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October 22, 2014

John Force

SCOTT SMITH:  We're joined by John Force who will be making an announcement about John Force Racing. 
John, you can take the floor now if you like. 
JOHN FORCE:  Guys, I appreciate you allowing me to come on.  This is very exciting.  We're heading into the Countdown.  Two races left.  Robert Hight, my daughter Courtney, myself have a shot at this title as well as Hagen and possibly others. 
The reason for this call is I don't want to go to Vegas and have to spend my days there explaining to the media what's taking place.  I don't want to have to do it at the final race at Pomona. 
As you know about me, my dad, he taught me to work together as a team with my brothers and sisters.  We fought all the time.  But at the end of the day we celebrated the good times and we stayed together in the bad times. 
I did the same thing when I went into high school playing football.  To me it was all about the love, the dream.  It wasn't just about winning, whereas in today's game it's about winning championships.  It was about the love of the sport.  I ran the football team the same way. 
Along the road here I had a little hiccup financially.  I lost a couple of major sponsors.  Ford and Castrol.  I want to make it clear they've been nothing but good to me.  I'm very strong with my partners like Auto Club, like Traxxas, Mack Tool, Peak Antifreeze, so many that are with me.  I'm moving ahead. 
My job is to put three Funny Car teams and one Top Fuel dragster.  That is my plan and I'm going to stick to it. 
We chase money with JMI, the agency I hired.  I invested tons of money over the course of three years since this started, and it will continue to get to where I need to be. 
Yeah, we'll be making announcements at Las Vegas.  We'll be making announcements in SEMA and right on through the winter, right up till opening day at Pomona about the financial backing of my two race teams with my daughter Brittany and myself. 
In the process, I've always been very open, very honest with my employees, told them where I stood, because I want to be fair to them even now in this conference.  My employees understood that I may have to lose a few people.  I may have to cut some wages.  We've addressed that as we watched the money, where we were moving ahead. 
Financially I even dipped into my savings like I've done before, my wife and I, two and a half million dollars.  With that I have the budget if no more sponsors come onboard, but I've got calls this morning and yesterday.  Things are looking good.  I hope not to have to invest that money, but I will if I have to.  That way my four teams can race. 
I have a love and passion for NHRA.  I feel I know NHRA.  I owe the sponsors and I owe the fans to race.  That's me and my family.  That's what I will do.  I want to make that clear. 
In the process, maybe I'm too honest to my employees the way I lay it out.  I want to be real straight.  This is about their families, about their children and their homes, how they're going to make it.  In the process, after St. Louis I started hearing some rumors.  I thought everything was okay.  I got this thing back together financially.  I don't listen to rumors much, but it was bothering me. 
I got a call early this week from a number of team owners, but one that was being straight up with me.  I'm talking to some of your employees and I'm talking to your crew chiefs, I'm looking at whatever. 
I said, All fair in love and war, you got to do what you got to do.  I was a little surprised that we're in the middle of the Countdown, but whatever.  It's called business.  I'm a big boy and I understand it. 
In approaching my employees, I'm talking about my team, right now I'm leading the charge for John Force Racing with Courtney right behind me and Robert Hight.  I approached my crew chief of 15, 16 years, Jimmy Prock, a great kid, brilliant, that won a championship with Robert Hight and a championship with myself.  When I approached him, he couldn't give me an answer.  That's what this call is about. 
I said, Jimmy, you know where I come from.  I need to know if you're with me or you're not.  We danced around for a few days.  Finally I said, I need to know because I have sponsor contracts that have been signed, contracts that are on the table.  I'm selling this powerhouse race team of power teams.  You and Mike Neff lead my charge and I need to know where I stand. 
Jimmy Brock said, I'm probably going to leave at the end of the year. 
I need to know for sure. 
He said, If I have to tell you, basically I need a change. 
I said, I respect that.  What about the team?  I know the team had been talking with others. 
He turned in a resignation yesterday for the end of the year. 
I met with my brain trust, Robert Hight, Mike Neff and the group, John Medlen.  I told Jimmy Prock I would accept his resignation, but I was accepting it now, I'll take it right now. 
So as of right now, Jimmy Prock is no longer employed by John Force Racing.  I know it's in the middle of the Countdown and you think I'm committing suicide, but I'm not.  I race from the heart.  I'm about principle, I'm about camaraderie, I'm about loyalty.  If a man's heart is not here with me, his job is to protect his family, he's got to do what he's got to do, and John Force has got to do what he's got to do. 
I've got about a week, I'm addressing the employees, if they're going to stay, I'll know that, have a commitment by late in the day, if they will stay through the Countdown.  If not, I've got a week to build a complete race team. 
These are good people.  I have no complaints.  They've done their jobs.  I'm a big boy. 
So that's basically it summed up.  I don't want to have to answer this.  I'll be on overload at Vegas and Pomona.  I have big announcements there, more coming.  John Force and John Force Racing will be in business.  My daughter is going to race, both my daughters, and Robert Hight.  I'm very excited about it. 
That kind of spells it out.  If there's anything you'd like to ask me, I'm open for questions. 
SCOTT SMITH:  We'll take questions for John Force. 

