Here is the transcript of today's teleconference with the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champions, Greg Anderson, LE Tonglet, Larry Dixon and John Force.
ZAK ELCOCK: I'd like to welcome the media to this teleconference call. I'm Zak Elcock with NHRA Media Relations. On today's call we'll have all of the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle champions: Larry Dixon in Top Fuel, John Force in Funny Car, Greg Anderson in Pro Stock, and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Each driver will come in at different times during the call, and after a brief introduction, field questions from the media joining us today.
We'll start the call off with our NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock World Champion, Mr. Greg Anderson. Greg had a rough first half of the season, making only one final round appearance in the first 12 races and dropping as low as fourth in the points standings. But back-to-back wins in Norwalk and Seattle, including the K&N Power Challenge Pro Stock bonus win, boosted Greg and the team's confidence heading into the countdown to the championship.
A second round loss at the first race of the countdown, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, dropped Greg to the fifth spot in the point standings, the lowest he had been all season. But he came back strong, picking up three wins in four final round appearances, and clinched his fourth world championship during qualifying for the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Greg, considering everything that has happened to you this season, is this your greatest of the four world championships?
GREG ANDERSON: No doubt. Absolutely, positively. Some people are going to say it's always the first. You can't match the first. This one surpassed that in many, many ways. A lot of things happened to me this year, obviously, and fought through adversity, fought through all kinds of issues, and somehow managed to get our heads straight and get our hot rod straight. And here we are, 2010 world champions. It's pretty doggone cool. Pretty neat feeling.
ZAK ELCOCK: We'll now open it up for questions for Greg.
Q. Greg, first, are your feet touching the ground yet?
GREG ANDERSON: Unfortunately, my head feels like it's dragging the ground too this morning.
Q. You know, it's a very special championship with everything that you've gone through this season. Just curious, what has Ken had to say about such a big win and the championship at the end of the season? With all he's gone through.
GREG ANDERSON: Yeah, he's so darn happy he can hardly speak. You know, he had doubts that he could even make it back to a racetrack, and he was kind of scared to even come to the first race when he came to Vegas. Had a dream weekend there, obviously, and that bumped him up. He wanted to come to Pomona the day after Vegas. He was ready to go. I've got to go. I'm going to get a motor home, and I'm going to go. I'm going to be at that racetrack.
It's done so much for him, he now is ready to stay in that gym all day long and try to get his body rehabbed so he can get out of that wheelchair. By the time we roll out at Pomona in February, he can be standing on the starting line instead of being in that wheelchair.
It's been unbelievable. It definitely helped his healing process immensely. That's what we feel about it. Anything we can do to help that guy, that's all we want. That's all this race team has wanted all year long. Our wildest dreams came true, and it's going to help Ken with his recovery, and that's what's most important to us. We're pretty happy campers over here.
Q. Congratulations, Greg.
GREG ANDERSON: Thank you, John.
Q. Hey, man, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that your run towards the championship coincided with the change to -- you went back to an older car, I believe.
GREG ANDERSON: That's correct.
Q. That's great. Can you talk about that a little bit. And also a fan wanted to know, with Pontiac no longer producing cars, how long will the GXP be grandfathered in by NHRA? What are your options when the Pontiac goes away?
GREG ANDERSON: Well, we get five years from the last time they built a GXP, and I think we're in our third of that. The NHRA gives you five years that you can run a car after it's not currently being built by the factory. You get five years total. So we're good there.
Options are not clear yet. GM is dealing with a Camaro body, which we think will be wonderful. We really believe this Pro Stock class needs to be Camaros, Challengers, and Mustangs, get her back to the muscle car days, you know. And we're working on that project. So hopefully sometime next season we'll be in Camaros. So that will be the option.
The rest of the question -- what was the first part of the question? I forgot that.
Q. It was about when you -- I believe that your run to the championship began when you switched back to an older chassis. Was that a big factor for you?
GREG ANDERSON: Yeah, absolutely, positively. We've done that a couple times this year, John. We switched right before the Norwalk race to a different chassis, and it produced results right away. Won a couple races, and then somehow we lost the handle on it, and we had to go back to another car again.
What really made us go back to the old, old car was that was what Jason's car was. We had really gotten Jason's car happy and thought, you know what, here we need to drag the copy to that car out, the old sheet metal, the old chassis out and see if we can make it work like Jason's is, kind of a copy of that car.
As we did that, which was, I believe, the Charlotte race. It went to the winner's circle twice in a row, another runner-up, and then another win. It got us the championship. Sometimes you've just got to shake things up. It doesn't matter if it's personnel or equipment, whatever it is. Sometimes you've just got to make changes, and hopefully it works out for you. It came up aces for us. For some reason, it was a shake-up we needed. Probably thought it was crazy at the time, but it worked out perfectly.
