John Force drives a Mustang Funny Car. It goes 4s. Car Craft has a Mustang drag-race car, too. It goes 12s on a good day. So what else does Force have that we don't? How about millions of fans, millions in endorsements and sponsorships, and (by the time he's done racing) probably close to a million national event wins.
Even if you've never been to an NHRA event, the name John Force is synonymous with "kick-ass drag racer." Those of you who are familiar with his 4.7-second 320-mph Funny Car know that Force is not only a national champion, he's a Ten-'peat Champ and is credited with 96 national event wins, including the Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals in Pomona, California, where we staged a mock "heads-up" race between our two cars. We also toured his race-team headquarters in nearby Yorba Linda, California, and squared off for a head-to-head interview with one of pro drag racing's funniest and favorite racers.
Head to Head with John Force
A few days after he won his 96th NHRA Funny Car national event at the Pep Boys 50th Anniversary Nationals at Pomona Raceway, we managed to pry a few minutes out of John Force's hectic schedule to chat about the sport and business of drag racing.
Car Craft: First, congratulations on your win at Pomona last weekend. Let's start at the beginning. How did you get started in drag racing?
John Force: I've been racing all my life, but I went to Australia in 1974 to campaign a Vega Funny Car as a pro. When I came back to the US, my first car was a Monza. I was with GM for about 15 years before I signed on with Ford.
CC: What was it like racing in Australia?
Force: They were about 10 years behind the times. I actually drove Jack Crisman's old Sidewinder Mach 1 that had a SOHC Ford mounted sideways in it.
CC: What goes through your mind when you're strapped into the car in the staging lanes during those few minutes you have alone before the race?
Force: I get in my head what the crew chief is telling me I need to do. Do I need a holeshot because the other guy is faster? Do I need to shallow stage because of track conditions? You get in your mind what you need to do to win the race. Then I think about my kids-that calms me down. We've all got a bit of the saber-toothed tiger in us-it's our aggressive nature-but you have to be able to control it and find the balance of aggression and control. If fear takes over, you lose all control.
King Matt received this trophy for scoring over 100 in his bowling league.
John has a truck and trailer-so do we. Actually, John has five semi trailers, a luxury coa
John has collectible toys of his car from Action. While we don't have one of our 'Stang ye
CC: Is there time to think about anything during a 4.7-second, 320-mph run?
Force: I know where the fire bottles are!
CC: Your team is different from most because you have co-crew chiefs-Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. How do the three of you interact?
Force: I hired Austin Coil because he won two championships when he didn't have any money-all he had was one spare piston. Austin is aggressive; he yells and screams. Bernie is the opposite-he used to be that way, but now he's cool, calm, and collected. They find a balance. I'm scatterbrained, and I'm the same way in the car and in the boardroom.
CC: Speaking of boardrooms, how much of your time is spent at the business of racing compared to actually racing?
Force: Ninety percent-about 50 percent of that is talking with potential sponsors, 30 percent is attending car shows and other media engagements and working with current sponsors, and about 20 percent is working on new business. The racing part is getting on an airplane for 24 weekend events a year.
CC: What do you do when you're not racing or conducting racing business?
Force: I like to play with motorcycles. I've got Harleys and a Suzuki-the fastest street bike you can buy. I've also got a little ski boat up at my place in Lake Tahoe. And I like teaching my girls how to fish.
CC: So you don't really spend much time hot rodding around when you're not in the Funny Car?
John has us beat here-we don't have a "bobble head" doll.
John has a killer lift to bring his race car down safely to the ground from the trailer. E