FYI WIRZ Fast Take By Dwight Drum
Web work by Larsen & Drum Images by David Yeazell, Gary Larsen and Dwight Drum
John Force in 2011.
Following NHRA's John Force, a fast decade of questions and answers
In 2001 I had my first big motorsports interview with NHRA Funny Car legend John Force in the quiet luxury of his motor coach at Gainesville Raceway in Florida. To no surprise to any of his many fans, Force was anything but silent.
That interview was supposed to be limited to 15 minutes, but it went on for a raucous hour when Force shifted to his entertainment mode.
I prepared weeks in advance for that interview moment and had dozens of questions logged in a small notebook. It was my first big opportunity.
After five questions with solid answering by Force, I asked him this.
In some ways success can be tougher than failure. What bugs you the most about being successful?
"People take you for granted, that you always did it,” Force said. “Like they want to say, ‘he was always rich’, and some people aren't always rich, they earn it. Ask that whole question again."
I repeated the question, but as I did Force asked for and snatched my notebook and started flipping through the pages. As he held my notebook captive he was quick to blurt.
"You didn't make these (expletive) questions up,” Force said. “You ain't that (expletive) smart."
I laughed and answered, “I created them, John." I was also wondering what I was going to do without my questions, but John let me get my notebook back after he read several of my questions.
Force has mellowed some since then and tossed his use of profanity, but his animated character remains as colorful as ever.
But back then during our first interview my questions were outside the normal routine journalistic inquiry. His curiosity was challenged and he seemed to enjoy the nature of my probing and sometimes unique questions. That’s probably why a 15 minute limit turned into a fun hour.
Several years after Force got my question book, I was on the way to a racing event on a back road trip in the southern Georgia. One of several road-side Vidalia onion display stands caught my eye and brakes.
The roof of the stand had onions hanging in net-like bags with two sizes and two prices. As I studied the bags I wondered, too, about the onions—small ones in three-pound bags and large ones in five-pound bags. The price was not hefty for either.
As a young girl, about 16 years old, sat at the front of the stand—an older lady worked behind the structure, bagging onions.
I pondered a bit about the produce and then asked the young girl what the difference was between the small onions and the large onions. She wasn't prepared for any inquiry and turned to her mom for an answer.
"Momma … What's the difference between the big’ns and little’ns?"
Momma wasn't swift answer, but with a smooth Southern drawl she soon spoke in a helpful country way.
"The Big’ns had been in the ground longer."
It was all I could to buy a five pound bag without laughing.
As I drove away and down the quite country road smiling, it hit me after a few miles that my question was not specific. I should have asked about taste in addition to size. That lesson in specifics has followed me for about a decade.
My access and media credibility grew with the Internet, and with it chances to ask questions rose exponentially.
Many times since the onion encounter I've been privileged to ask many NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA stars and other celebrities multiple questions.
As my access improved I worked harder to make my questions tough and specific. Thousands of experiences later the effort has proved productive.
I like to think my questions are sometimes unique, intense and prone to swift delivery, but what do I know? I learned as much from an onion lady on a country road as I did in numerous writing classes.
It’s time to fast forward and return to the present. Comparing the John Force of a decade ago to the present champion is the focus of this series and more quotes from the past will be placed side-by-side with present thoughts for fan review.
John Force 10 years ago and today
Force answered this question in 2011.
Some might say John Force has a built-in power cord to supply energy. Where you believe you get your energy?
"I never lie, but I embellish a lot. Basically I'm kind of full of it sometimes. But I'm full of a dream. I sell everything I can. That's what it's all about. Instead of just giving energy, I'm a storyteller--sometimes not so good. I've been thrown out of the few shows.
“I stay with what I know, auto racing. That's what I do. I try to entertain, because we're in the entertainment business. We think we just race for a living, but we’re in the entertainment business.”
Following John Force, an FYI WIRZ series by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com will return with the next part soon.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews provided by John Force Racing or during NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series teleconferences.
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