So you just never know. When things aren't working, you've got to make a change. You've got to keep going forward and take chances. Can't sit still in this class. You've got to be willing to take risks, and we did. It paid off for us. We've got to start with that old hot rod next year, and hopefully it still works. If it doesn't, we'll try something different again. You keep scratching. You keep searching until you get something that works, and then you ride it.
Q. Okay. Thank you very much for the great answer.
ZAK ELCOCK: Greg, you mentioned you got a start on next year. I know it's the day after the awards ceremony, but has your mind already switched to 2011 and the first race of the season in Pomona?
GREG ANDERSON: As soon as I can even feel my head, yeah, we're going to start focusing on 2011. You have to in this class. People are home already. Everybody bailed as soon as that race was over. They headed for home to start working on their stuff for next year. That's what this class is. That's what this sport is. You've got to start digging.
This is the time of year where you'd better make some hay. You'd better find some horsepower and find a better race car. Because as the season goes along, you don't have time to do R&D. These three months coming up, you'd better not sit on your hands. You've got to find a way to show up, or you're not going to be at Pomona next year.
ZAK ELCOCK: Greg, we'd like to congratulate you on your third world championship, and we thank you for being on the call with us.
We're going to switch over to LE Tonglet.
In just his first year of competition in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, LE certainly turned some heads when he made his first final round appearance in just his fourth race of the season in St. Louis, but it was his first career race win just two races later in Chicago that got the class buzzing. LE continued to show his strong abilities throughout the regular season and entered the Countdown to the Championship in the seventh spot in the point standings.
But it was his performance during the countdown that cemented his place in history. With financial backing from Kenny Koretsky and Nitro Fish Gear, LE picked up an impressive four wins in five final round appearances, and at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, the last race of the season, LE took over the points lead for a final time with his second round win and secured his first world championship.
One day later, he also picked up the Auto Club Road to the Future award, which recognizes the top performing rookie of the year.
LE, did you ever think, when you started the season that first race in Gainesville, that you'd be standing here today, the NHRA Full Throttle World Champion?
LE TONGLET: We never even thought about that. We didn't even think we'd be able to win a race. That was our goal. We went to Gainesville just to qualify and get enough money to go to the next race.
ZAK ELCOCK: Thanks, LE. We're going to open it up for questions.
Q. LE, this is the same bike that was tore up in Hurricane Katrina. Now that you've won the championship, you've got the big horsepower, are you going to build a new chassis for this thing?
LE TONGLET: You know, we've got a new bike coming out next year for GT to ride, and we're going to run the same bike that I rode this year for next year, and we're going to try to talk some people into building some new chassis. Right now we're going to keep our same one and come out with one new one for GT.
This old one, it seems to be running good. So we don't want to change it up too much.
Q. LE, could you expand upon that, your plans with GT. Is he going to be riding as a teammate to you with funding from Nitro Fish, or how it that going to work?
LE TONGLET: As of right now, GT is going to be riding out of my dad's pocket at the start in Gainesville, and we're just going to go at it like we went at it this year. And we're just going to try to have fun, and it's going to be a lot funner with two bikes.
Kenny wants to get on board, and we're just going to -- just got to finalize it, you know, just sign the deal. That's what we're going to try to do here in the next week.
Q. If I could follow up, you spoke several times during the countdown about, you know, racing against Vance & Hines. You know, your engine was built by Vance & Hines and racing against the factory Harleys. What's been the reaction from Vance & Hines about your winning the championship and knocking off Andrew?
LE TONGLET: You know, that whole team over there, they're really excited for me. That was our first championship. That was my dad's first championship. They couldn't be more happy for us. You know, they wanted to win, but I don't think it hurt them too bad that it was us because it was still Hines' horsepower in the end that got the championship. That's all they want. They want to see the class have more variety of winners in each brand. They want to see us compete to the next level, and they want to see an even playing field. Right now the playing field is pretty even, I feel.
Andrew, you know, he was upset, but he's a good sport. He came down to the end of the track after the second round and congratulated me. So that just shows you what kind of people they are. They're really excited for us.
Q. Okay. Thank you very much.
Q. LE, with you winning the rookie of the year and the championship, what do you feel this has done for Pro Stock Motorcycle? I know earlier in the year there were some people speculating that the class was in a little bit of trouble. But, you know, it seems as though your pit areas are loaded up. What do you think this is going to do for Pro Stock Motorcycle in the future?
LE TONGLET: You know, I had more fans come up to me in the last two races, Vegas and Pomona, saying that I'm the reason they're watching Pro Stock Motorcycle now. So that's just awesome that we're getting new fans to the class, and that's what we need because without the fans we wouldn't be there.