Q.  You're probably one of the best guys as far as a sponsor would want, the way you approach the team, promote the sponsors.  Talk about the sponsorship side as opposed to having to do the team part of it, too, all the effort that you do, how you balance all that. 
JOHN FORCE:  I invested a $2 million game plan over three years.  I hired Rogers & Cowan.  You've seen our shows on CBS, different shows that we've done, to promote my family.  This is all about sponsorships to show them who we are.  I hired Octagon.  I have Brent Travers who will be filming a documentary, NHRA, Tom Compton, was good enough to open that door.  We'll be shooting at Las Vegas and Pomona.  Shooting the Countdown basically. 
But it's been a lot of work.  We're in a tough economy.  JMI, Jon Flack, we work seven days a week.  We're on the phone.  Robert said to me that it's a world we've never been a part of.  We live it.  We got on a plane at 10:30 out of LAX.  If I ever stumbled in a conference call, it's maybe because we slept an hour on the airplane.  We had to address Indy because I always address my people face-to-face. 
Sponsorship, not done yet, but it's coming along real good.  I'm excited about it.  Like I say, it ain't going to happen.  It's going to be a strong announcement because I have my first partner that stepped up to the plate with me, and I'll announce that at Vegas on Saturday.  I'm going to have a Hot Rod to show you.  I'm really excited about it. 
Again, others that are looking at SEMA to announce, then over the winter I'll doing announcements at my shop.  I'll do announcements at Pomona. 
I have to put the right partners together.  That's the hardest part.  So many of them conflict.  So it's going to get done, and that's my word to you. 

Q.  How are you?
JOHN FORCE:  I'm having a great day.  My heart is right.  When my heart is not right...  That's where I have to be.  Right now I'm excited to move ahead.  What is your question? 

Q.  Is Jimmy Prock the only member of your team that has left? 
JOHN FORCE:  My team is the only team that's kind of been disbanded.  No, my other teams, everybody is there, Mike Neff.  Courtney's team with Traxxas, very strong.  My Top Fuel dragster, everything is strong.  Nope, it was my team. 
Like I said, they got to do what they got to do.  I've spoke with them.  If they're going to leave like Jimmy, I would appreciate to know.  Some of the kids said, We plan on leaving.  They don't know exactly where they're at yet.  I thanked them for their honesty.  They'll be paid in full.  I don't have any financial problems.  I haven't had to cut any money this year.  I'm very strong.  Everybody will be paid all their bonuses.  If you leave John Force Racing, you get every penny you earned.  That's the way I do business.  I want to show respect to these kids. 
It hurts me.  At the end of the day they're wrapping up my racecars.  They will speak with me and tell me what they plan on doing.  You'll see it at Pomona.  They'll either be there or they won't.  I hope they're there.  I hope they stay through the Countdown.  But I have sponsor contracts that I have to show that I'm building a team.  Your leadman, like Jimmy Prock, is most important.  If he is leaving, I don't have a lot to sell.  You know what I'm saying?  If I lose my team, I don't have a lot to sell.  I may lose a team fast.  Maybe I'll lose some of them.  I hope I keep all of them.  Mike Neff is outside with Robert Hight addressing them all at Indy. 

