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John Force goes NASCAR (for a weekend)

John Force and his 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car champion driver, Robert Hight, went NASCAR for a weekend at the Ford Championship season finale in Homestead, Fla. The familiar winner stepped out of his fast world, but as the drag racing icon known for his TV presence strolled through the Sprint Cup garage fans and team members easily recognized him. NASCAR fans with garage access eagerly sought his autograph. Team members not busy with pressing tasks moved to shake his hand.

Fourteen-time Funny Car champion Force has said in the past that he emulated NASCAR driver sponsorship-media style as he added crown after crown.

Force and Hight took questions from national media in the HMS media center.

John Force

Can you speak to what Mark Martin is doing in this sport?
“He’s on the same drugs that I’m on. He has to be (laughing). He’s quite an amazing individual. I’ve watched him. Physically, you can tell he’s in shape. I’m 10 years older than him, but I always said if I was in NASCAR they’d have to have rest stops for me. I couldn’t drive around for three hours. He’s just focused. He does what he does and he’s good.

“You look at the young tigers like Edwards, you know, I didn’t realize how much Robert knew about the NASCAR drivers and not just the Ford guys, but Robert has another life outside of drag racing. He was so tickled. We were supposed to be on vacation, but when Ford asked us to come down here and bring Robert to celebrate and be a grand marshal and be part of the show today, he was all excited because he had never been to a NASCAR race.”

Robert Hight

“We do a lot of Ford functions with the Ford NASCAR drivers and it’s pretty cool because they come up and ask us questions. It’s pretty cool to walk through the garage with John and everybody notices him, so it’s cool when people notice our sport, and I’m excited to be down here and learn about NASCAR.”

John Force

Are you impressed with what Jimmie Johnson has been able to accomplish?
“I really do. I’ve done a few shows with him. I really don’t know him, but, obviously, like any driver he’s focused. He’s got a winning team and it takes years, just like a football team, you can have a great quarterback, but if he doesn’t have that guy that will catch that ball when he needs to, he’s in trouble, so you’ve got to have the combination.

“At the end of the day you’ve got to live it. Ashley lives it. Robert Hight lives it. I’ve always lived it. There’s nothing else to any of us because that’s what it takes to make a champion. Ford’s got champions – Edwards and others that they have – but at the end of the day this kid Johnson is just on a roll.”

What’s it like when things are on a roll?
“I said to Robert, ‘Trust me, first you’ll have depression.’ I always call it post partum depression, like a woman when she has a baby, she doesn’t know what to do because you’ve waited all those months and then you get it and it takes a while, but then you bounce right back because you’ve got to start thinking about next year. There’s no time for vacation. We’re working straight through the vacation. That’s what you need to do if you’re gonna stay on top.”

Robert Hight

About competition:
“When John was dominating and winning all those races, I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen again – that kind of domination in our sport – probably even in NASCAR. It’s pretty tough to dominate. The races that we have are so close, there are so many good cars, that you can’t let your guard down ever – otherwise you’re gonna get passed up.”

Reporter Dwight Drum asked John Force and Robert Hight questions:

John Force

Does winning ever become routine?
“Well, it does and then you lay in a hospital bed for two months and they tellyou you’re not gonna walk again and, if you do, it’ll be ugly. I used to joke I used to spend two hours a day in the bar, now I spend two hours a day in the gym just so I can get out of bed in the morning.”

Robert Hight

What trait does John have that you admire as a champion?
“Just how hard he’s worked. I look at where John started from and, I’ll be honest, my road has been paved a lot easier than his. He started from absolutely nothing. He bought his mom’s trailer, and it’s across the street from our shop. You can see where he came from. I think he put it over there on purpose to remember where he came from and to continue to work hard.”


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