We ended the 2009 Full Throttle drag racing season on a high note. Two of my Next Generation drivers, Robert Hight and Ashley Force Hood, finished 1-2 in the Funny Car points, and Mike Neff got his first win as a driver in the Ford Drive One Mustang at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. It was great to see Neff and John Medlen in the winner’s circle at the last event of the season. They both have put so much of themselves into that Mustang from the BOSS 500 motor, to the JFR chassis we just started running to keeping the memory alive of a kid, Eric Medlen, who used to drive that Mustang. It was just emotional. That Mustang was all Ford, and it was great to see us get a win for Ford so we can enjoy that over the off season.
Seeing my kid Ashley and son-in-law Robert battle down the stretch for the Funny Car championship was also great. They got our main sponsors a lot of coverage. It was Castrol GTX battling Auto Club of Southern California down the stretch. It was Ford Mustang versus Ford Mustang. It came down to the last race of the year. Robert had a pretty good lead, but you still have to run the race. Ashley had some mechanical problems in Las Vegas in November, and Robert got the win there, which pretty much sealed the deal. The way both of them handled all the media and the extra sponsor stuff made me proud. I know we have a great group of young drivers that will keep John Force Racing going for years to come.
After that championship weekend, Robert and I went to NASCAR Ford Championship Weekend for the last NASCAR race in Homestead, Florida. Robert was the grand marshal for the NASCAR race on Saturday. We went into the media room and talked about how great NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing is and how special getting our 16th championship for JFR was. That is 16 championships in 20 years. It was also my 10th championship for Ford Racing, which ties me with the great Bob Glidden for the most Ford championships as an owner.
I love getting down to NASCAR races. The fans love us and we love them. When we were walking around whether it was in the garage or just out with the fans it was awesome to have people yelling out congratulations to Robert or they were offering encouragement to me.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t win a race in a season. It has been over 20 years since that has happened. I’m going to get back into the winner’s circle in 2010. I am going to contend for the championship. This old man isn’t done yet. I was doing a speech in Las Vegas, and I had to fly out there. When I got on the plane, I asked the stewardess if they had good coffee. She said they had coffee, but it wasn’t that good. In fact, she was kind of depressed about it. I could see she needed to be motivated. I told her that I wanted the greatest cup of coffee she could make – one sugar and one cream. I told her it was going to be the greatest cup of coffee I ever had because she was going to convince me it was a great cup of coffee. She went to the back of the plane and came back with my cup of coffee, and she had a big smile on her face. She handed it to me and said this will be the best cup of coffee you have all day. I took a sip and told her she was right – it was great. You should have seen her light up. She had a new bounce in her step and gave me an even bigger smile.
That is the power of motivation. There were times this past year when I got frustrated with my team because we weren’t performing. I love Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. We won a lot of championships together and we will always be together but I need to motivate them as well as all my teams. That is what I am going to do – motivate my people.
The last big highlight for John Force Racing and me was my youngest daughter, Courtney, won the Ford Fiesta Agent of the Year contest. Fans from all over the country voted her the best Ford Fiesta agent from all the kids that have been making videos and talking about the Ford Fiesta all summer. It was a big deal for her and for Ford. That Fiesta Movement was a great idea to get people excited about this new car that is economical and fun to drive. Courtney did a great job promoting it and her last video was a great tribute to Eric Medlen. You can still see it on the Internet. It is awesome.