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2014 NHRA: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series - Alexis Dejoria, Antron Brown And John Force
Posted by: newsla on Mar 06, 2014 - 06:16 AM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series - Alexis Dejoria, Antron Brown And John Force


The following are excerpts from today’s national media teleconference featuring Funny Car racer Alexis DeJoria, Top Fuel racer Antron Brown and Funny Car racer John Force in advance of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

 

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THE MODERATOR: Joining us today on the call will be three racers who started the season on a hot streak and are looking for continued success in Florida. John Force in Funny Car, Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car, have been ones to watch this season and will join us today during the course of this call. We'll start today's call with Alexis. Alexis is having a breakthrough start of the year. In Pomona, she became the first female to power a Funny Car to a run quicker than four seconds with her 3.997 second pass in qualifying. In Phoenix, she continued that hot streak by winning her first career Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event win. She became only the 14th woman to win a Mello Yello Series event and the fourth in Funny Car.

Alexis, the Victory Lane celebration was a joyous one with you and your team there after the race. How was that celebration and what was the best memory that came out of that win?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Well, it turned out to be pretty tame, actually. I thought it would get a bit more rowdy. But we had a great time. We were in the winner's circle for quite a long time. I think we were the last car to leave. But it was so exciting. I mean, the guys have been working so hard to get to this point. We were hoping to get a win last year, but it's better now than ever, of course. And to do it in the beginning of the season like this in the first two races is unreal, so we're really excited and charged.

Q. When, during eliminations did it hit you that, hey, I've got a shot at winning this?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Gosh, probably after I beat my teammate and I was going up against John Force in the semis. I just felt really confident. Our car was getting down the track almost every time, and that consistency is something that we've been striving towards. It seemed like we had it. Of course, John Force is a tough guy to beat, but I just felt really good and calm and collected. It was my first semifinal in a while and I felt like we had a car to win the whole thing.

Q. Did you have any inclination to run up the track and jump in the mosh pit?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: No, you'll never see me running back up that racetrack. But, no, it was pretty awesome. I got to see it on tape. I record every race, so of course I come home and I basically kind of like I'm doing my homework when I watch the races. But I got to see the mosh pit, and it was pretty amazing that my husband and my crew chiefs both kind of did a back shimmy and got themselves out of the mosh pit and unscathed. So it was pretty fun.

Q. Perhaps quite a while ago in NHRA a lot of us learned that cars don't know gender, obviously. But take a little step beyond that, with this win, with your fan base which has to include obviously males and females, but you also have young girls that look up to you. You've become a role model too when you get that win. Could you talk a little bit about that?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Yeah, I mean, it's hard to go out there and say I consider myself to be a role model. Nobody's perfect. But I think if I can go out there and show girls that they have other options, you know, that anything is possible and if they have determination and perseverance, they can accomplish anything.

Q. Do you know where you got your work ethic from? Obviously, drivers have to have a good one.

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Definitely my father. He worked really hard to get to where he is today. He's a very successful businessman and philanthropist and a wonderful father. He taught us from the very beginning to fight for what you believe in stay focused and try to find something that you're passionate about. If you're passionate about something and you can make it work and make it your profession, you'll be very successful.

Q. When did racing become a passion for you? When did you realize that was something you wanted to do?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Oh, gosh, when I was five. When I was five and I saw that movie Cannonball Run. And I wanted a Lamborghini Countach so bad. I made a bet with my dad. I don't know. I just gravitated towards it. As soon as I got in high school, I got myself a '67 Chevelle SS with a 454 big block in it and raced that around. I was kind of like the wild child of the family. Everyone kind of went towards the family business, and I did at first, but I still had that drive in me. I wanted to go out and race.

Q. What did your dad think when you started gravitating towards what you do now? What were his thoughts on that?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: He wasn't very surprised at all. No one from my family comes from racing professionally. I guess I could say he's done Cannonball style races all over the world, and done really well and had amazing stories when he would come home from them. But I've always kind of been the sports enthusiast. I played all sports in school and snowboard, riding dirt bikes and whatever. But, yeah, I mean, he was pretty proud though when he saw just how determined I was and when he saw, hey, you know what, she can do this. And she's going to be good at it.

Q. Beating a legend like John Force in your first race, how does that validate what you want to accomplish in drag racing?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Well, obviously, I have so much respect for him and his entire team. They're very tough to beat. Like I said before, you have to beat the best to be the best. Any day that you get to go up against these guys is pretty awesome. After we beat John in the semis, we're going to our first final after a year, so it felt just amazing. Whatever the outcome was, I would have been just as excited to make it to a final. But the fact that we got the win, it was huge. It was really huge. It was almost surreal that I couldn't actually enjoy the win until a few minutes after it had sunk in that we had done it. I was just so focused all day long, and we really felt confident in our race car that day.

Q. Now that you've done that, do you start thinking maybe season championship now? Is that a possibility or a reality?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: We have a long way to go. We've just won one race. But obviously our short term goal right now is to stay in the Top 10. And hopefully stay in the Top 10, and whatever happens after that happens. But keep the consistency getting the car down the racetrack and hopefully win more rounds and win more races before the season is over.

Q. The next stop on the tour is in Gainesville with an historic racetrack that's seen so many milestones and incredible performances. What is your mindset going into that event knowing the history and everything that event entails?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Gainesville is one of my favorite tracks on the entire circuit. I lived out there for a few years when I raced with Bob Newberry in Alcohol Funny Car. I ran record numbers in my Alcohol Funny Car there. I won my first nitro Funny Car round against John Force, so that was pretty exciting. But on a personal note, my daughter learned how to ride her bicycle in the pit without training wheels, so it's got a lot of firsts for me, and just the fact that the fans are amazing, it's beautiful, and we can run fast down there. So I'm really excited to run Gainesville coming up here in a couple of weeks.

Q. You and Jesse (James, husband) are probably like a rock star couple as far as NHRA is concerned. Does that kind of spotlight and your wild child image, does that kind of make it even more important for you to win a race and show that you can do that?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: No, it has nothing to do with my career and what me wanting to win a race is all about. It is nice though to have my mate finally be able to find someone like him who finally appreciates and respects what I do and can hang with me, basically, in the pits. And he's got a common respect for the guys and they like having him there, because he's also an extra set of hands on the car when we need it and he knows what he's doing. So it's really nice to have that support from my husband. But the whole rock star thing, I don't know. I guess I'm so focused in my little world that I don't really see any of that. But the fans are really supportive. When he's done working on the car, he'll go up to the ropes and sign some autographs and stuff. But he doesn't want to steal my thunder. He's like I'm not here for me. It's all about you. So he's been really cute about it. But it's nice to have that. Of course, my father comes out to the race track and the fans love having him out there as well.

Q. He does work on the car then, right?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Yes, he does.

Q. Anything in particular that he likes to do or is assigned to do?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Whatever he's told to do basically. Whatever the guys need him to do. Whether it's welding on the steering wheel or draining the oil from the chassis, refueling the tanks, cleaning parts, whatever. He was helping out our car chief this last race in Phoenix because he had hurt his ankle from the race prior, so anything and everything.

Q. Tommy DeLago (crew chief), how key was that to your team to getting him to be your crew chief?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Oh, man. Well, there was still a lot to get figured out on that race car. I think if Del (Worsham, former crew chief) had another year, he would have gotten it figured out as well. But it's nice to have some other super brains on the team like Tommy DeLago and Glen (Huszar, co-crew chief). They bring a different approach to tuning the car. Their setup is completely different from what Del did. It's not any better or any less, it's just different. But, again, it was like we kind of had to start all over again. So last year was kind of like a learning experience for the whole team in just getting it all right. They're amazing. It's been so great to work with Tommy and Glen. They're hard core. They know how to win races and championships.

Q. Your goals seem kind of modest there just staying in the Top 10. Am I reading that right or will you maybe reassess that as the season goes on? Just seems like with the first two races and the strong start here that that may be very modest.

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself. We won one race. This is our first race. We have a ways to go. I think there have been drivers in the past that have never won a race and they qualified really well and went rounds and consistently won championships.
I know as far as myself is concerned and Tommy and Glen are pretty modest as well, even though they have won championships, they know how these things can go. You can go really strong in the beginning of the season and fizzle out toward the end. So you never know how it's going to be. You just have to take it race by race.

Q. Is it safe to say team wise, confidence-wise it's at an all-time high after that win?

ALEXIS DeJORIA: Oh, definitely. I think we were riding pretty high after that three second run in Pomona as well.

Q. I noticed what appears to be an F-15 (airplane) tattoo on your forearm. What does that represent? Most people don't go out and get fighter planes on their forearms.

