about going to California. I might have thrown in Seabiscuit, but at the end of the day I've dropped 10 pounds off myself, I have a few pounds to go to be where I want to be, and I'm still trying to figure out how his car runs and stays light. We're bringing a race car with no paint on it. We're going to put letters on it and we're doing everything we can to lighten the load, but no, you're not going to see me fight with nobody unless somebody gets in my face."

AFTER YOUR DEVASTATING RACE IN DALLAS TWO YEARS AGO, THE POSITION THAT YOU'RE IN RIGHT NOW, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW TO HAVE THAT 15TH CHAMPIONSHIP IN SIGHT AND IN REACH? "You want to get it naturally. It's funny but in a lifetime, I've been really lucky, I got a lot of chances to win and I did. I took every opportunity against great drivers like Ron Capps and just over the years that I fought with. Luck is a big part of the game. The investment that Auto Club has made, and Castrol and I've had 25 years with Castrol, Ford Motor Company, all of the money that they've put in engineering studies. I want to clarify that when we drop the weight on our car, we didn't drop any safety. We looked at the things that we could do, as a driver, too heavy as I've been in the gym. I tried to build muscle, and I've built body weight. I want to take some of that back. I've got an opportunity to here, because with Mike Neff leading the charge with the tune-up, with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, I might not have a car that is this good next year, and I'm not young and I know my day is going downhill. I can't go out and arm wrestle with Hagan, or go out and get into a fist fight with Hagan. You don't intimidate a cowboy. I know the game. I've seen this kid, I've studied him and watched him on his farm with his bulls and met his wife, that little girl who plays piano. I'm starting to understand where he comes from. I've got a competitor here that I've got to keep my nose clean, do what I do, and take every opportunity. Weight is the only place, and a few mistakes that I think that we're missing. I just can't figure out. This kid is big enough to run fullback for the Green Bay Packers, how is he carrying all that body weight? I can't seem to figure it out. We are making changes and I just hope that we don't go the wrong direction. Maybe my car needs more weight because he's hitting places that we can't and we're trying to figure that out. "

YOU HAVE 14 TITLES, YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS FOR MANY YEARS. CONSIDERING WHAT YOU'VE HAD TO OVERCOME, DO YOU CONSIDER THIS YOUR GREATEST ACHEIVEMENT IN THE SPORT? "My greatest achievement is my daughter Ashley. Watching her every day, the explosions, two of them that she went through, she was shell shocked in Reading and she gets out of them and says 'Where am I in the points Dad?' I'm like you look dizzy like you can't even stand up and you're wondering where you are in the points. To put a woman in that position, that was huge for me. Even though Shirley Muldowney had done it, and others had done, I always looked at the Funny Car as a different animal. It takes a guy like Hagan, big strong to muscle that thing, and to have a little girl do it, and she does it well. For me, when I laid in that hospital bed, I just wanted to race again. They kept telling me that it was over, and I wanted to come back. Then when I came back, I just wasn't good. My kids were growing up seeing me when I was winning, and now they're grown up and in the sport and dad can't hit his tail end. I've got a lot of reasons. The biggest reasons, in this economy, we're almost in the Great Depression, that Seabiscuit raced in and at the end of the day people need to be entertained and I want to be a part of that. If Hagan takes me out, I aint' going to like it, but I'm going to shake his hand and he'll do the same to me. It's what we do. It's good to have a job in this economy, but if I can't prove that I can come back and win, then as much as I want to win for my family, for my fans and for my sponsors, and for myself, than I've got to be real careful here. If I can't deliver as a driver, than I will be replaced even if I own the car, because when you take away the money, than you pay to drive. Then when they start to think that I can't compete, and I was doing real good all year until Hagan did all the damage on me. Luck is a part of it, but you make your own luck, and right now, I'm in a fight right now to keep my job. I'm going to give that kid everything I've got. I've always played the game straight up if I can't do it, I can't do it. That's why we addressed everything from tune-up, who's got marital problems, is anyone on too much medication, and where are the problems. I will not give up my safety, because I know a lot of the things we run, other teams don't run. We went back, because in this economy, we can't afford to put light-weight bodies on it. We run them until they're just packing too much weight. I said go home, throw all of the bodies off, get brand new ones, don't even paint them, put the decals on them and let's send them and see what we can do what Hagan did to me in Reading and that's get every point that's on the table. If it wasn't for Cruz [Pedregon] he would have got it all. I show respect where it's due and he earned that right at Reading, but he has two races to go and with my daughter, myself and Robert Hight, we will be in the thick of it."

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUNG ASPIRING DRAG RACERS OUT THERE THAT WOULD HELP THEM BE LIKE JOHN FORCE? "Anybody who wants to be like me, I loved all of these years, when I was driving a truck when I was a kid, when I was just out of school trying to raise a family, spending my weekends down at the race track. There were days that I stood outside of lines because I didn't have the money to get in. I just was caught up with these Fuel Funny Cars from the very beginning. Back then they were Fuel Coups and they were ugly and mean looking things, but it was a turn-on and it just became a dream. You have to chase that dream. You don't chase it for a paycheck. You don't chase it just for a championship. I always said I dreamed to do a burn-out like [Don] Prudhomme or Tom the Mongoose Mcewen, I never thought about beating them, just wanted to get a photograph. Every week I would follow the paper just to hope that I would get in that drag news, and then it became National Dragster. I wanted to be a part of that. Also, be smarter than me, get an education. Probably the only thing I don't know about my race cars are the computers and the stuff that they do now. You've got to get in there where you can find money. Like Hagan was talking, he found money, and his dad, I've talked to his Dad, sharp cookie, and that's why they work with Schumacher. It takes money to run these teams, and at the end of the day if you can get a good education that will help you find the money. If you want to own your own team, or even if you want to drive for someone because you can bring money to the plate as part of your negotiations, some of these kids have. The rest of it is, do it because you love it. Do it because you love the fans, and the dream is a journey. I'm still on this journey. I don't want to get off this train. I don't want Hagan to knock me off this train so I'm going to keep punching away.

-source: ford racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , John Force , Robert Hight , Austin Coil , Mike Neff