Funny Car legend John Force seeks to defend NHRA title

The NHRA Carolina Nationals return to Concord’s zMax Dragway next weekend. They are the first event in the NHRA’s six-race Countdown To The Championship playoffs – and who else but Funny Car legend John Force is back to defend his 2013 championship, the 16th of his legendary career.

Force, who leads the Funny Car standings by 30 points over son-in-law Robert Hight, has spent nearly as much time this year looking for major sponsors as he has racing. His John Force Racing team is losing longtime backers Castrol and Ford after this season.

Force recently answered five questions from the Observer’s David Scott. The interview with the always talkative Force was out of necessity edited for brevity:

Q. How have you managed to keep winning with all the traveling you’re doing looking for corporate sponsorship?

A. “The world doesn’t promise you a sponsor. Castrol and Ford were nothing but good to us. It’s not these companies’ responsibility to come to us. So we go to them. We pitch them by winning. I’m (going to) Canada (this) weekend to race in an exhibition thing, but I’ve also got companies that want to talk to me.”

Q. At age 65, wouldn’t it maybe easier to retire and reflect on all the glory of your 30-plus year career?

A. “This is what I do. I love it more than anybody else in this sport. I loved it when I was 14 and I got a motorcycle and was running around the streets on it when I should have been arrested. I got a temporary license because I said I had to take my mom to work. So it’s been my life. I ain’t complaining. I’ll go five more years. That gives me more time to chase the money.”

Q. But it does get tougher to do, right?

A. “I’m no young kid. I have to be in the gym. After I finish today, I’ll go to the gym for two hours. I can’t stay up with (the young guys). I get tired. We won (an all-star race) last week and everybody said let’s go and party. I don’t party now. I go back and go to sleep.”

Q. You have three grandchildren now, Autumn Hight, 10, and toddler Jacob and infant Noah Hood. How’s that going?

A. “At the (all-star race) I was racing against Robert (Hight) in the finals. Autumn said, ‘I love you grandpa, but I want my daddy to win.’ I won it and paraded down the race track. Then I gave Autumn the trophy. It was about twice her weight.”

Q. Do you still have that burning desire to win?

A. “Yes, but you won’t see anything that aggravates me. You’ve got to be a good loser to be a great winner. When I lost to Alexis DeJoria (in the finals at Indianapolis last week), I wanted to jump up and down, I was so mad. But I’ve seen how tough it is for my girls (former driver Ashley Force Hood, Funny Car driver Courtney Force and Top Fuel Dragster driver Brittany Force) in a man’s sport. So I stayed calm and cool until later on.”