And with me winning the championship, you know, that really opens the doors to anybody who wants to come out and compete because you can buy the stuff that you can win a championship with, and Vance will sell you the power, and you can find the bikes all over the place. Our bike is almost ten years old. So any bike is capable of winning. You've just got to find the setup and the right engine combination, and it could be yours.
There should be a lot of new people out next year, and it's going to be hard to repeat.
Q. Yeah, LE. When Greg Anderson was on there, he hinted that he was kind of hungover from last night. Are you old enough to drink beer and champagne? Are you okay today?
LE TONGLET: I'm feeling wonderful, you know. I'm just 20 years old. So I can't drink yet. But we tore up the dance floor a little bit. So we didn't get back to the hotel until 2:00 in the morning. No hangovers for me.
Q. LE, you're on this call, plus going to dinner with Anderson, Dixon, Force, all those championships they've got together, and you got your first one. What do you think you have in common with them? And do you think all champions have common traits and abilities?
LE TONGLET: You know, it's just -- it's crazy hearing that I'm a champion, you know. I would have never guessed it. I don't feel like we have too much in common because they're like my heroes, you know. I look up to them. That's what I want to be when I get older is like a four-time champion, you know. That's our goal.
So until I have multiple championships, I don't feel like we have too much in common other than just the love of racing and the love of winning.
ZAK ELCOCK: LE, we want to congratulate you again on the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, and, of course, your very first NHRA Full Throttle World Championship.
LE TONGLET: Thank you.
ZAK ELCOCK: We'll now move to our Full Throttle Top Fuel World Champion, Larry Dixon. Larry had one of the most successful seasons in Top Fuel history, posting 12 wins in 12 final round appearances and racking up 8 number one qualifiers. For his first round win at the recently completed Auto Club NHRA Finals, Larry was able to clinch his third career Top Fuel World Championship.
Larry, your team was arguably the most successful in the series this year. Is this world championship a preview of things to come over the next few seasons?
LARRY DIXON: Oh, gosh, I don't know. I can tell you that I'm just very proud of what we were able to accomplish this year. You know, when you think back to 2009, just being a startup team and to get to the point where we could win 12 events, 12 out of 12 final rounds, those kind of numbers are unbelievable.
You know, we sink or swim together. In those final rounds, we definitely swam.
ZAK ELCOCK: Thanks, Larry. We're now going to open it up for questions for Larry.
Q. Larry, Tony Schumacher kept saying at the world finals that, if you won, he was going to be right there to shake your hand and congratulate you. I was wondering what he said when he did.
LARRY DIXON: He came by. We were getting ready for -- I don't know. I guess it was the semifinal, and he came by the staging lanes and said congrats and good job and all of that. So he's definitely -- he's a man of his word. We're friends away from the racetrack. So he's definitely a champion. He knows what it takes to win one of these and how hard it is to win one.
He's -- you know, he's still a seven-time champ.
Q. You know, a lot of people felt that with you driving the car, Alan Johnson being the guy behind the car calling the shots, that you were a shoe-in to win the championship last year with a startup team. Are you surprised that you were able to do it in only your second year as a team?
LARRY DIXON: I think that winning any championship in any category, regardless of the people, is a very cool thing to do. And it's -- I feel, on my end of things, it's just -- it's a huge -- it means so much, and it's just a huge accomplishment. And anybody who wins one, you know, in any category certainly is deserving of it. It's very, very hard to win one of these things because you have to be good throughout the season.
The playoffs change it up a little bit. You definitely have to shine during the -- during those last six events, but you can't be chopped liver, you know, those first 18, 17 races. So it's very important, and I just -- I'm very -- still honored about it. There's no givens.
You could have the most talent -- look at the New York Yankees, where money's not an object, and they didn't win the World Series. They weren't even in the World Series. So it doesn't buy you anything. You still have to have that -- and it still has to be a team to be able to get it done day in and day out. And I'm proud to be a part of this.
Q. Larry, I'm a Yankee fan, so thanks for picking on them.
LARRY DIXON: Sorry, man.
Q. Anyway, you had this wonderful season this year, and you're going to have a teammate next year, Del Worsham. I wonder what could he possibly bring to the table for you that you already haven't accomplished. How can he help you, having a teammate?
LARRY DIXON: Well, first of all, I think just the basic thing that would help is data, information. Just more runs, runs every session. More -- you know, we'll get twice as many test dates now. They put a cap on our test days. So now all of a sudden, we'll get double.