ALEXIS DeJORIA: It was a dream of mine to hopefully one day be able to fly in one. And through the lovely world of NHRA Drag Racing and me, you know, out at the racetrack in Vegas, the guys from the Dallas Air Force Base came over, the F-15 pilots that were training over there came over to watch the races. And we brought them into our pit and we were talking back and forth, and they really admired what I did, and I admired what they did, and they said, hey, if you ever want to take a ride in one, we'd love to put it together for you. They were there training basically to go overseas, and they were active. They said when we get back, we're going to work really hard on this, and it happened. I got to go out to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, and I flew for about an hour in an active F-15 Strike Eagle, and it was absolutely amazing. I even got to fly it for a good half an hour. I did absolutely everything. They did everything to try to make me sick and pass out. They're like, oh, big, tough race car driver, let's see what she can do. So that was just a dream come true. I actually got the tattoo before I got to go up, but I knew. It was already set in stone. I got the government clearance and everything, so I was already ready to do it. Yeah, that was kind of like a commemorative thing.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks Alexis and best of luck to you in Florida. Now we're joined by the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, Antron Brown, who is also the defending event winner in Gainesville in his Matco Tools Dragster. So far this season, Brown rebounded from a disappointing first round loss in Pomona to dominate the Phoenix event. He qualified fifth and raced through a tough field including Richie Crampton, Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force en route to his win. Antron, it's obviously a long season, but how important was that for you and the team to rebound there in Phoenix?

ANTRON BROWN: It was very important because we wanted to definitely get off to a great start, and we know one thing about going into the Countdown last year. We saw that we finished second last year in the points, and if we would have gotten into a better position going into the Countdown with our points, that would have gave us a better shot on winning the championship. So we definitely want to get off to a good start. Pomona didn't go the way we wanted. We ran well, qualified well, we were just a little over aggressive in the first round, so we regrouped and just came off in Phoenix. We had a strong qualifying performance, qualifying top eight, but we took it one round at a time, and we stepped up. And after first round we were low E.T. after every round after first round, and that's what it takes to go out there and compete on that level and win that race. It was a very strong win for us. We're hoping to carry that momentum back into Gainesville and try to pull off what we did there last year.

Q. As far as resilience, bouncing back, I was reading a psychological article the other day about people who are resilient tend to look at their mistakes and analyze them and try to not make them again. And people who don't just let it go by. Those people aren't resilient. Could you talk a little bit about that, this ability of you and your team to bounce back?

ANTRON BROWN: The thing about it is that we just know. We look at different deals and we work on it. That's one thing that I can say. Our team is never for the lack of effort. We always analyze what we have done in the past and where we want to go into the future. We're always making steps to go towards that. And sometimes you have a miscue or you have a misstep. We look at it, and said now's the time to go back, go to work and get better. We know we're only as good as our weakest link. So we work on every part of the car toward our team synergy. That's what it takes to work together to pull these incredible things off. Like we lost in Pomona and were like how can we fix this from not happening in the next round. We went out there, and we were down a little bit. We had a miscue in our blower. We came back and fixed that. It was a mechanical problem, so we didn't run as strong as we wanted to first round in Phoenix, so it got us through that first round. So with that being said, it was like all right. If we ran that run in Pomona, we wouldn't be talking about how bad Pomona was because we would have won that round too. So we go back and say all right, we've got to do things not harder but smarter. And that's our logic on our team. One team, one mind, one purpose and we do it together as a unit, and I think that's why we've been so successful in all the years that we've been together. And we're constantly learning. We're never hitting a plateau because we're constantly eager to learn and to make things more efficient. And I think that's what it takes now in our racing that we're doing now because the teams are just incredibly tough right now. They've been off the charts where everybody's not talking about winning championships, they're doing the working to out and win championships. So to compete in our class today, you have to step up to that next level each and every time.

Q. If I could, I was doing some NASCAR stuff and I ran into Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., he races for Joe Gibbs. You being an African American champion, and Darrell Wallace has definitely a chance of moving up and he's got a great attitude and everything else, what would be your advice to him?

ANTRON BROWN: Well, my advice would be to Darrell to keep doing what he's doing. I'm actually really good friends with Darrell. He has a really good demeanor where he's definitely got an open mind and is eager to learn and his determination. My deal is for him not to ever lose that. To never get to a point where you think you are the best. Even if you won that championship or you won a race, to never let that stuff sidetrack you, but to always keep focused, keep working and keep building. That's why you look at people like Jimmie Johnson. A lot of people look at him and how many championships he's won. Jimmie's won championships, but as soon as that day is over and he's got that championship check and trophy, that joker is back in the gym, he's training. He's still honing his skills to be better. That's one thing that I would tell Darrell. He's got the talent, he's got the drive, but to never stop working. To always constantly improve himself. When you do that, you stay on top of the curve and you stay at the top of your game.

