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Inside Hurco

Team JFR Q&A for Chevrolet Performance US Nationals

Posted by Mike Cope on Aug 30, 2016 5:24:52 PM

John Force, driver of the PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car

John Force answers a few questions about chasing his fifth Funny Car title at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

What is your mindset coming into this race?

“This is like Daytona or the Indy 500. You have gotta win it. The sponsors are watching. We have won this race a lot and dominated.  We haven’t been dominating but we have turned the corner. We are coming to Indy with a focus. I am spending money on testing all four teams. Some of my race cars are fast and some are having some breakage issues. You have to look at the big picture. We can compete with anybody. There is a certain part of the race track from 60 ft. to 330 ft. where we are not running fast. We are working on making that faster. I don’t like winning races by being lucky. I like to win races by being fast. This new Chevrolet Camaro is really working. I have the money to test and run thanks to all my sponsors like PEAK, Auto Club, Traxxas, Monster Energy, Chevrolet, Lucas Oil and Mac Tools. I am moving ahead. You do everything you can in testing for Indy and you take your best combination to the race. You take all your best stuff and you try and qualify. We want to bring the thunder for the night run. Bottom line is you want to hit that race running.”

Can you talk about the mystic of Indy…

“I drive out to Lucas Oil Raceway sometimes and I want to get that mood. I come out at night too because we qualify at night. You listen to the music and you have that dream to stand on the starting line. Then you get out to the track and you remember all that you dreamed. It gets me motivated to be out on the track remembering those times of being out here at 9 o’clock at night dreaming of having one shot to get into the race. It’s the hard work that gets put in that makes it all happen. Sometimes the work beats you down, but if you have that dream for those moments it gets you through it. Once you get into the race and the fight, the dreaming is over.”

“I have a brick from the Brickyard I will stand and look at it. I have pieces of tracks from all over the country and I’ll look at them and think about when I won that race running over that piece of the track. You want to feel the magic and hear the echo. That is why we do this job. It ain’t for the money. It may sound corny but it is for the glory and the cheer of the crowd. Some years you get it and some years you don’t. Right now it won’t be easy but we turned the corner and I think we can run with anybody.”

Do you feel like this team is ready to make the next step at the perfect time of the season?

“We know everything Courtney’s car does. Everyone is working together. (Traxxas crew chiefs) Dan Hood and Ronnie Thompson have that Traxxas Camaro flying. She is light weight as a driver. She crashed a car in Seattle and we had to bring out a brand new chassis and it ran great. What they have is working and we all have the same things. They just react a little differently. When you know it is there you can chase that. Robert (Hight) is flying and my team is young. We are still learning.  (PEAK crew chief) Jon Schaffer is leading these young kids to build a new franchise. They stick by me and I stick by them. I am excited because I know what is out there. You take a guy like (Del) Worsham or (Matt) Hagan that jumps up and they run those low numbers. We know it is there and a lot of times you think you have maxed out what a race car can do on a race track. Now we know more is out there and we are only a couple of clicks off. You are talking about the snap of a finger. We are going to find it with this brain-trust led by (Auto Club crew chief) Mike Neff. That is what makes it exciting. That is the hunt.”

“Indy is going to be great. Just the word Indy, I-N-D-Y, that is what it is all about. We are going to come in here with our 100 employees and everyone from the chefs to the office help to the PR and marketing people to the guy that is working the bottom end know that the fight starts on Friday of Indy.”

Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car

Robert Hight answers a few questions about chasing his fourth Funny Car title at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

Talk about your mindset heading into the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals…

“Last year we came off a win in Brainerd so we had some momentum coming in here. We went to the finals of the Traxxas Shootout and the finals of the race. I don’t think we are far off with my Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. We are just a little off. We are missing some consistency and power. That is why we were in Indy last week testing for two days. We learned some things and I think we are headed in the right direction. I have said this before but if you are hunting for a combination at this time of the year you are in trouble. I don’t by any means think we are lost. We just have to dial it in and be a little bit more consistent.”

Do you think you could be peaking at the right time of the season?

“I think it is huge if you can win Indy because it gives you momentum going into the Countdown. Indy is points and a half so we need to use that to the best of our ability to move up a spot or two in the point standings. I won the championship from the 10th spot before but I don’t think anyone will ever do that again. The level of Funny Car racing is too high and you start with too big of a deficit. I think from there you might have to win five races in the Countdown and that is a tall order with the class of Funny Cars now.”

How important would a Traxxas Shootout win be to you?

“For sure winning the Traxxas Shootout would be big. I have been the finals the past two years. It would be huge to win $100,000 in one race. It is another race that you deal with at Indy. If I had to pick between the two, the US Nationals is the race I would want to win for the points and the Wally.”

How important is winning the US Nationals for JFR with the shop in Brownsburg?

“In 2013 when we won Indy it was such a great winner’s circle celebration with all the folks from the fab shop, the machine shop, and the paint shop. Those guys are behind the scenes but they are equally as important as every one of my crew guys working on the race car. They work hard back at the shop and they don’t get to enjoy these wins when they happen in Seattle or Gainesville or wherever. To get a win in Indy and include them all in the winner’s circle is pretty special.”

Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car

Courtney Force answers a few questions about her fifth time competing in Funny Car at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

When do you start mentally preparing for the US Nationals?

“I think our entire Traxxas team has been mentally preparing for the US Nationals starting with the Indy test session. You get your game face on. We are trying new things and working on details to get this Camaro ready for this race track a week from now. Coming off of the race in Brainerd when we went to the semifinals we learned a lot about this race car. That was a brand new race car from top to bottom. We brought that car to Indy and we also made runs with another new race car that will be our back-up car. We are trying a lot of new things so we are prepared for Indy and the Countdown to the Championship. The US Nationals is the biggest race of our season. It’s the Big Go. This is one of the most important races of the entire season. This is the one everybody wants to win. Mentally we are all getting ready.”