You're competing against teams like DSR and the Force team. You know, Force hasn't -- this year had three cars, last year had four cars. I mean, that's 16 test days during the season, you know, when you've got 4, and that's tough to compete with. If you want to go out and try something, you've got to make one of those test days count.
And then just the given qualifying sessions. Even on race day, if you've got two setups that are the same and you've got one team, you know, running the ship with Alan Johnson managing it, you would hope that it would improve your team. I've seen where it's improved the Force team and the Schumacher team. And if you want to be able to compete at their level for long periods of time, it almost -- you almost have to do that to be able to stay up there for a long period of time.
So that is what I think the hope's for with Del running a Top Fuel car. That's yet to be seen. You see how it plays out and go from there. But that's -- I'm sure that's what Sheikh Khalid and Alan would be looking at.
Q. Is that a change that you campaigned for? Is that something you wanted to make happen, or did they decide that for you?
LARRY DIXON: I'm not part of the decision-making process. I can tell you, all the years that I've raced, I've never had a teammate in the same category. And I've raced a lot of people that have had teammates, you know, the Schumacher team, for one, the Kalitta team in the past.
So it's -- you see how much it helps their teams and improves their teams. So I'm not -- I certainly wasn't against it when the idea and the announcement came earlier this year at Dallas. So we'll just -- we'll see how it plays out. But I think more information would always be a great thing.
Q. All right. Thank you, man.
LARRY DIXON: Sure, John. Thank you.
ZAK ELCOCK: Larry, we want to congratulate you again on your third world championship. Wish you the best of luck in the off-season. We'll see you again in Pomona in 2011.
LARRY DIXON: Thanks a lot, everybody. Have a happy holidays. Appreciate it. Take care.
ZAK ELCOCK: Thanks again, Larry. We'll now move on to our final driver on the call, the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car World Champion, John Force. After struggling through a winless 2009, the first season he had done so since 1986, John came out strong in 2010, picking up a win at the season-opening Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals in Southern California and followed it up with wins in Charlotte and Las Vegas.
He entered the Countdown to the Championship in the top spot in the points standings, but with six races left in the season, lost his points lead to fellow competitor Matt Hagan. A final round matchup between the two drivers at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals produced yet another win for John, and after a first round loss for Hagan to fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca at the season ending NHRA finals, Force was able to take back the points lead and clinch the 15th world championship with a second round win. Force went on to win the event as well.
With his 15th world championship, Force also became the oldest world champion in NHRA history at the age of 61. John, this has been the comeback season that everyone's been talking about, but what did this world championship mean to you personally?
JOHN FORCE: It meant a lot to me. Thank you for having me on. Finally getting a little rest after the banquet last night.
And the three rail that came out of it that Robert won the championship with at Auto Club, and also that I won the championship and my daughter won Indian, back to back, Ashley, that's what it was all about because you can't race without safety. You can't go out there knowing, if you crash, you can die. You can't live like that.
And so with my kids out there, that was the comeback, to prove the car. We proved it last year. A lot of people said, with Robert Hight, well, you just got there. Well, we got there this year. We came from behind with this kid Matt Hagan, great kid fighting the fight with a great team. The DeLago kid, crew chief, the financing of Schumacher, right down to the wire, and we got it.
And credit to Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly, the young Mike Neff that took the lead on this race car, Coil and Bernie won all the championships, 15, but we were getting older, and we were struggling, and Mike Neff turned that around.
At the end of the day, the sponsors that stood by me when they should have let me go. Castrol, 25 years, a great company, and they're going to re-sign me for another 5. Auto Club of Southern Cal, we just signed on with the big Texas race. Hell, they're already looking ahead to New Hampshire, if that race ever comes. But Brand Source, Mac Tool, and Ford Motor Company, all of these people could have quit me, and they said, if you tell us you can do it -- I've gotten calls from Mr. Mulally, the top man at Ford Motor Company, from Fields, from Farley, from Ken Czubay congratulating me. Ford Motor Company needed this, they said, not just a win. They needed the heart. They needed the fight to come back on NHRA, and they said we send the word globally.
While I'm at it, and I'll shut up here. Give credit to another Ford driver that made the championship, really a big part of it, because, even if we got to the final with Hagan in one, we needed a national record. Bobby Tasca III, stepped up to the plate, and he was nervous as heck. He said, we'll go after him, Force. I'll give him all I got. I don't know if I can do it. But we're one Ford. Let's see what he can do, and he took Hagan out.
That was the shot, boy, heard round the world. I was in the car. Hagan's car was so strong all year, you know, and the kid just threw it. They got the job done. Running the Boss 500 motor, he runs the same chassis and the same motor parts that we build. So I'm excited we got there. Yeah, I'm 61, but I'm not done.
