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John Force: She'll probably go Pro in 07. She's evolving. There's so much to learn, it's seat of the pants, you don't wanna put a kid in a car at three hundred, you don't want to put the pressure of the Christmas Tree and the competition, it can be really brutal. I want her to learn the car, I want her to fall in love with the car, let it become her best friend. I said "Sleep in the shop in the car". They used to say "Force is drunk again, he slept in the car and gets emotional", but I truly loved the car. And I'd go down at night, drink a beer and get in the car, drink beer and fall asleep, get up the next morning and go to work. But you've got to know every aspect. It's called "cockpit orientation". You need to know 'cos when that fire hits - you ask Eric! He said "You don't know where anything is, you better know where the parachute is 'cos you can't see it when you're on fire!". You see nothing but flames and smoke. And that's what I want her to learn. So, I don't want her to learn the way I learned. That's why I got a few burns in my time, by trying to get out of the car and not knowing where the roof hatch was. Because man, you are lost. They train a pilot in the military, they teach them on fire you better know when you're upside down in the dark you'd better feel that you're upside down. Because you can't tell. Pilots have been known to fly upside down right into a mountain. Better get a lot of training because you get one chance, and then you die. And that's why we're evolving her real slow. I recently drove a Super Gasser and when they'd strapped me in and I was sitting waiting to run I got nervous thinking about what could go wrong. Do you get over that? When you're in the car are you very calm or are you still thinking about what could happen?

John Force: I get high energy up. You need to learn to control your energy to a point. But driving the car you drove is no different than driving ours. The only problem is mental. If you try to think "OK now I gotta step on the gas, I gotta cut the Tree, I gotta hit the parachute, I gotta do this, that" you overload your brain. What you do is you cut the Tree and step on the gas and you go. A lot of saw Scelzi under the gun of the pressure, him and Capps. I do not allow myself. I was sitting in the car, and when Scelzi and Capps went out, my team knew better than to tell me. They didn't want to tell me. 'Cos mentally your energy's up for the race, and now you think your competition's gone out, it drains you. You're almost like, they lost, you won the race, but you haven't won the race. You've accomplished nothing. If you don't win it doesn't matter what they do. And the only reason that I even knew that Scelzi won is they were interviewing him and I could tell by the look on his face that he was beat. Because I'm in my cockpit, I'm on the radio, my guys do not wanna tell me. I do not need to know.

And I'll tell you why: years ago when I won the Championship in Dallas, Al Hofmann was right ahead of me, Al Hofmann had lost the round and they ran and told me "Hofmann's out! You won the Championship". And I redlighted. Everyone said "What happened?". I forgot how to race. I went up there and all of a sudden it's over and I've won the Championship and I forgot I was in a race. I redlighted and Coil said "What happened?". I said "I don't need to know no more. I only need to know what I know - that I need to win this round. Because you forget how to race.

Have you ever noticed the majority of the guys who win a championship, that they usually lose the next round? Or they go to the last race and they lose first round? Schumacher and I talked about it, he said the toughest thing to win a race is after you've won the Championship. Because you forget how to race. You're so caught up that you won, you need to win this race. And we talked about it at Pomona. I had to focus to win the championship, he only had to win the race. But that kid's really good, the kid that drives the dragster. He's really focused and he stayed in it and he went on to win the race. And that's the key. So driving your car, if you want to think about hitting that parachute, you'd better train. You'll have to think about it on the run. I've had guys go out on the run and go to hit the parachute and step off the gas. What happened? You're thinking about hitting the parachute, you don't need to be on the gas. Oh no, you need to be on the gas, and you get ready to hit the chute, so when your foot comes off the gas you hit the chute. And that's what all takes place.

Interview © and Roger Gorringe


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