Q. How strange is it going to be being at Gainesville, and no Bernstein in the field at Gatornationals?

ANTRON BROWN: That is a great question there, I'm telling you what, man, because the Bernstein family has made a name for themselves at Gainesville. When you go to Gainesville, every time we used to go to Gainesville, you'd always see the big pictures of the white and red car with Budweiser all over it. It was the King of Speed’s track, The King of Speed. Like once we lost Big Daddy, when Big Daddy retired, that was a Bernstein heritage track. It's been in their heritage of the sport. But Brandon is going to be there. He won't be in a car, and Kenny's retired now. So it's definitely a part of our sport that is definitely missing. I hope Brandon gets back soon. He's a great team manager, but we all know he belongs in a car.

Q. Also, Antron, how important is it for your sport to have a legend like John Force not only still racing but winning like he is? How important is that for your sport?

ANTRON BROWN: I think it's always great for the sport when you see somebody like John. What people don't realize, it's not just him winning, it's showcasing the passion that he has for the sport. He's not racing because that's what he does to make a living. That's how he makes money. The man could retire whenever he wants to and still have a great life. He's racing because he loves it so much. And I share that same passion because I grew up around it.

When you see him going out there and doing the things he does at the age he does, that is all out of the sheer love for the sport. Kind of like Michael Jordan had that love for basketball, that's what I contribute what John has the sport for NHRA racing, except our sport allows you to do it at later ages as long as you have the keen and sharp mind to do it. I think it's huge for our sport because it's monumental. Anytime somebody races, they want to race the champ. They want to beat him because he's the most winning Funny Car driver of all time in NHRA. So when you see that, it definitely gives me goose bumps and chills down my spine when I see that. It's like, wow, that is definitely an amazing deal and it makes it important. The other side also is that we just need to give credit to all the new upcoming drivers there too that are coming up there, like your Richie Crampton's and your Khalid alBalooshi, and all those people. Like your Brittany Forces, too, that are new to the game, and your Alexis DeJoria's that are putting the time in where they need to get a little credit too. That is one thing we do lack is that we don't give credit to all the new upcoming drivers and give them the recognition that they deserve.

Q. To follow up what you just mentioned about Alexis, she was on the call earlier, and I asked her about her and Jesse James kind of being like a rock star figure for NHRA. How do you look at Alexis and her team? Do you see her as real contenders now and not just a show?

ANTRON BROWN: They are out there to win it. If you know her crew chief, Tommy DeLago and Glen, they're the ones that brought Matt Hagan his first world championship in Funny Car. Everybody knew it was a matter of time. What happens is having a championship caliber team does not happen overnight. It takes synergy and time to jell and build. The Lakers dynasty wasn't built overnight, but it could be lost overnight if you lose a couple key players. That is the same thing in our sport. It's the exact same thing where now Alexis got the pieces. They've been together long enough to actually grow, and you've seen them grow. They grew last year. Now the car is going up and down the track every lap. Not just consistently, but fast. She had a couple of times where she was low E.T. of the round. When you look at that, that's where it starts. Now Alexis is getting her confidence, she's cutting the lights, and she's keeping the car in the groove. That team is just as deadly as any other team in the sport of Funny Car. Don't let Alexis' demeanor fool you because she's modest and humble, but that girl is out for blood. You lineup against her, and she's going to try to chop your head off. I tell her all the time and she laughs and giggles, and she's got all you guys in the media fooled.

Q. Antron, you talked about Gainesville, and you're just an historian of the sport. What's it mean to you when you pull in those gates and think about everything that has taken place at the track for years?