ZAK ELCOCK: We'll now open it up for questions for John.
Q. Hey, John, congratulations again. I'm wondering. You said after the victory on Sunday that you were headed to the gym. I was wondering, did you actually do that? Was that just an off the cuff remark?
JOHN FORCE: No, I'll be honest. I didn't make the gym that night. I was wore out. I was in the gym yesterday before the banquet, and I'll go back today. Race weekends are tough. The gym is a way of life for me, and I know that I've got to work harder. I felt, it I didn't deliver the championship, that there was so much -- if I didn't deliver the championship, then maybe I failed, and I have to do my part.
But the gym is a way of life for me. I ain't saying that -- I haven't had a beer since the day of the crash, not one, and I was a beer drinker. I've had a couple shots of wine at Christmas with my family, but, no, my party days are done. I've changed my lifestyle. And I'm not saying there's nothing wrong with -- you know, with a little alcohol, you know what I mean, in moderation, but John Force, I didn't know how to do it with moderation. I was a party guy when I won, and I just -- I can't go back. I can't go back, and I know I can't.
Maybe to a point, I think, maybe, I had a little bit of a drinking problem, but I was winning, so I thought no problem. You know what I'm saying? And I'm never going back. I go to the gym. It takes away the stress. But, no, I did say that I'm going to the gym tonight. Yeah, a little bit of an embellishment because I thought I was.
But I got back to the trailer. The fans were lined up. We stayed out there till -- we must have been there till 10:30 at night. The gym was closed. But I was back in yesterday, and I'll be back in today.
It's the greatest place in my life. Ken Czubay at Ford Motor Company, he's not as old as me, but he's a drill sergeant from the Marine Corps. He's a big shot at Ford Motor Company. He works out every day of his life. If you look at their guys up there, their top brass, them guys are all in shape. They're runners just like Castrol. They've got a job to do in Auto Club, and we got it done this weekend.
Now I've got a whole string of new problems that just hit me this morning. That's what I am. I'm a fighter. I address them as they come.
But I will be in the gym tonight. You're welcome to go with me. I go to Fanatics in Yorba Linda. I'll be there late tonight.
Q. I'm going to downtown Ft. Worth today for a run. I'm training for a marathon.
JOHN FORCE: My wife's got a marathon in Yorba Linda. They're going to run three miles. My whole family is running in it. I can't run. You saw me run down the side of the racetrack when I won the championship with the fans. She said, you've got to do this now. The woman is driving me crazy. You've got to go run in this marathon. I don't know if I can run 30 feet, let alone three miles.
I run on a treadmill, I don't have a problem, but my knee is so bad. When the pipe went through my knee in the crash at Dallas -- I had polio as a kid anyway. My right leg was always bad. And I always said the race car did the running. But the knee won't take the pounding. When I run on a treadmill for 30, 40 minutes, I don't run fast. Just a good old hobble along to get cardio, get the heart going, whatever that stuff does.
But I'm ready to go. Good for you. Stay in the gym.
Q. All right, man. Thank you.
Q. John, first of all, congratulations to you, man. You mentioned sponsors on for another five years. Does that mean you're in the car, you stay in the car for another five years? Is that your plan right now?
JOHN FORCE: First, you all know that I love the race car. It's what my whole life is, and I love the race tracks. I said it last night at the banquet, NHRA is my home. It's where I live. I don't even go to my house, you know.
My wife, everybody knows, threw me out 12, 13 years ago. Still married, still love the woman, got all these issues, love my kids more than anything in life. That's what it's all about. Okay. The family.
But I don't -- I live down the street in a condo, but I don't live in it. I'm on the road, you know what I mean. I could be in the cab of the truck with my guys sometimes on the interstate. I'm in the airports. Dallas is probably the biggest home that I got because I'm there all the time going to another state, and it's just a way of life for me.
Okay. I'm sorry. I'm wound up. What was the question?
Q. The question was does that mean you're in the car for another five years?
JOHN FORCE: Yes, yes, yes. I've got -- you know, I own four corporations, and I'm financially stable. Yeah, I took some cuts with some sponsors. I took some major hits this year, you know what I mean. But I had to do. I called it my stimulus package. I don't know if it's working for Obama, but it works for me. I give my sponsors help, and they give me longevity.
You know, five-year deals. Ford did it. Mac Tool did it. Auto Club did it. And right now with Castrol, we're going to do it again. And Brand Source. These are my partners. When I was down and out, they should have let me go, but they believed me. Whenever you said you could drive, whenever you said you delivered -- I remember them asking me at 50, should you retire? At 55, should you retire?