Q.  This obviously is a big shock to a lot of people.  Why was it that important to let Jimmy go now?  I understand the emotion of it, but you're going for your 17th title.  Who do you find at this late stage?  Did you think about bringing Austin Coil back? 
JOHN FORCE:  I didn't come to race to win championships.  I never thought I had a chance.  I was lucky and I dreamed of winning just a race, just to win a round.  I race from the heart.  It was never about championships.  It's about what I love.  It's about principle, loyalty and teamwork.  I said that earlier. 
If I can't go after a championship and be surrounded by the people that want to be here.  Jimmy Prock loves me.  I love him.  But this isn't where he needs to be in this time of life. 
Yeah, the Countdown was my call.  He probably would have raced with me throughout the Countdown.  But I have contracts being signed as we speak, and I can't sell them what I don't have.  If I do, they could come back and say, We bought this team and we're not getting it. 
I'm going to prove that no man is an island.  I will take my brain trust, I will take my people, we've always had backups, we will go into this fight and prove it.  I'm not guaranteeing we're going to win a championship, but that's not what it's all about to me.  To me it's about being with people that fight the fight every day.  Jimmy did it for 15, 16 years.  God bless the kid.  I've got no complaint. 
What I'm saying is now I have to make a decision because I'm not racing for this championship.  I'm racing for this championship and the next 20 years.  Right now I've got to start building a team.  Why wait till Pomona to start building a team next year in '15?  I'm going to start tomorrow. 
I know where I stand with Jimmy.  He was honest to tell me.  I have to move ahead even if it jeopardizes us winning the championship.  If it affects us, but it won't.  If you know John Force, you know the people around me, this is when we really get into the fight.  That's to prove who we are.  Like I said, no man's an island.  We will team up.  The outcome will be what it is.  But at least I know where I'm going.  I couldn't wait any longer. 
Jimmy, we shook hands, he walked out, and understood -- I think he understood what I was doing.  Like I said, if I ain't in my gut, I don't need a championship.  I'm just not going to play.  
Okay, I've said enough on that.  Next question. 

Q.  Can you take a second and talk about the conflicting emotions when you go head-to-head with your daughter. 
JOHN FORCE:  I loved sitting here and listening to her talk.  She's just like her dad.  Brittany, my daughter Ashley, Adra, they're all different.  But I see the fire in her.  She loves this sport.  All my girls, Robert Hight, the way I do.  It's what my life's all about.  I never realized how much I wanted it and the fear of losing it.  I had the same fear when I laid in the hospital bed in Texas.  I laid there for five weeks.  They were telling me it was over.  Nobody tells me anything.  I'm really thick-headed like my dad.  I always believed that if you stand up and you fight and you're honest, you do the best you can, with a little help from the good Lord, the people around you, you'll be okay. 
If you win, that's great.  That's the icing on the cake.  But if you lose, and you gave it everything you got, you still won.  That's the way my daughter fights me.  Oh, she aggravates me sometimes when she tries to get in my head because I did all that smack talk back when I was her age.  I've grown out of it.  I just race.  But to hear her, I see so much of myself. 
Brittany is a completely different animal. 
But basically I get emotional.  This is the hardest call I've ever made.  It's very emotional to me.  We'll have sheets going out to the media trying to explain what I'm trying to say.  It was hard for me.  It was hard for Jimmy Prock, okay?  But he understood that I have to go on.  I have to fight.  He needs to move on where he's going.  He knows where he's going.  I know where he's going.  But basically that's not my job to talk about it. 
My job is to fix John Force Racing, prove to the sponsors like Auto Club and Traxxas that I know how to win, prove to the new sponsors that seven or eight are lined up right now.  I'm not going to close all of them, but I'm going to close some of them with Jon Flack at JMI, lot of partners, Auto Club, everybody's come forward to try to help me.  We're going to make it.  That's where my mind has to be in winning that Countdown, giving it everything I've got. 
I've got a tough competitor in Hagen.  He's surrounded by a great race team.  That's where my mind has got to head and it cannot go that way carrying baggage.  I cannot carry baggage.  I am not mentally set up for that.  My brain is wired different than most human beings.  When it gets mental, I'm not worth anything. 
I'm not mental today.  I'm free of heart.  I'm ready to fight the fight.  It will be a different John Force you'll see at Las Vegas.  I knew this was coming.  I saw it a while back because I was planting the seed to my people, We could have problems.  That's why I can't be mad at them. 

Q.  Do you have any candidates in mind to replace Jimmy?  Will it be a temporary interim until after Pomona?
JOHN FORCE:  I've always had an A, B, C plan in life on everything I do.  I built my teams with an A plan, with a B backup plan.  C plan isn't pretty.  That's me tuning.  You'd get a heck of a show, I'd be on fire every week.  You'd see it on TV.  I know because I tried it years ago. 
Nobody runs this race team.  My lead is Mike Neff.  Even though he runs the Auto Club Ford for Robert Hight, Mike Neff is the lead of my brain trust.  He called meetings with the crew chiefs, Todd Smith, Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas, Daniel Hood, John Medlen, the list goes on and on.  Those are the ones that put me together and they protect me.  They know the business, and Robert Hight.  They'll sit in these meetings and make the decisions.  It's already happening. 
We're going to come out swinging.  I'll have a good racecar in the Countdown, you can count on that.  The rest is where Lady Luck takes us. 

