Our team has started the 2011 Full Throttle Drag Racing season strong with Auto Club driver Robert Hight and Castrol GTX driver Mike Neff. They’ve won three of the first five races, and Neff just barely missed getting his second win of the season in Houston. Seeing those guys in the winner’s circle got me thinking.
Robert and Mike are barely more than 40 years old. I didn’t start winning until I was 40 and these guys already have championships. It got me thinking about the youth movement I have at John Force Racing. I’m not talking about my baby girl Courtney—who is doing great by the way—I’m talking about guys like Neff and Hight, along with my young crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli, Ron Douglas and Jimmy Prock. Guido learned from the best, Austin Coil, and it is great to run a race car that he is tuning beside Ron. They are a lot like Austin and Bernie Fedderly. Bernie is still with me, and he is teaching these young guys. We may be up there in years, but there is plenty of fight left in us.
When I look at my organization I get excited about the future. My old Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang hound dog has been running great in qualifying, and lots of people have been talking about me getting close to Warren Johnson’s record for all-time No. 1 qualifiers. Warren earned 138 in his career and I have 137. I have to be honest, I’m not focusing on that record. I don’t race Pro Stock and I respect Warren, he is a legend. I learn from all of the racers around me, just like I learn from the young people on my teams.
I look out at all of the energy the young men on my teams have and that gives me energy. I am trying to teach Courtney how to understand how much there is to being a great driver. It’s more than just driving the race car well; you have to get to know your team and support them like they support you. You have to spend time with the fans. Courtney has been doing that at every race. She really enjoys talking with the fans and I enjoy watching her grow a fan base.
She made a great run in Charlotte, and then on the next run she had her first tire smoke. She picked up her first cone and scraped the wall a little. I was proud that she got right back into her BrandSource Mustang and made another lap that day.
We are trying to get her seat time, but we’re not in a rush to get her licensed; this process is all about learning. She is getting good advice from Robert, Ashley and me. She is also getting good advice from Ron Douglas, who will be her lead crew chief when she goes pro. They get together, along with Dean Antonelli, and go over her runs. She’s really picking up a lot of stuff.
John Force Racing will be around for a long time, and we have the drivers and crew chiefs to win races and championships for many years. I am not going anywhere. I have extensions with all of my big sponsors, like Ford Racing, Mac Tools and Auto Club, plus we’ll have some good news from Castrol this summer. I appreciate all of their support, but most of all I know my drivers, tuners and crew on my Mustang race cars appreciate it.
The youth movement is on and 2011 will be a great season for us. We are getting into the busy summer part of the season, and I know drivers like Robert Hight are ready to get racing every week. I’ll be right there with him, along with Mike Neff. We’ll be in the fight every race, and I’m looking forward to getting one of those pewter Wallys that Robert and Mike have already picked up.