The car does the running. All I got to do is keep the spark. And as long as I can drive that race car -- because the day I can't deliver for these kids. You know, Mike Neff went out there, teamed up with Coil and Bernie, and it was a brain trust of people, but we needed fire. We needed a young kid to light Coil and Bernie because Coil's brilliant. So's Bernie. They got me all these championships. And Mike Neff was the spark that we needed because I needed that spark. I've got to give credit where due.
And I, living in my gym, I got my spark back. With a little bit of that Full Throttle, I can still run the run. And at the end of the day, I just can't party myself tired. At the end of the day, party till I'm tired and then come back, no.
A lot of people said in my interviews, first and second round, you weren't pumped up. No, I'm saving it. I've got a race to win here. Got to pace myself. Just like a runner in a marathon. You don't give it all. I had to save it, you know, in case I got to Hagan in the final. So that's the way -- or I got to whoever I got in the final. And we got the win against DHL. He ran a great race, a great side by side race. I'm here for five years, guys. You can count on it unless I have a heart attack. My sponsor money will hold.
But I do own other companies and I made -- there was a time I made money even in the stock market, but that's gone. I make money in real estate. I buy -- when the market collapses, and I sell when it comes back. I've been real fortunate. Money I put away, and I'm reinvesting that money in my race teams. If my sponsors are a little short, I step up and pay part of the bill because I'm a partner now. I'm a big boy. I will keep this thing afloat.
Q. John, we appreciate it. You mentioned earlier you had to say something and get it off your chest. Then you said you would shut up. Please, don't ever shut up. And with the marathon you got to do, whether it takes you three hours or three days, I love the passion. You can get it done.
JOHN FORCE: I'm excited. I get on a plane tomorrow to Homestead. We're taking that trophy there that I gave to Henry Ford III, and it was a proud moment. We're going to show it off at Nascar and show them a little bit about NHRA drag racing and what those Fords can do.
Ford called me and congratulated me on my partnership with Castrol and Auto Club and Brand Source. It was so exciting because, you know, it's different companies. But in the end of the day, we're going to get back on track in this economy.
Our men and women in the armed forces that fight every day, we've got a great country. We're going to save America. It needs saving. And John Force, I fight for NHRA. That's where I start. And NHRA's a great company. I don't always agree with what they do, but they are my playing field, and I will stand by them to the end, and I will fight that fight. I'll fight with Compton and his people, Grand Light. But at the end of the day, they give me a playing field, and I respect and honor them for that. Thank you.
Q. John, I was wondering if you'd take us back to when you first got to the track Sunday morning before Hagan went out in the first round. I'd like to know what was going through your mind. Had you made peace with yourself that you might not get the title after all of this? Or is that just not the way you think?
JOHN FORCE: I would not allow myself to accept -- I have a thing. You know, I pray to the good Lord a lot. But you know what I'm saying? He just ain't going to come down and bless John for us. Maybe he does have another plan for me, and I don't know what that is. But I do know I have the thing of positive thinking.
And I looked at my guys, and I said it so many times. You've got to believe. Austin, do you believe? And Austin is a very kind of guy that's -- he's straightforward. Force, this is a long shot because Hagan had to fail. That Hagan kid is too good, too focused to fail. And at the end of the day, you know, I was preaching, believe, believe. I never allowed myself to believe that it couldn't happen.
But I go into a zone when I go on that stopping line. And Bobby Tasca come over to me in the other Ford Mustang, and he said, Johnny, I'm going to give it all I got. You know, my grandpa introduced you to Ford. His grandpa Tasca was like -- he was my hero. He was just a guy that he bled Ford blue. And grandpa used to get mad. The only reason, Bobby, you can beat John Force is maybe John Force just let you, you know what I mean? Because grandpa was a believer in me, but he loved his grandson.
Bobby said, I'm going to give him all I got, John. I can't guarantee it, but I'll fight that fight. And I could see it in his eyes he was on kill. You know what I mean? I said, Bobby, you've got to calm down. No, no, he was just like in a rage. Bobby, you've got to calm down to drive this race car. And do your best, but if you don't, you don't. If you can't get them, ash will get him in the third round if she can get there, or I'll get him in the final. But we knew we had the call.
There was no national record. If I got him in the final, I couldn't get him. But I never allowed myself to -- every time my brain started going that way, it ain't going to happen, I just believed. I'll get a cold front will come in here on Sunday. I would not allow myself not to believe.
And when I heard the call by the announcers that Tasca had beaten Hagan, I just -- my guys were screaming, and I'm in the car, and I'm putting my hands. Calm down. Everybody go back. It ain't over. Like just because he lost and Bobby won, it is not over. Pull yourselves together. Get back in race mode because you've got to race every round just like you did when we won the opening race at Pomona back last year -- this year in February.
And everybody calmed down okay. Okay. And I had to calm myself down so I could go in there -- you start believing you won because he lost, we didn't win. We had to go two rounds. And we kept that calm, and we got the job done.
Q. Okay, John. Thank you very much.
JOHN FORCE: Hope I answered it.
Q. John, you fought the hard fight all season long. Big win at the race, winning the race and winning the championship. Was this tougher than any of the other championships that you've won so far? And I do say so far.
JOHN FORCE: And I can say the toughest fight I ever had was in '92 with Cruz Pedregon. I hit the wall at Dallas crash racing him, hit the wall actually three times, and I rolled the car over at Pomona in the final race. And Bernie Fedderly said it's over for us. You can't fight no more. It's over. That was a tough fight with Cruz Pedregon.
You know, his dad taught him and Tony. Tony still says, Force, you're full of it, but I know the kid loves me because I gave him an opportunity and now he's a team owner. But this year was a fight because I wasn't just fighting for my family or for the fans that love me that stood by me -- easy to love you when you're the champ. Hard to love you -- and I love being called the champ again.
I said, you know what's nice, Robert? Once you're the champ, you're the champ forever. And you'll come back, and I got the title this year, but we delivered for the sponsors. But the hardest thing was I'm trying to keep my job. I owed to deliver. Can he deliver again? Ford asked it. Castrol asked it. Auto Club. They all believed in me, but can he?
And I know they honor me because I had so many championships, but they've got a job to do, and that's to sell product. And if you can't deliver, if you can't be in the hunt -- that don't mean a kid that hasn't won a championship. They know that championship for Ron Capps, it's out there. They know that for Hagan, for Ashley, Force Hood, they know that. But at my age, has he already done it, and is it downhill?
I needed that to get my contract with Castrol. Castrol's been a great partner. If they ever choose to leave me, I've got other people that will take me. I've got another guy from overseas that wants me, has talked to me on numerous occasions. No, this is my home. I'm staying right here with the people that got me here. 25 years with a great company, Castrol GTX, and we celebrated that this year. Ford Motor Company, they're out selling cars, and John Force is the right guy and his kids.
I've got a baby girl coming up that wants to race, Courtney. She's graduating this year, and I'm going to be testing her next year in a fuel Funny Car. Learning the ropes for my kids so when I do step out -- because I don't want to go to the racetrack if it's not my family, you know what I mean? It's got to be the family of the kids that race for me, you know what I mean?
If something blows up here down the road, if somebody gets sick, if I fall out of the seat, you know who's going back into my Funny Car right away? It would be Mike Neff. Mike Neff was a driver, had to give up the seat because I had lost money. Mike Neff will step back in that seat if John Force gets -- I'm going to try to have knee surgery over the winter. They wanted to do it last year, and I said -- I keep putting it off. I just want to make my body stronger where I can still run the run. Hell, I believe, if I could get my knee right, I'd go another ten years.
I've got nowhere to go, guys. I ain't trying to be no cool dude here that says things to make a story. I got nowhere to go. I go to the racetrack. It's where I live. I only sleep in a bed at home. You know what I'm saying? I sleep in a bed, and I'm in it late at night, and I'm out early in the morning. I bet I haven't slept ten hours in the last two days, five hours a night, and I'm running right now, right on the edge.
But, boy, I had problems hit me this morning, but I take them one day at a time. One day at a time.
Q. John, everyone knows you like to talk to the media, and you certainly are good at it. What do you like talking to most of the fans about?
JOHN FORCE: You know, they're really something. I really have more communication with the fans. I didn't have a lot to give them in the last since '07. I don't want to go in there and cry about being wounded, and you know I needed to get beyond that because my sponsors don't want to hear that.
I like to talk about Robert winning the championship in the Auto Club Ford. He just means so much to me. I came home with him last night with my daughter, Adria, and my wife Laurie, and I looked over, and I saw Autumn sleeping. And Autumn had told me going into the final, Grandpa, you can do this. The kid is really sharp. But she lives racing because her dad and mom, we live it. And she said, you can win, Grandpa. You're not as good as my dad, but you can win. And that's how much she loves her dad.
And those are the things that I talk to the sponsors about. I talk about Ashley. They all want to know when Ashley's going to have a baby. I don't know. When Ashley tells me, you know what I mean?
It's all about -- but I get at the ropes when I told the story about Matt Hagan. That I said to that little kid at Halloween at Vegas, what are you going to be on Sunday? And the kid said, I'm going to be a boat captain. He had this little hat on. And he goes, what do you want to be, Mr. Force? I said, I want to be the points leader because that was the championship deal for the points at Vegas at Halloween. And the kid goes, little kid -- I know you're trying to be funny, but it was funny. Kind of aggravated me. Kid was so sharp. He said, what are you going to dress up like, Hagan? Because he knew Hagan was in the points lead. Kids know what's going on. They tell the truth, you know what I mean?