ANTRON BROWN: Every time I pull in there, you have to remember, that's where I started my career off in Gainesville in Pro Stock bikes. Now to where I'm at in Top Fuel it's a big dream. Everybody knows Gainesville. The Gators; they always call it the Gatornationals. It's the Gatornationals. It's one of the biggest races on our tour, and great, monumental things always happen there. From mile an hour records to E.T. records to world records. When I think of Gainesville, that's what comes out in my mind. It's the things that are actually broke there. Remember last year that we got Don Schumacher's 200th win there. Big things happen in Gainesville. It's just incredible what goes on and what happens. That's one thing that always makes me look at Gainesville with a smile on my face. That's why last year when we won our first race there, when I finally got that win, it felt like I won the world championship because that's how big that race is. With the fans, the appeal, just the atmosphere around it, all of that makes it really special. You've got Big Daddy Don Garlits’ museum an hour away from it, like the creator of drag racing. I call him the godfather of drag racing. I mean, it's got everything going for it. When we go to Florida, even though it's going to be our third race of the year, to me, that's really like our push off of the year. It's like now it's the first race on the East Coast. It's time to get it going. It's like that's our go time for our race series where you know it's really in full gear once we hit Gainesville.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for your time today Antron and best of luck at the Gatornationals. We're now joined by John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. John continues to exert his strength in the Funny Car category with one win and one semifinal finish so far this season. He's also been a number one qualifier for the past five events dating back to Reading last year. John, you've been on quite a hot streak during these handful of races. What is harder, getting on the hot streak or keeping that momentum going forward?

JOHN FORCE: I think I call it a hot streak, call it what you want. My crew chief got hot, Jimmy Prock, and it happens. Working together with the brain trust. We're focusing on Corporate America. I spoke with the Gainesville Sun this morning, same thing there. If I don't continue to win, if I don't continue to dominate, I'm not going to have a job in this sport. I've been very lucky with corporations like Castrol and Ford that have been with me for a long time. I'm lucky to have Auto Club and Peak and these guys moving forward. It's not enough money to keep me in the car or my daughter, Brittany. It was exciting for us at Phoenix. We brought Todd Smith on to join Dean Antonelli in that Top Fuel car, and they put us in a final. So she's motivated, and wins are what John Force Racing needs right now or it's not going to be here.

ANTRON BROWN: John, what I always wanted to know is that where do you get the passion and desire for the sport of NHRA drag racing from deep in your soul? Where does it come from? Where do you get that desire from?

JOHN FORCE: Do you want me to talk slow? Are you recording this or writing this? Did all the writers leave the building, so Antron's got to ask me questions? It's okay. That's okay. I just love it, love the racing. I remember the first time in an elevator in Gainesville. Just got into an elevator and the fans, somebody recognized me. I'm talking about over 30 years ago, they were all excited with their kids in an elevator in this hotel that we were in, and I thought, wow, lot different. Everywhere you go, people want to race, but Gainesville is happening. That's where they go to get out of the cold weather, I guess, and they want to see their racers. One of the issues I talked about this morning with the new names like Antron and Robert Hight and (Jack) Beckman and the Patron girl (Alexis DeJoria). What you said about the girl there, she really is a real tiger. We're excited. Even though she beat Robert in the final, we're really excited for her and for her dad and everybody, because we've got to build new stars. (Don) Garlits, we love him, he built the sport, and he's still in the middle of all of it, but Shirley (Muldowney), and they're not out here with us all the time, they're trying to get back, but (Don) Prudhomme and (Kenny) Bernstein are gone, but we have Brandon (Bernstein). Now he's out of the seat. Lucky he's got a family and kids. He found a home with Alan Johnson, with the guitar group. But bottom line, we need him back in a Funny Car. We need that name back in a dragster. If I had an opening, like I said this morning, if I got hurt and Ashley didn't come back because of her children right now, he'd be the first guy I'd call not just that he's a talented driver interview, but because he's one of the names that built this sport. We've got to build the new names, you know what I mean? And we're doing that. That's why we're here. Did I answer your question, Antron?

ANTRON BROWN: You did, John. Yes, you did. I always have to ask you that question because you're my hero in the sport and my mentor because of where you came from. And you used to be a truck driver and how hard you worked to get to where you are. You're definitely my inspiration, and you give me the passion for this sport. That's all, man. I love you John.

JOHN FORCE: You know, I'm working so I don't have to go back to that trailer house and back to driving that truck. Not that it was a bad life, but I fought to get out of there, and I ain't going back. We won't fail. We're working on it hard every day. I've hired Just Marketing, Octagon with our TV show. Lot of stuff happening, and I'm going to stay in business. And guys like you, Antron, and guys like me, we're going to build this sport and take it to the next level.

Q. Over the years many drivers and teams must have wondered over and over, besides your great work ethic, what you have when you go to the line. I'm sure they'd like to bottle that, no doubt. But what can you share with your fans that most helps you win so often? What do you have that you can tell them when you go to that line to get you down to the other end?