Q.  Your thoughts on the passing of the great Raymond Beadle this Monday. 
JOHN FORCE:  I did a release yesterday.  Raymond Beadle, in my life there were heroes next to my dad, there was heroes in drag racing.  Of course, 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits, of course Shirley Muldowney, a woman, Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein and the Mongoose McEwen.  These people were the ones I looked at that opened the door to winning, people that drove their cars, tuned their cars, drove their ramp trucks, whatever it took to win a race.  They even tuned. 
Raymond Beadle was a unique individual.  He I think invented the halter top for women.  Made millions.  But Raymond Beadle had qualities of a great driver.  I watched him roll the car over at Gainesville.  Stepped out of the car, where everybody else would have rolled up in the fetal position, stood up and put his hands over his head, made me cry.  The crowd cheered.  This guy didn't have water in his veins, he had ice water.  Hell, he went on to NASCAR and won.  He was surrounded by people that loved him and adored him.  Dale Emery, those guys, they were lifers.  Dean (indiscernible).  Waterbed Fred.  I learned from each of those legends, I learned my trade through. 
I didn't invent the sport of NHRA.  People sometimes say, John Force, you're back, NHRA needs you.  No, NHRA will be fine if I ever leave, okay?  But like I said, I'm going to drop on a racetrack somewhere in an NHRA Mello Yello race.  The truth is those guys are the ones that built it.  I'm helping build it, the kids that are after me will continue to build it. 
Beadle had the love.  He was loved by the fans, by the sponsors, by the NHRA, but loved by his people.  He was fearless.  I watched him in a helicopter jump out onto the roof of a racecar, go right in his fire suit to his seat and do a burnout in a few minutes.  The guy was a showman, unbelievable. 
If I can ever leave this world like him, if he never left a mark with anybody else, Raymond Beadle scarred me for life.  I love him with all my heart. 

Q.  Is Las Vegas and Pomona now the most challenging two races throughout your entire career?
JOHN FORCE:  If you allow pressure because you're in the Countdown, whether you're ahead in the points or you're behind.  I race two different styles.  When you're in the lead, at least I do, you have a certain style to race, be protective of the points.  When you're behind, you open up and it's guns-a-blazing.  That's how I'm going into Vegas.  I told my daughter Courtney and Brittany, You can't look at those races or any round or qualifying or a final any different than you did opening day at Pomona.  The racecar doesn't know the difference. 
If you set the pace of where you're going and do what you've always done, then your best potential will come out as a driver in the driver's seat. 
So, nope, I'm going to address Vegas and Pomona at any other race and I'll see how the cards fall. 

Q.  I've been covering your racing and NHRA since you began.  This is a surprise to me.  The question I have, I know you said Jimmy has walked, Austin was mentioned already.  Will Mike Neff be tuning your car for the next two races?  Can you answer that? 
JOHN FORCE:  Mike Neff is the head of our brain trust.  Mike Neff, working with John Medlen and the team, there will be input as there always is.  Nobody's trying to replace Jimmy Prock.  We don't play that game.  We want to wish him well and his guys, good luck in the future.  They've got families to feed, house payments to make, okay? 
Mike Neff, his job is to tune the Auto Club, that Ford Mustang, they need to tune it.  That's what he needs to focus on.  Robert, he's behind, but he's got a longshot at winning this thing, and I've seen it happen.  It ain't fair of me.  Yeah, I move crew chiefs around, but I'm not doing that.  Mike Neff works with Ron Douglas, he works with Todd Smith, along with John Medlen, they work as a team.  They hate the loss of Jimmy Prock.  Jimmy Prock was a big part of that. 
But right now, no to that answer.  Look, I made the decision on this, and I'm going to go with my decision, but I'm not going to jeopardize Robert's chance at a title or my daughter Courtney's chance at a title or my daughter Brittany at her first win.  I don't do business that way. 
Like I said, it's not just about championships to me.  It's can I rally this team back together?  That's what I'm best at.  I've done it a lot of times, and I'm going to try. 
I do appreciate the calls from team owners that called me and said there's stuff going on, you don't seem aware of it.  I'm aware of it.  What am I going to do?  I wait till they do what they're going to do and then I make decisions. 
John Force needs to get up and rally his-self and his team, whether new or old, and that's what I plan on doing. 
I hate to admit this, but NHRA has been my life.  I grew up with Wally.  I went right down the line with the people that ran it.  Dallas Gardner, Tom Compton now.  These are good people.  They try to help.  They want me to stay in this sport. 
But I'm a big boy.  Like I told Tom Compton, I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it on my own, that's my job.  They try to help.  They try to help all the racers that are out there.  That's their job.  Without us, the sport doesn't exist.  Without all of the race teams, from the grassroots to the top. 
SCOTT SMITH:  John, that concludes the questions.  Thank you very much for taking time out of your day and joining us on the call. 
JOHN FORCE:  As always, thank you.  Thank you for allowing me on.  See you at Vegas. 

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