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NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE


November 6, 2014


John Force


Q.  John, going into Pomona at a racetrack where you've had such success, 15 career Funny Car victories, kind of going into that track, does that give you guys a little bit of added confidence, a little bit of spring in your step going into the race? 
JOHN FORCE:¬† I know the Auto Club Raceway like the back of my hand.¬† We've won it, we've lost there.¬† When you lose, you learn.¬† Hell, you learn more than when you win because you know what you can't do.¬† We're excited about it because we've had a rough month and a half.¬† My problems started before St.Louis, and I knew it.¬† I didn't know‑‑ I said on TV that I should have more faith in my team around me, that no man is an island, not even me, and that the fact that we came back, I was in the cockpit of the race car, John Medlen was in the hot seat, but he had the brain trust headed by Mike Neff that worked with him, and they gave us a good race car.
Mentally, I was mentally wrong going into Las Vegas.  I had a press conference with Peak that I had to do.  I'm saying goodbye to old partners, saying hello to new ones and taking care of the ones like Auto Club and Traxxas and Mac Tools that have been with me for years. 
But I was upside down.  When I got there, I faked it for the first three days, and then we got past the press conference, we got into the battle, we got into the zone, and boy, I am clear as I've ever been.  I'm excited to go to Pomona because I've got to race team, and everything I created, more than winning championships, what I created was a concept like any great football team.  If you stay together, you might lose a few from injuries or somebody, whatever, can happen, but in the end, you can still prevail. 
And if you don't win the championship, the other guy was just better or luckier on that day. 
But if you do win, well, that's just the icing on the cake. 

Q.  How many autographs did you sign at SEMA this week?
JOHN FORCE:  We ran from show to show.  We had a great morning, the NHRA breakfast, I'll tell you was hilarious.  Watching Scelzi, he's unbelievable.  I love the kid, his humor.  He can drive a race car, had his boys there.  Antron, I know Schumacher sometimes, Tony, misunderstands where I come from, but I really respect Tony Schumacher.  The kid can drive a race car.  He can interview, and he promotes our Army, which I really love, because like my car said, American Made, and there ain't nothing better than the United States Army and all of the armed services that we have out there, National Guard, all of them. 
But we had a ball, and it was just fun to be at SEMA and take care of the fans. 

Q.  Now that you've started announcing things for next year, does that take a little bit of stress off these last two weeks or this race?
JOHN FORCE:  Yeah, we had another one.  Everybody thought I was going to announce a manufacturer.  I'm still racing for Ford.  I'm still racing for Castrol.  I've got a job to do.  I owe these people a championship.  And then we'll make announcements.  Somebody said that I had said that I think sometimes I talk so fast, they can't understand what I'm saying, but I wasn't announcing a manufacturer at SEMA.  It was never planned.
Right now I'm taking care of the people that pay me.  I'm doing my job.  I'm really excited about it.  Peak Antifreeze and Coolant, they didn't conflict with anybody or blue depth, we were able to announce them, show the blue car.  You know why I got on my tractor last night?  I read Hagan's story, and I've got a John Deere on my hill, and it was just a moment because I'm going to go into the milk business.  I'm going into the dairy business.  Maybe I'll be a cattleman someday.  I'll have some announcements.  It's pretty exciting. 
I'm going to hit you guys with some cool stuff here.  It's been a slow year, but JMI worked with us.  I've got all kinds of people trying to help me.  God bless them all.  We're going to make it.  We're going to make it.  I took a big hit, but I'm going to recover.