JOHN FORCE: Because it isn't just winning on that day that you're going to get your mind right and go to the starting line. It starts with working with your team. And if anything I'm guilty of, I got so big, six corporations, could be seven now, the Eric Medlen Project, and building chassises, TV shows, a lot of stuff that I've done. Sometimes you get so overloaded in the office, that's why I split and gave Robert Hight where he takes over the day to day stuff he runs, and I run continually chasing money and trying to keep the rest of the ship on track. I'm guilty of being a micro manager, something to that effect. But one of the things last year was a wakeup call because I've always had a ride. I've been with Castrol 28, 29 years, Ford 16 years. All of a sudden, Robert's got a ride, Courtney's (Force) got a ride with Traxxas, and John Force at the end of the year won't. I joked about it. I sat with my wife and she said, ‘You know, if you had remembered why you came, and it was to win races and championships. I remember you talking about going to the Gators, how Prudhomme aggravated you so bad the way you felt he treated you and called you a leaker. Get down there and whip him.’ Well, he ain't here anymore, but I still set my goals. Him and others like him, the young kids coming up, and my goal is to go there and win. Sometimes you take it for granted and then you forget about the money that you even take for granted. That's Corporate America. She said to me when all of this went down in August, the first time in all these years, John Force over 25 years is going to be on the market. Now she said now go win because winning fixes everything. And Jimmy Prock said, ‘You scrambled this team. You mixed up Robert. You mixed up everybody you know what I mean? You moved Mike Neff, because I started looking. What do I do to secure the future? If I've got to go to Top Fuel, Jimmy Prock is why I went with Jimmy Prock, if I was forced to go there. But it was a matter of I got back in the cockpit of the car. That's my real office, not sitting at this desk, telling stories. Get out there, learn the car, know the crew member's names, learn what that track can take. Walk it with Lanny Miglizzi (race track specialist) and the crew chiefs. Know it, and quit taking for granted that life goes on, because it doesn't. It's called reinventing yourself. I didn't create the concept. Somebody else did. But I lived by it for years, and that's what I'm doing. I'm reinventing myself, my race teams, and we've got the championship that was critical, hoping to have sponsorships locked up before the next championship. But I ain't taking no chances, I'm going after it. Me and Robert, my son in law is president of my company. I made it clear to him, I'm racing. You've got a job, and you need to win for Auto Club, but I need a job, so don't get in my way. Don't anybody get in my way, because if I fail, I'm out of business, and I can't. So I'm going to find them. I know there are a lot of great athletes out there, you know. I watched that (Matt) Hagan kid. I watched him in the gym how hard he works to build what he does. Him and Robert are the two best leavers out there, and I've got to get up with them if I'm going to have a shot at winning again. And Gainesville, every week I say I'm starting at Gainesville. If I leave Gainesville, I'll be starting in Vegas. If I leave Vegas, I'll be starting in Charlotte. That's where I start to get my mind right because John Force got a little bit lost, okay, and my mind's right now.

Q. You talked about Gainesville. You have seven career wins there which is the most, not only in Funny Car, but in all the categories. But you haven't won there since 2001. What are your memories about Gainesville and talk about trying to get that win, another win there at that facility?

