John Force's improbable 15th NHRA title: A postscript
John Force had two days to wind down from the excitement of winning an improbable 15th NHRA funny car championship -– at age 61, mind you -– when he joined a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
But this is John Force, whose oversized personality and fast and furious way of talking never wind down, which is one reason why he’s a legend among fans of 300-mph drag racing. In fact, Force is revved up more than ever on the call.
And why not? After recovering from a serious racing crash three years ago, a crash that prompted him to curb his free-wheeling lifestyle and become a zealot in the gym, Force had a banner season and on Sunday overtook 27-year-old Matt Hagan at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona for yet another title.
Hagan was leading in the standings when Sunday dawned, but unexpectedly he lost in the first round of eliminations while Force went on to win the event and capture the championship.
Some of Force’s comments:
On whether he thought he could really beat Hagan: “You know, I pray to the good Lord a lot. But you know what I'm saying? He just ain't going to come down and bless John for us. Maybe he does have another plan for me, and I don't know what that is. But I do know I have the thing of positive thinking.
“And I looked at my guys, and I said it so many times. You've got to believe. That Hagan kid is too good, too focused to fail. And at the end of the day, I was preaching: ‘Believe. Believe.’ I never allowed myself to believe that it couldn't happen.”
On being back in the gym the day after the race: “The gym is a way of life for me. I haven't had a beer since the day of the crash, not one, and I was a beer drinker. I've had a couple shots of wine at Christmas with my family, but, no, my party days are done.
"I've changed my lifestyle. And I'm not saying there's nothing wrong with -- you know, with a little alcohol, you know what I mean, in moderation. But John Force, I didn't know how to do it with moderation. I was a party guy when I won, and I just -- I can't go back."
On how long he’ll keep racing: "I'm going to try to have knee surgery over the winter. They wanted to do it last year, and I said -- I keep putting it off. I just want to make my body stronger where I can still run the run. Hell, I believe, if I could get my knee right, I'd go another 10 years.
“I've got nowhere to go, guys. I ain't trying to be no cool dude here that says things to make a story. I got nowhere to go. I go to the racetrack. It's where I live.”
Photo: Drag racer John Force, 61, after winning his record 15th NHRA funny car championship Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire