caught up with 12-time NHRA Funny Car champion
John Force during one of his morning coffee
breaks in Yorba Linda, Calif., and later after
his three-car team completed testing at The
Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We found
out how he's sorting out his own championship
aspirations this season as he monitors rookie
teammate Eric Medlen, the driving careers of
daughters Ashley and Brittany, the progress
of Ashley's Super Comp successor and his own
emotions about Tony Pedregon's departure. The
conversation wasn't complete without talk of
crashing, sleeping in your car and worrying
about money and sponsorships. But here -- read
DRO: You must
be relieved finally to make the Eric Medlen
FORCE: We just were happy finally to make the announcement about (Gary) Densham coming back before that, but we had to wait because (public relations representative) Dave Densmore just had back surgery and we needed him to write the press release.
DRO: Do you feel the pressure is off a little bit, though, now that Tony Pedregon's replacement has been named?
FORCE: Oh yeah. People were coming up to me and saying, "You really got the AT&T deal and you're lying to us." (Gary) Ormsby Junior would have been my No. 1 choice for a dragster, but we didn't get the deal for a dragster. I called the whole deal the Rubik's Cube. I was trying to turn it and twist it every which way.
DRO: So this process wasn't as easy as some people think?
FORCE: It seemed like every driver I interviewed
had something somebody had a problem with. The
crew chiefs didn't like him or there was somebody
else they wanted or something. We interviewed
seven or eight people, and I told everybody
if they had
to go ahead and take it. I wish I could have
given everybody a job. I kept wondering, "Man,
how am I going to put this thing together and
keep everybody happy?"
DRO: The question
is: Are you satisfied with your choice?
FORCE: I felt proud. I don't believe Eric will leave me.
DRO: You're upset still about Tony's departure?
FORCE: I would be fighting mad if he had gone
over, say, to Schumacher's for more money. Except
he went to his brother's. That's the reason
I can have closure. He was caught in a dilemma.
His brother needed him.