DRO: How does the car itself contribute?
CP: The car has to have that magic, too. Sometimes you can't explain it. That karma has to be there.
DRO: What kind of style do you hope to imprint on your team and on the face of NHRA Funny Car racing?
CP: I've had such an up-and-down experience with different owners and different crew chiefs. Now that I own the team and I'm the boss, I'm going to be more myself. I'm not going to conform to what other people think I should be. Before, it wasn't so much them but me. I thought I was expected to act a certain way.
DRO: You said you've always paid attention. Mostly to Force?
CP: To my own situation, too. I learned one valuable lesson that I saw with my own eyes. We won that championship in 1992, and I watched us tear it down. It's disheartening when you're not in control. We changed crew chiefs. What on earth were we thinking? We had gold in our hands and didn't even know it. We did not respect it. We didn't realize how precious it was. The advantage John Force had on us was he knew what it takes and how to win a championship. We had no clue. We felt we could do it again. We thought, "We're great." We had egos. It aggravates me to this day what we did to dismantle that team.
DRO: Let's get to that 1992 championship. It has been 10 years since then, but it changed John Force forever. What kind of an impact does it have on you today?
CP: I want to beat him more than I ever have (wanted to). It was never personal for me with John. The competitive fire I have overshadows any feelings I have for John. (Dethroning Force in 1992) is one of the feathers in my cap that separates me from everybody else. It has made me stronger, tougher, meaner. But I kind of get a little tired of hearing that. At times, it has been a distraction and not a motivator. Late in the '90s, I didn't want to be the best; I was stagnant. I like to think I'm starting off fresh again. But you walk by Force's pits and see all the cars and trailers and you can't help but say, "I want some of that stuff right there."
DRO: You're certainly motivated to win and yes, even beat John Force. But can you do it again?
CP: I won't be satisfied with just doing that. I'm so far beyond that. But the bigger the man, the bigger the reward. Knocking off John Force would be the biggest thing in motorsports. It'd be like someone knocking Jeff Gordon from the (NASCAR Winston Cup) championship, maybe bigger. It's going to happen one day. And he appreciates good competition.
DRO: Surely you recognize that it's getting harder and harder for a single-car team to keep up with the mega-funded teams.
CP: The two-car thing, I don't believe, nor will I ever believe, you need it to win. In reality, it's not proven to do anything. John Force won several championships before he added a second car. I'd like to see a one-car (operation) go out and win the championship. Dean Skuza is the only other (major) driver with a one-car team.
DRO: No doubt Force will be reminded of 1992 every time he sees you. Aside from Force, how do you assess the competition?
CP: It's definitely going to be tough. But I want to see that. It's going to be fun. I can't wait. The crew and I are glad the holidays are over and it's almost time to go racing. With (Gary) Scelzi in the mix, that's good. A guy who has won three Top Fuel championships is going to do nothing but good things (in this class).
DRO: The class is stout with not only Force, but also your brother Tony, Del Worsham, Prudhomme's tandem of Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr., the Schmacher team of Whit Bazemore and Scotty Cannon, the Alan Johnson-tuned cars of Scelzi and Bruce Sarver, as well as Skuza and Al Hofmann. Those are some tough assignments. The classis much harder now. Are you ready for a shock?
CP: The journey was fun. I wasn't that smart 10 years ago. But
I've learned a lot, and now it's time to go to work.
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