We struggled with the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford this year – Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly and myself. In fact, going into the last two races, we hadn’t made it to a single final round. I couldn’t remember how long it had been, but they said it’s been 23 years since we hadn’t won a race and 25 years since we hadn’t been in at least one final. It’s been painful but, at the end of the day, whether we did anything in the last two races or not, it ain’t over for John Force. I’ve been offered jobs in TV I’ve been told that being just a team owner ain’t all that bad, but, no, I’m staying in the seat as long as I can.
My son-in-law, Robert Hight, and my daughter, Ashley Force Hood, they’re the ones in the running for the championship this year – No. 1 and No. 2. They’re the ones who can get the title back for John Force Racing. And, on behalf of all the sponsors, Castrol, Ford, the Auto Club, BrandSource, Sanyo, Mac Tools, and I want to thank them for keeping us up front. What’s aggravating, though, is that a lot of people have been saying “You want Robert to win,” or “You want Ashley to win.” The truth is, I want ‘em both to win. They’re my family and my teammates. But what about me? I still want to win, too, and if I can’t compete with the Tony Pedregons and the Ron Cappses and the Tim Wilkersons and Bob Tascas, then I don’t want to be out here.
I’ve been down more race tracks than anybody, and I still think I can compete. I think being in the race car is where I belong. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t still be going to the gym every day. But every curl, every leg press, every repetition, everything I do is about getting back to where I was and getting back to winning again. I admit I was guilty of taking it for granted, 126 wins and 14 championships, but when they put me in that hospital and I lost it all, it scared me to death because they said I probably wouldn’t be able to race again. So I’m in the gym because, at my age, it’s the only way for me to be able to stand next to Robert and Ashley and Mike Neff and believe that I can compete with them on the starting line.
We had problems this year, but I fought hard to get into the Countdown. Even though we’re still struggling, Coil and Bernie and I have been together for a long time and, with John Medlen’s help, we’re gonna straighten this thing out. If it turns out that we didn’t win a race to keep our streaks going, if nothing else, maybe we got a hot rod we can race with next year. We’ve had meeting after meeting trying to figure it all out and it comes down to chemistry.
Our problems started when we lost “Guido” Dean Antonelli, who went over to run Ashley’s car when she turned pro. He worked with Coil and Bernie for fifteen years. We won the title in 2006 and when Guido left in 2007, even though Coil and Bernie were still tuning my car, Guido was the X-factor. He was always in the trenches and very much hands-on. Coil and Bernie were on the computers. So when Guido went over to Ashley, her car took off and our car went down. We have great crew chiefs and car chiefs, but what I needed was beyond a car chief and that’s why, at the end of the year, we brought John Medlen over to try and get us right because, like Guido, he’s always been hands on.
Yeah, we’re struggling, but we can still turn this thing around, just like Jimmy Prock did with the Auto Club car. Sometimes, you just get caught up in the business of racing. You’re getting beat up seven days a week, you’re trying to take care of the sponsors and the media and the sanctioning body and you forget why you’re out here.
That’s what Robert, Ashley and Mike Neff bring back to me. Sometimes I forget that I really do love what I’m doing. And that’s why, regardless of how things turned out this year, I’ll be the first one in line for testing this winter. I still think we’ve got another championship in us, me, Coil, Bernie and John Medlen.
In the meantime, it’s been exciting for me to watch Robert and Ashley battling for the championship. They’re different personalities but they have the same goal and I’ll be happy with whomever wins – as long as it’s one of the two of them.