Q.  I know that's a clue to one of your new sponsors, so are they the ones that gave you the John Deere so you could get practice on it? 
JOHN FORCE:  No, I actually had a John Deere for my ranch in Indy, and when I sold it, I brought it to California.  No, it's just cool, I got back home last night, and I just sat outside by myself, the wife was sleeping, and sat on that tractor, turned on the keys, and started driving it around.  If Hagan can do it, helps relax him, maybe I can calm down.  I'll be the guy that has the heart attack before we get to Pomona, but if I do, so be it, because man, I'm loving life right now, and all of a sudden everything is starting to turn the corner for me, and I just want to stay racing.  Scares me to death the thought that I can't drive a race car anymore or one of my daughters.  We're going to be okay. 
That's my promise.¬† We'll hit Pomona with‑‑ hell, maybe it'll be four funny cars, I don't know. ¬†Maybe it'll be two funny cars and two dragsters.¬† I'll be telling you real soon.¬†

Q.  I know Matt said he was out there cutting wheat.  What are you cutting with your John Deere, asphalt?
JOHN FORCE:  No, actually I had some ice in the front bucket with some Miller Lite and Budweiser, too.  Let's mix it up.  That way I don't start no rumors. 

Q.  With everything that you've been through in the last few weeks, all the turmoil that you've been through and being able to be in the final round at Vegas, how much more do you appreciate the team that you've assembled and how great they really are? 
JOHN FORCE:  Well, I really do.  I was really proud, a load was dumped on John Medlen.  You know what I mean?  He had worked with Jimmy and Mike Neff, who's my lead on every car that I own from the Top Fueler to my Funny Cars.  He is my Austin Coil now.  He's taken over, and he has for the last two years. 
We redesigned our compound based around a Mike Neff and Robert Hight concept about hospitality.  That's what the world wants, and I'm going to give it to them. 
It was just to see them come together, they didn't seem to break stride.¬† You know, my whole race team showed up, and I know some of those kids are going with Jimmy Prock, but I love them.¬† They all came by to see‑‑ the whole team came by the booth, and I know some of them are leaving, but they love me, they know we've got a fight on our hands.¬† They want to win for Jimmy, they want to win for John Force Racing, and they want to prove theirselves, and we did it.¬† We had a tough competitor.¬† Kalitta bounced up there.¬† He ran against Hagan and nailed him, and then he nailed me.¬† I could have used that round.¬† Gave it everything I could squeeze out of the Christmas tree, everything.¬† The motor was right on where we thought we'd be.¬† It actually run a ton quicker.¬† It didn't really run a 10, probably ran an 05.¬† I put out the top bulb.¬† But man, you're racing Worsham.¬† He's hopped up.¬† He's got the Kalitta team behind him, and the fist fight is getting ready to start, and he come after me and I knew I couldn't give him anything, and I did.¬† I gave him everything I had, and he pulled it out.¬† I was really proud of the kid because he struggled for a while, and let me tell you, there's going to be others in this dogfight.¬† It ain't a race just between me and Hagan.¬† We've got to watch anybody‑‑ he's got to watch and I've got to watch who can take us out.¬†
This is great.  This is going to pack the seats at the Auto Club Raceway for NHRA and Mello Yello.  It's going to be awesome, and that's what we owe the fans, especially in this economy.  They come out there to get relief, and we're going to give it to them. 

Q.  Congratulations to you and Elon Werner, too. 
JOHN FORCE:¬† Elon Werner getting that Chapman award, he stands by my side.¬† Even the other day he tried to carry my briefcase in SEMA.¬† Let me help you, John, you're overloaded.¬† I said, no, I should be carrying your briefcase.¬† You won that Chapman Award, that deal is big, and it's big for John Force Racing.¬† He got the honor, but we accept him because he's part of us, but we accepted it for NHRA.¬† Him and Densmore winning that thing, for NHRA just to show‑‑ to put us up against NASCAR and to put us up against IndyCar and F1, dang, NHRA is going to be okay.¬† Anybody that doesn't believe that needs to get their head fixed.¬†

Q.  How you doing? 
JOHN FORCE:¬† Isn't that Hagan kid just the nicest kid?¬† He always is polite.¬† Yeah, he'll get hopped up sometimes, but I've got to put on a game face because I've got to‑‑