And it was just like I talked to the fans about Ron Capps because I love Ron Capps. I talk to the fans are Austin Coil and Bernie, my partners, and Mike Neff, and Jimmy Prock, really struggling right now. But Jimmy Prock, let me tell you. Jimmy Prock's car may not be going down the racetrack right now because he was showing us what he couldn't do. Ashley was showing us what they couldn't do.
With Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, wasn't any good for them to go out there. They either had to take out the competition, but they had to show me. They had to push the car. If they got away with it, I knew what I could do. If you noticed, every round I followed them. Even if I had the choice to run earlier and try to run in the cool air, I stayed back to watch my other drivers. That's the strategy. It's called teamwork. That's why John Force Racing, we win because we stay together as a team.
I got a few hiccups there right now that's got me worried, but I take it as it is. I fight the battle as a team because no man's an island. Even when I fall, this machine will go on. NHRA has got to go on. We're like Ford Motor Company. We're a big part of the American scene. We cannot fail. Nascar can't fail, and drag racing cannot fail, and I'm not going to allow it. I'm going to be part of it, and I'm going to grow with it.
Q. Yeah, John, to follow up here. You said that was the comeback to prove the car, and you mentioned all your crew chiefs there. I'm wondering, have you had a chance to speak with John Medlen about this championship? He was a big part of this new car, right, with the Eric Medlen project. Can you update me on your relationship with John?
JOHN FORCE: I love John Medlen. He sacrificed so much. And when he come to us, he shook everybody's hand. I have not gotten a call from John, but he did call my other crew chiefs. That was a close knit brain trust of people. And people have tried to get my people for years. The other team owners, and I don't blame them, it's business. Every day they've tried to get them from me, and I have lost people over the years, and stuff just happens.
But John Medlen, we lost our race car. I couldn't give him a car to run, and he said, two reasons, John. He said, when I come into Gainesville this year in March, he said it was like I walked into the mouth of the lion. And I think that I don't know what he thought, but he wanted to go run a car, and Schumacher gave him that opportunity, and he left.
And right in the middle of that, I think the other part was that so much with his son that was his life, that his son was there every day in our camp because I never quick talking about Eric Medlen. I just keep yelling his name because I wouldn't be -- I don't think -- I might not be alive today if it wasn't for Eric's crash because, when Eric had the head -- the brain injuries, his dad, everybody went to work with Ford Motor Company's engineers, and the military they talked with about helicopter crashes and people that had damage. And this was something new that we had never seen.
And all of a sudden, they put roll cages on my car, and I crashed, identical crash, and my car was shattered, but I had no head damage, but yet my arms and legs were broke. Then we went on with the Ford guys to build the three rail chassis. And I want to give credit to a kid names Murf McKinney in Indiana. He was the kid that built the prototypes that I drove and I came back in.
And then the Eric Medlen project in Indy, my guys in Indy, built the cars we all drive now, that Bobby Tasca drives. Nobody chose to drive the three rails. I don't know why. They all have the technology. We gave it to everybody.
Every study that we've learned, next to our motor programs that we keep in-house, we give them everything that's safety. If you want to know what we do, we're working with Simpson right now on helmets for the future. We're doing so many things, you can't believe.
Yes, John Medlen, just a wonderful individual, and all I've ever done is wished him luck. To anybody that ever left me, because he deserves it. He's just a good man, and he sacrificed the biggest of anybody. But I had to move on, and that's what I'm doing. And somehow we got this championship as a team, and I just -- I thank the people from the past that helped me win, the team members that fought with me.
Q. Thanks, champ. Thank you very much.
ZAK ELCOCK: John, we just want to congratulate you again on your 15th world championship. We hope you have a good off-season, and we'll see you again in February at the Winter Nationals.
JOHN FORCE: Okay. I appreciate it. And I know the rumor MILLS are going crazy, and I have to address it. But it's part of what John Force does. My heart's pounding today over some things that have hurt me real bad, and I don't understand. I've got to go find out.
But I will be strong. My teams, Ashley Force will be strong, Robert Hight will be strong, and we will prevail. That's all I've got because, even when I lose, I still win if I believe. I gave it everything I had. And we gave it everything we had with a bunch of great kids. Thank you.
ZAK ELCOCK: Thank you, John. Thanks to all of our drivers for joining us on the conference today as well as the media from around the world.
We hope you enjoy the off-season, and we look forward to seeing all of you next February at the Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals. Thank you.