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Cannon was all smiles in 1999 as he realized his dream of driving a fuel coupe and was on his way to winning the NHRA Rookie of the Year award.
Do you regret the way you entered the Funny Car ranks, especially in challenging John Force right off the bat?

Cannon: I’m glad you asked that question because that wasn’t all my doing. Jim’s a bold guy and anyone that knows me before then knows I don’t go and tackle a guy. What most people don’t know is that John knew what was going on and what we were doing was trying to set up a two-car match race and make a bunch of money. We were going to race 100-percent heads-up, straight down the line, but to be honest, our car just didn’t perform good enough for it to happen. Now, Jim thought it would and he was ready at one time to put up a million bucks, but that was only gonna’ be if the TV lined up. There was a lot of money to be made, but it was called off by me and John.

What everybody has to understand is that Scotty Cannon did not go out there with big balls to attack John Force. I caught a lot of flack off that, but to be honest, to all the critics out there I really don’t care. My fans that stuck by me, I love ‘em to death and I owe them everything I’ve ever got because if it wasn’t for them, people like Jim Jannard never would’ve believed in me neither.

So I’m glad you asked that question because I’ve never before been able to go public with it. We all stood in a position, if my car had of run good enough, to have made a lot of money. We had TV looking at us, we were probably going to do it at Bader’s place (Norwalk), or Dallas or Houston, and it was going to be a big blowout because if you took all of the things I had just done in Pro Mod and then, of course, you had John Force--and I’m not knocking any of the other racers--but it would’ve been a big deal.

I had carved out a pretty good icon in the little arena where I was, which was IHRA. I call it the small arena just because it’s not as big as the NHRA, which I call the big arena. I like playing in both of them, trust me when I tell you that, they’re both just as fun, but if somehow or another we could’ve tackled each other at that time, the amount of money and the fun we could’ve had and the exposure, it would’ve been unreal. And the fans would’ve had a ball. And if I had got lucky and beat him and he had come back for a rematch, it would’ve been unreal. It didn’t happen, but for the record, I didn’t go out there and just attack John Force. Trust me, you can ask John. Me and him talked about it. He knew. He knew exactly what was going on and it was nothing personal. And you know who was all for it right from the start? John!

At the time I obviously couldn’t go out and say we’re just trying to make some money here, and I’m not making a new excuse now. You can interview John and he’d tell you the same thing. We always had a lot of respect for each other. Shoot, he’s my hero, him and Clint Eastwood. That’s it. And if we had run as good the first year as we did the second year, Jim probably would have challenged him to the match race.

Cannon’s wild paint schemes always stood out among the Funny Car crowd.

What‘s the biggest challenge in operating a successful race team?

Cannon: Here’s the long and short of it. Regardless of who it is in fuel racing--and I think it’s about to get the same in Pro Mod--the whole sport has elevated to where it takes more personnel to run up front. In my opinion, if you had Don Garlits today, tuning and driving his own car, he could probably beat any fuel car out there--as long as the other team had only their driver and crew chief calling all the shots. Now, if you put him up against Kenny Bernstein’s team with all the personnel they have, it ain’t gonna’ happen. If you put him up against Conrad (Kalitta) and his team, it ain’t gonna’ happen. You just can’t compete on your own against the resources those teams have.

John (Force) set the stage in Funny Car with the three cars and four crew chiefs, and his performances prove it, and that’s what‘s happened in my eyes with Don Schumacher and his personnel. Another one is Del Worsham, who has two cars, they’ve got him and his dad and at least a couple of other guys who could crew chief a car on their own. You can still have one guy making the final call on the tune-up or the clutch or whatever, but when you have a lot of experienced guys available to make suggestions, you’re going to have a better team.

In my opinion that’s where the sport is now and as far as a single car with a single crew chief and a driver and crewmembers winning a championship, they‘ll have to get awful lucky. Now, you look at Wilkerson, he does pretty frickin’ good, but he’s got a guy who could crew chief the car by himself and he (Wilkerson) can crew chief by himself, and he drives it, so that’s really three people right there. I think you could take a single car tomorrow and if you had four good crew chiefs who could work together, and three of them just consulted with one making all the final decisions, they could do pretty good.


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