(LEFT) Calm and
the car, “The Sarge”
becomes a self-styled
“machine” when in it.
Seven NHRA Top Fuel
to the effectiveness
of his approach.
(LEFT) Tony Schumacher climbs onboard for another “bottom of the ninth, bases loaded” run. (FAR LEFT) Despite 15 Funny Car titles in the books, John Force says he still needs to prove himself.
finished the deal that day, won the race.
And “Big Daddy” Don Garlits wrote me a
letter and told me he liked how I didn’t
even want to do any interviews because
I was still in the race and still so focused.
I think I still have that letter...
With all these wins and all these
championships behind you, how do you
keep yourselves motivated?
FORCE You reset your goals. People tell
me all the time, “You’ve got more records
than Don Prudhomme now,” but I’ll never
accept that. I mean, I’ve always set all my
goals off of what he did. I broke some of
them a long time ago, but it doesn’t
matter. You know, I just saw Prudhomme
at this deal the other night, and I had my
15-time world champ jacket on, and he
said, “You think you impress me wearing
that stupid-looking jacket with the 15 on
the back?” And it pissed me off. It’s
pissing me off right now, just thinking
about it. Prudhomme always has to say
how he used to whip me. Hey “Snake,” I
didn’t wear it for you, OK? That’s the kind
father, Don, was a
racer long before he
became a team
owner. Winner of
the 1970 U.S.
Nationals, he quit in
’ 74 to concentrate
on his burgeoning
returned as an
NHRA team owner
in ‘ 98, running Tony
in the Top Fuel class.
of s**t that really gets me going, really
motivates me. I thought, “I’ll win another
15, you son of a bitch.” That’s just the
world I come from.
SCHUMACHER [Laughs] Motivate
myself? Yeah, that’s no problem at all,
trust me. In this job, every time you make
a run it’s the bottom of the ninth inning,
the bases are loaded, and there’s a full
count. Some people, deep down, don’t
want to be in that situation. I do.
FORCE For me, the hardest thing I ever
did was going for my 10th straight
[championship, in 2002]. Somebody just
had to tell me that the New York Yankees
never won 10 in a row, that nobody’s ever
won 10 championships in a row in any
sport. And I thought to myself, “I wish you
hadn’t told me that,” because all it did
was put more pressure on me. I didn’t
want to know. But I’m good at forgetting
things, and I forgot all about it, just
blanked it, because if pressure takes over,
you’re junk. I’ve seen people fail. I’ve seen
it happen right in front of me. You ever
hear how comedians live in depression?
Being funny is their way of dealing with it.
Well, I fight depression. Didn’t know that,
did you? I never tell anybody. If your mind
tells you you’re depressed, you’re
depressed. And I get depressed because I
worry about everything – there’s so many
things that can go wrong – but I use it to
motivate myself. My daughters are always
saying, “Oh Mom, here he goes again
with everything that can go wrong.” It
isn’t to make them worry. It’s to remind
them of what can happen out here. Hey
Schumacher, you know how we used to
get hurt? I was probably racing before
you were born, and it wasn’t on the track;
it was in barroom fights. You never
worried about getting hurt in the car…
SCHUMACHER Fear makes you better. No,
fear makes some people better. It crushes
other people. Everyone’s not the same.
FORCE Answer me this: What about the
crashes when people died? That doesn’t
scare you? I match-raced Blaine Johnson
in Stanton, Mich., the week before he was
“Every time you make a run it’s the
bottom of the ninth, the bases are
loaded, and there’s a full count”
killed [at the 1996 U.S. Nationals]. I’d
never spoken to him until then. And all
of a sudden, somebody’s dead. Whoa.
“Sure don’t want to get in one of those
dragsters,” I thought. “Glad I don’t have to
worry about that – that doesn’t happen in
Funny Cars.” But down the road, it did
happen, didn’t it? It was a wake-up call, and
you have to just turn it off. You’re not