Q.  Hello, John? 
JOHN FORCE:  Go ahead. 

Q.  Are you there?  Can you hear me? 
JOHN FORCE:  Yes, ma'am. 

Q.  What I wanted to ask you, this is a side question, and yes, congratulations to Elon.  He does a heck of a job.  Congratulations to you for pulling through the tough five weeks, six weeks you've had and still holding up the order of the whole team and your sponsors.  This is a side question.  I haven't heard any more mention about you and Graham Rahal doing the switch.  You said at one time you were going to make the announcement at Pomona.  Is that still on? 
JOHN FORCE:¬† Well, when we say switch, I love race cars in general, and I wanted to make some laps in his IndyCar, and his dad Bobby Rahal was there at the races, and we got‑‑ I mean, at SEMA, looking for deals just like us.¬† He's just really‑‑ I didn't realize his dad was so big.¬† I don't know why years ago, he's a big man, and really a nice, soft‑spoken guy.¬†
But I wanted to put the kid in my Funny Car one of these days.  I want to give him a shot.  Him and my daughter are pretty close, and I want him to experience and know what she does because you know why my wife going into a super car dragster and drove it with Frank Holly?  She did it at Frank Holly's driving school because she always had that fear of what my kids were doing, and I said, you'll never get rid of that fear until you drive it, and that's why she went and got her license. 
I've still got her fire suit right here in my museum and her helmet.  It's all pink and white and it's awesome, but you still have that fear for your children.  Let me tell you something:  My daughter on Monday crashed her Top Fueler.  Motor let go, took the tire off, and before the car was stopped, it destroyed the chassis.  It was junk.  I mean, I lost a quarter of a million bucks or whatever it all costs right there.  That hurt. 
But my daughter was yelling on the radio before it come to a stop.  That's why I love my kids so much.  Tell dad I'm okay, tell dad I'm okay.  She was just repeating that to make sure that I got it because, man, I didn't know if it went airborne.  Looked like the cockpit was in the air, way up high, and you know, but it wasn't.  She drove it straight, got out of the car, but she was sending that message to pop, because that was key to her to tell dad I was okay, and she was out of the car. 
But they put a brand new car together, and she'll be ready‑‑ that was her Auto Club Rookie of the Year car.¬† Ruined it.¬† But sometimes when a kid steps out, then you know your safety, and if anything I would thank Don Schumacher for and his people is that cabin on top of that dragster.¬† Makes them a little heavier, but me and Tony Schumacher talked about it, I'm going to stay with it and keep my kid safe because I love this sport and we're going to keep doing it.

Q.  Antron said that's what saved him when he had his bad crash was the cockpit. 
JOHN FORCE:  I was there.  That's when we made the decision to put it on our race cars.  I had two dragsters already built in our shop and I said stop them because the cabin that was built at Schumacher Racing, I think it was green, their crew chief on that Army car that designed that and put it together with some people, and yeah, so I thank him for that. 

Q.  Are you and Hagan going to race your tractors, too? 
JOHN FORCE:  Whatever it takes, but I'm going to get Rahal in that Funny Car.  We've got to find a time to do it, and there's cost and there's expense, and I've got financial problems right now and I'm piecing together and making changes, and I'm going to get in that IndyCar one of these days.

Q.  What I want to see is you fitting in that IndyCar cockpit because those things are tiny. 
JOHN FORCE:  Hey, I've been starving for a week trying to get 10 pounds off me to stay in this fight.  I've got one pound to go, and I'm going to stay in this fight and I'll be ready for Hagan.  I'm giving this every time I've got.  This is the best time of my life, and you know what's really cool, my grandchildren, Adam, Jacob and now Noah, Noah knows the race car.  My littlest one, Ashley and Danny, and Jacob, I wanted my grandchildren to see what I did when I was still there, and they're going to be able to see grandpa at his greatest at Pomona.  I've got my heart back.  I'm good. 

Q.  John, obviously there's probably nobody out there that knows more about winning championships than you, but without giving away too many trade secrets, at least half the NASCAR contending drivers will have never won a championship.  Most of the football players that are going to win a championship this year probably haven't won one before.  What's your best advice for contenders when they're right on that edge of winning a championship? 
JOHN FORCE:¬† You've got to race from the heart, because if you get into fight mode ‑‑ and you've got to get into fight mode, too.¬† You've got to get the energy up and the spark.¬† But if you go in there, if you're having a bad day, I go out there‑‑ I told Ashley, I want you to have my grandsons in autumn in the final.¬† Don't change the ritual because they love to go with Courtney and they love to go with Brittany, but I said, I need them there.¬† Yeah, dad.¬† No, you have them there early before I go in the seat.¬† I want to look at those little faces.¬† I want to look at them smiling because they take my heart where I need to be.¬† You know what I'm saying?¬† It's a feeling‑‑ the only way I can explain it that I can be out there in the morning getting ready to go into a race and I'm all sick in my stomach and I'm all screwed up and I've got to beat this guy, and all that does is negatively kills you.¬† It kills you.¬† And you've got to know how to turn that switch, and some people don't know how to do it.¬† I do.¬† But it's like when I'm standing there and I hear the National Anthem.¬† I turn, I look at the American flag, I hear the music, I hear the sounds, and my heart, a feeling comes over my body that it's like a beautiful song.¬† It's like an emotional movie, and that's when I find John Force.¬† That's when I find it.¬† I look at those little children of mine.
I was so happy at SEMA.  I worked there for a couple of days, and when I got loose, I got to the Traxxas display and there was Robert, Brittany and Courtney, and I ran up and started hugging all of them and kissing them, and all of a sudden from all that stress of running, trying to say all the right things politically correct, all in that moment of kissing my kids, and even Robert, he looks at me like I'm nuts, all of a sudden my body got well.  I feel like I'm on the verge of a heart attack, and all of a sudden I'm well.  It's called stress, and certain things change that stress, and if you can find that, you'll be the best on race day, and that's where I'm going to be.  On race day, Sunday morning, win or lose, I'm going to be perfect, okay, and it's certain things that do it.  Loving this country, loving a guy in a marine uniform.  You know what I mean? 
I'll be running through an airport and I'm having a terrible day, I'm going to miss my plane, and some guy will stop me, a fan, and he'll say, man, just give me a second.  Oh, I've got to get to my plane, and there's a marine standing there in uniform, and I'm thinking, this kid is going to Iraq and I'm going to tell him I've got to catch a plane, when he might not even come home?  You forget the plane and you hug him, and they're looking at you like this guy's nuts.  No, they don't know how they can heal you.  Healing is in the heart. 
I saw a guy last night on TV, an old time movie star that turned 100 years old yesterday, and they said, how did you do it.  He said, by not hating anybody. 
Okay, enough of old John Force whining here.  I'm sorry. 

Q.  What do you like best, chasing corporate America or chasing the win lights?
JOHN FORCE:¬† I've got two NHRA Mello Yello championships.¬† I said this the other day at the press conference.¬† One is to win the championship, the Countdown started.¬† Well, there's another Countdown, and that's when you close corporate America, and it started about a month ago, and stuff is starting to happen.¬† Some good people that I'm going to tell you about has come forth to me and said, John Force, it's time for you to join us and bring your daughter with you, and man, it was like‑‑ I sat down on a curb, I'm going to tell you, I was embarrassing.¬† I sat down on a curb when I hung my phone up and I cried.¬† I'm a full‑grown man, 65 years old, and you know what I thought?¬† It ain't the end of your career.¬† It's just started.¬† People really believe in you.¬†
You know, it ain't just about driving a race car.¬† You've got to look at that age limit that I'm at.¬† I should be with AARP.¬† I ought to be out there selling medical supplies.¬† No, some people put a value on me, and maybe I didn't have enough faith in myself, but boy, there's sure‑‑ I've always been a positive guy and a fighter, but boy, what's happened in the last couple weeks has given me more spirit, more heart.¬† You've got a new John Force at Las Vegas.¬† Oh, he was sniveling going in, but boy, when he come out of there, he's a Tiger.¬† It's all about the people.¬† It's all about love, and boy, I'm in the middle of it, and I feel really loved and blessed right now.¬†

