Having been around this sport for a few years, I have to say that John
Force is one of the best things that has happened to it in a long time. I
find it amazing to see how hypocritical people get when they talk about him.
If people want to see the little guy get ahead, John is the model that they
should use. I have a photograph of John on his first run down the quarter
mile in Jack Chrisman's old Mustang sidewinder, so I know he didn't jump in
with the best of equipment.
John Force also stuck with the program long after guys now would have
been forced to quit racing. Look at his first 10-12 years in the sport and
see how long the struggle was. Through all of those second and third hand
race cars, still hitting the National Event and Match Race Circuit... he
paid his dues.
John has always seemed to be able to come up with some decent sponsors,
at least some name guys to back him, whether he won or not. That says a lot
for a guy who can be as brash as anyone you want to meet at times. His
association with Castrol, and the hiring of Austin Coil to run the racing
operation has arguably been the most successful association in the history
of the sport. He paid Coil when he couldn't pay his own bills, and that
determination and sacrifice has earned him the position that he has. Nobody
gave him anything along the way.
As far as his contact with the public, I have been working with Action on
their die-cast program for a while. We took the owner and a couple of his
engineers to Sonoma in August to see what they are currently working on
(read that as a hint, by the way). Out of the many teams to whose
hospitality centers we took this group, the one who gave them the best
reception was John Force. He went out of his way to make sure they felt
welcomed, did the picture thing, shook hands, etc. And, this was on Sunday
between rounds so it wasn't during the down time.
Take into account the exuberance he shows in interviews, with the press,
with fans (and I know there will be individual instances where someone may
have a complaint), and the rest of the public. This sport could do well with
a few more like John Force.
As far as our relationship with him in developing products, that group is
extremely cooperative and goes out of their way to try to help us create the
best product that we can get out for them. Other teams could learn a little
about communications from this one as well.
If you don't want to root for him as your favorite, I'll buy in. But you
have to have the respect for what he has done in the sport ... and for what
he has done for the sport.