JOHN FORCE: I won a lot of races, Austin Coil and myself and the teams. We were hot. We rolled. We won ten straight (season championships). We did stuff nobody can imagine. None of that matters. There are two things that are important to me, and it's goal setting, record setting. One, to stay in this, I ain't trying to get rich. I'm already rich. I'm reinvesting my money. What I'm fighting to do is to stay in business, and you set goals. That's why I say to that other writer, I may not have answered his question. You don't go to the starting line and say today I'm going to get up for it. You start right now, today. But I already started a month ago when I rolled into Pomona. I don't take any weekends off, Saturdays and Sundays. I work every day so I don't forget why I came. But two things that stuck out in my mind is Kenny Bernstein. He was a guy, him and Prudhomme that I looked at that were setting records. Kenny ran the first 300 at Gainesville. So we know it's got the potential to be the baddest track in the land. If the conditions are right, and our teams are right, and our cash flow is good, which it is right now, we can go there and win and John Force Racing continues as we know it. I'm not going to quit racing. But if you run out of money, you change the way you race. The other thing was the loss of Eric Medlen (during a testing accident). The only reason I'm going back so I don't look like I'm talking out of two sides of my mouth. But I was focused on making movies, and I should have been on the starting line with Eric Medlen. I was actually with USA Today doing a story in the trailer when Eric crashed on Monday. I don't know why it was a story I missed. I was on the phone doing it, but I know more about these Funny Cars than anybody, because I've done it the longest. I've made more runs. Now that I'm one of the oldest left in this business and I look out and I should have been there to see what took place, and all I had was the wreckage to evaluate. The videos that we did have, we went through because the TV show was filming, but we buried them. They'll never be seen by anybody out of respect to that kid. But it was a wakeup call how important safety is. Guilty of it again. My daughter said to me in the last two races, ‘Dad, I'm getting headaches real bad.’ Courtney in the Funny Car. I went over and I looked, but I wasn't looking. Everybody was looking. Nobody was looking. She said it was wrong. Something is causing it. I said, ‘Oh, it's just a girl, and she ain't winning so she's aggravated and everything's a headache.’ Hell, I even blamed the new boyfriend she's got. Finally, my wife said do something. Robert sent her car to Indy. Ripped it apart, and that's what they did. We flew her there and she called up yesterday. Courtney was almost in tears. She goes, ‘Dad, they found the problem. I was sitting sideways in the seat.’ They had built the roll padding to fit me the way I was sitting, and they started all over. She was so excited. Dean Antonelli sent her over and Ron Douglas went over to have a head scan because she's had headaches for too many weeks and that ain't normal. But the car can cause it, and I blamed it on being a girl. Stupid me. Safety, we have to live it. Everything goes good, so you forget about it, and somebody else is going to get hurt. I'm not going to allow that. So we're addressing it. Even though I'm going to bring my TV show back, because it's a project. The Eric Medlen Project for safety is up and running, and John Medlen is running that project. It was his son that we lost, and the new manufacturers that we talked to, we make it clear, if safety is not in your deal, let's don't waste our time. And they all want it because it's from us and NASCAR and IndyCar, that very stuff we learned goes into the cars that you put your children in. So Gainesville had a terrible day for me. And it's had its great days. But I'm not going to forget to continue to win like Bernstein, and to continue to build safety.

Q. John, as you and your representatives deal with Corporate America, what are you finding out? Is Corporate America interested? Are they putting you on hold? Are they saying no thanks? What is the early return on your search?

JOHN FORCE: I'll tell you what John Flack told me from Just Marketing. He said ‘You'll make a hundred calls and you'll be lucky to get 10 or 15 returns. He said with John Force, his name, he said they are calling back.’ He's excited about it. We're all looking at the economy, what it's done to us, okay. I've been spending some time with (president of the NHRA, Tom) Compton, because I'm getting hammered with questions about the state of NHRA drag racing, the state of our TV package. A lot of stuff that's turned into rumor isn't really true. Not because Tom Compton tells me, and I do believe him, but I look at the facts. I looked at ratings and I sat with Tom. Yeah, are they down? Show comes on at 2 a.m., yeah, that's happened at times, but the ratings are still strong with comparisons to other sports and stuff. We create our own negativity, and then it grows and the media goes after it. We're not in bad shape. We've got to make changes. We've got to put people in the stands... We have our problems. Tom Compton admits. He was over here for five hours last week because I wanted some answers. I did an interview with Hot Rod Magazine, and all I did was dance because I didn't have data and I said that's it. I want data, and I want to know the facts and where are we going in the future? What are we doing to protect this sport? How are we helping the kids? Get the younger generation in there. It's all being addressed. Just people get into a groove where they want to be negative, and they want to write articles sometimes that just bash what I work every day to try to grow.

What I'm saying is the bashings ain't helping. Yeah, they're reporting what they think they know sometimes. Well, they're not accurate... If we're going to build our sport and give our children jobs, let's be positive. What we've done, the ones that have given their lives that have been part of this, we're trying to bring it back. Let's build it. Let's talk about what's positive. Not about what's negative. We will fix the negative things, and I'm working with Tom every day to try to help. Okay. So, sorry I got sideways there. And I'm not taking sides…That's about as much as I know. But I know this sport. It's a product. It's a good product. Yeah, they have financial troubles, rainouts, you know crowd down a percentage or whatever the number is… I did an interview a few weeks ago, and I'm sorry I did it because I didn't have the facts. I got programmed by the things I read sometimes, and it's starting to be too much. So we need to really evaluate it because I know I have sponsors that call me in and say, gee, look what I just read. Why do I want to get into racing? And I say, well, I can't argue. Then I start reading a lot of this stuff, and it's wrong. It ain't because I'm chasing Corporate America because some of it is not wrong and some of it is not fair. I'm not taking sides with the writers or taking sides with the NHRA. Then you go to the writers and they say you know what, I only wrote what another racer told me. Okay, well, maybe the racer believed it. And I ain't saying they're all wrong. I'm not saying they're all wrong. A lot of it is the truth. But we create this energy that goes down a road and goes negative. I find my own self saying, Yep, that's bad. Then I walked and thought why did I say that? I read that. Well, that's why I called up Compton and he came over here for five hours, him and his team to educate me. I don't let nobody fool me. Okay? I can read a hustler right now because I'm a hustler. But right now what I'm telling you, I never lie. I embellish. But right now what I'm saying is fact. I believe in our sport, and it's going to get better.

I know when I'm with Tom, I can say, hey, let's talk about these things. Because certain things you talk about, you can't win. 50 love you, 50 hate you. And man, I keep going into Corporate America and they keep showing me stuff. Yeah, I ain't saying some of it ain't true, but some of it is wrong. I even call some of the writers. What do you think of this? I only wrote what a guy told me. I've got somebody telling the story that ain't been in the sport for ten years that's going to write big old stuff we all believe? The guy's a smart guy. I'm not saying he's stupid. But is he in the thick of what's happening? I hear these guys talk about we need to do long burnouts, we need to do things. I'd love to do it. Can't. Can't go back. These machines are exotic. It would be like changing IndyCar to F1. Trust me, I'm trying to build new budgets to go back. I can't go back. I'm going to have to, but I have to go back to work, do more shows, more appearances. Because to change these programs that we have created, hell, the crew chiefs that run them if they went back wouldn't know how to run them the other way. Whoa, where did that come from? Sorry, guys. Okay, let's get back to why we're here. Gainesville.

Q. Talk about Brittany and her racing to the final there in Phoenix. It's got to be disappointing on one side to see her not capture the win, but exciting to go see her get that far. Do you see her breaking into the win column before the end of the season?

JOHN FORCE: Yes, but let me tell you something. Antron did his job on the starting line. They left pretty close together. He's got a better race car right now, and he's a great driver and he's a champion. I've got no complaints. My daughter last year struggled mentally. ‘Dad, will I ever win?’ And I said, honey, this is the best time of your life. This is about winning. This is what it's all about. It's about learning. It's not just about winning. You've got to learn how to lose to learn how to win. I've seen guys that jumped out at the first national event and won, and then they just took it for granted and never won again and got out of the business. I have witnessed it. I said, if you don't have the pain of defeat, you'll never have the happiness of victory. When she got down there, I had a chance to win, dad and I didn't win. I said, no, but you were taught by the best. Antron Brown beat you. It's a learning lesson that he gave you for free. Not that you were late on the light, not that your car was wrong, he's better. And if you motivate yourself to be as good as him and you work harder on that tree, then you'll be a champion. Otherwise you will fail. I said, you realize I was almost 40 years old before I started winning races? 36, or whatever the age was before I started winning championships. My kid's already out there in the final round. You know what I mean? I went five, six years before I could get to a final. She's in her second season. No, I'm proud of her. I'm proud, and my job is to find a sponsor for her. I cannot set her on fire. You know what I mean? She lived in the hospital, her and Ashley and Courtney, they lived there with Eric. It was the most painful thing I ever lived. I can't imagine how John Medlen survived it. I'm not going to fail my children. I'm going to try not to fail the other kids out there. Any technology I have, anybody can have. All they've got to do is pick up the phone. If they don't have it already, they can have it. Just like (team owner, Don) Schumacher offered my kids, the first thing he offered. Sometimes people get mad at Don Schumacher. Not me. Call right up. You ought to put a canopy on your kid's car. I bought three of them. Because he cares about our children. The rest of it is just what we do on the starting line and how we fight every day because that is the way it is. I'm excited about her. Courtney is struggling, but maybe this new race car you know, we looked at a couple of runs where she pedaled it where it didn't need to be pedaled, because her head was rattling and telling her that she had to pedal it or maybe she'd be winning some races by now. But that's what makes this sport exciting. I'm going to fight for this sport until I drop dead, and I'm going to give you everything I've got when I get to Gainesville. You've got me excited today. Thank you, because I needed an energy push.


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