Q.  You pretty much touched every single base of the question I'm going to ask you, but I look back at you from the days when you ran IROC.  I look back at you also from the day you had that horrible accident that almost took your life.  What I see, and please, please tell me if I'm wrong, you suddenly realized that family was the most important thing in your entire life, and you are strong young man now because of family; am I correct?
JOHN FORCE:  I ran around thinking I was James Dean, Elvis and Superman rolled into one.  When I got in that fire suit and when I got out of it, I thought I could kill the world by myself with a great team around me.  I never realized that there's two teams:  There's the family and then there's the race team.  But they're both family. 
When my guys walked into that SEMA show and stood there, I knew that I had their support.  They supported me at Vegas, and whether they leave or not, they showed loyalty to me that we're going to fight for this championship, and it was the greatest feeling.  Robert was standing there, Brittany and Courtney, and it was like, wow, there's your team with all their overload, they come to SEMA to say hi.  Yeah, they'll probably be gone, but God bless them, they're with us now.
Like I said about Jimmy Prock.  Jimmy Prock is gone.  Not to my team.  He's in our heart.  No matter what anybody thinks, if you change on an individual for whatever reason, then you're not worth a hoot.  I don't change.  Still love the people I love, but people has got to make changes for theirselves and for their families, and we've got to respect it.
Sometimes people read me wrong, but what I'm telling you is when I laid in that hospital, it wasn't‑‑ there was no party.¬† There was no hotrod girl standing at the ropes telling you how cute you were, lying to you.¬† There was no beer at the end of the day, getting wild and crazy.¬† It all changed in that hospital bed.¬†
When I was being put in a helicopter, they were trying to shove the bone back in my knee, and it was like, what the‑‑ I didn't even know what it was, and they were trying to‑‑ I was in shock is what it was, but I'll never forget seeing that sticking out.¬† Didn't even know what it was.¬† It was like, it's over?¬† It can't be over, not this great life that I had, and the fight started right there, but who rallied, my beautiful wife Laurie, my kids lived with me when I was nuts.¬† I didn't have to confess anything I ever did wrong.¬† I said it all in the hospital in six weeks on medication.¬† They know everything, and I am free.¬† I'm reborn.¬† I'm starting my life again, and I fought the fight.
It ain't just about winning.¬† It's about giving your heart every day.¬† I don't party no more.¬† I ain't saying I don't have a glass of wine, but my focus is God gave me a second chance, and I ain't going to screw it up, and I'm going to watch my grandchildren‑‑ understand, Daniel Hood's dad is a drag racer.¬† John Force, we're his grandkids.¬† We're drag racers.¬† We're all going to watch these children.¬† Maybe some of them, maybe they'll all run off and play hockey.¬† Maybe they'll be president some day like Hillary maybe.¬† That ain't a political thing.¬† Didn't mean to say that.
What I'm saying is we're going to give them those opportunities within NHRA.¬† It's a great show, and I show a bill to NHRA, so does Hagan, so does Schumacher, and let me tell you, Tony sat there the other day, somebody thinks you say something about Tony‑‑ and someone said I looked at my watch.¬† I was looking at my watch because it was time for my medication if you want to know the truth.¬† I could sit and listen to Tony Schumacher all day because he loves what he does.¬† I'm just a different style.¬† I talk as much as him.¬† He says it his way, I say mine.¬†
I really respect the kid.  I wish I could get him to drive for me. 
Okay, what's next? 
THE MODERATOR:  I think that will conclude our conference call today.  As always, thank you very much for your time. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports



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