Can you put into words what it would mean to win the US Nationals?

“I have seen my dad win the US Nationals. I have seen my sister (Ashley Force Hood) win it and also my other teammates (Robert Hight and Gary Densham). It would be huge for me. It is right up there with winning a championship. If you get a championship and a win at the US Nationals you have definitely accomplished a lot. The best drivers are out here and to be able to race them and get a win would be huge for the Traxxas Chevy Camaro team. That is our goal going into this race. I think we have a great race car and it has been performing well. I am excited to get out to the race. I grew up coming to this race and this is one of my favorite tracks. It would mean a lot to be able to get a win at the same track where I saw my dad get some of his biggest wins.”

How do you balance all the distractions and still stay focused on your race car?

“Once you are in your race car you are in the zone and ready for the race. There are a lot of distractions with media requests and sponsor events. The Traxxas Shootout comes into play because that race counts as a qualifying run for the US Nationals. There is a lot going on mentally but I have the faith in my team that we have a great race car. I just have to focus on driving the race car and pretend it is any other race. I think we are all ready. As a driver you have to block out all the distractions and get your game face on.”

You are locked into Traxxas Shootout so is it easier to get ready for the race now?

“It feels great knowing we are already locked into the Traxxas Shootout. Last year we were trying to get in with the fan vote. The nerves going along with that was a little bit of a distraction. Really excited we have secured a spot with that win in Houston. That win was huge for us and that win was a game changer. We can just focus on what is important going into the race.”

Have you or will you talk with your sister Ashley Force Hood about US Nationals?

“It is great having that resource like a sister, like Ashley, that has gone through the stress and the nerves of being pulled in so many different directions. She won this race back-to-back and it will be to my benefit to talk with her. She has done it before and been through it. I will be looking to hopefully pick up some tips on anything that can help me get a win at Indy.”

Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster

Brittany Force answers a few questions about her fourth time competing in Top Fuel at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis

What do you think about when you get ready to race at the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals?

“There is a lot of pressure going into the US Nationals. It is the biggest race of the season. It gets so much attention and there are so many fans there. It is two races in one weekend so there is a lot that you are banking on. You want to go out there and do your job and hopefully turn on some win lights. You have to try and look at it no differently than any other race weekend. You are still doing the same things. You are driving your race car to the 1000 ft. finish line. You have to shut out the distractions. There is the extra attention and I think that gets you more excited since it is a bigger event. That just pumps you up. You have to shut out all the craziness and do your job.”

Does being qualified for the Traxxas Shootout change your mindset?

“It is definitely a relief that we are in. We know going into the race we get to play the game. We don’t have to worry about trying to get in and the stress of all that. We are in the Traxxas Shootout. We know our plan of action for the weekend. It is nice to not have to worry about that. When we go to Monument Circle on Wednesday there is no extra stress. We get to just enjoy it this year. Now we have to get competitive with it. We always took it seriously but now we know we are in the Shootout so that is a focus now.”

You just won Brainerd does this give you some momentum going into Indy? How do you like your chances at Indy?

“Coming off that win in Brainerd I do think we have extra momentum. The entire team has a lot of positive energy. We have the mindset that we did it last weekend in Brainerd why not do it again in Indy. We had a consistent race car in testing. We made four good passes at Lucas Oil Raceway. We ran four low 3.70s and we are where we want to be. We are going to take a few days off and then hit it hard when the race starts.”

How would you feel on Monday afternoon if you were handed the Wally on live FOX?

“That is just a dream come true. To be able to hold that trophy in the winner’s circle at Indianapolis would be incredible. I remember coming to this race as a kid watching my dad win it. There were years and years of cheering him on from the stands or the tow vehicle. We used to blare in the tow car “We are the Champions” on the way to the winner’s circle. I remember thinking this is so cool because this race is so huge. There is so much history around it and I never thought I would be driving a Top Fuel dragster much less at Indy. We are capable of winning Indy and we are going to go after it. It is one of my goals. I hope we get it this year.”

Besides the addition of Top Fuel consultant Alan Johnson and crew chief Brian Husen what has made the biggest difference for you this year?

“I think my whole Monster Energy team has really come together. I think the whole team has found a really good solid routine that is working for us. I think over half of the battle is getting four qualifying passes to go into race day. That consistency is so important. That has been the biggest change is we are consistently getting four good runs in qualifying. That really helps on race day.”

What do you think you have learned going into your fourth year? How important was that first win?

“I completely changed my routine to start this season. My crew chiefs had me change everything from how I staged and I completely started over. At first I didn’t like it at all. I wasn’t used to it. I was used to one way for the past three years and I came out here this season and it was almost like starting over. It was a challenge. In the long run I know why they had me do it and it makes sense. It has helped me as a driver with my staging, my reaction times and its helped get lane choice. All those things add up to round wins.”

When you see young fans at the races what is your take away from your impact on fans?

“That is one of the most special things about my job. You see the younger kids at the ropes and kids that are older like high schoolers they have a backwards Monster hat on and they want my autograph. That is so cool. It is really flattering. That is one of the things that pushes me in my job. It makes me want to really get out there and show everyone what we can do as a team. When you think about it those kids that are coming up to the rope holding a Monster Energy telling me they want to be race car drivers they are the ones cheering me on in the stands when we roll up to the starting line. When I pull up to the starting line I think about the fact that those stands are full of those kids that were just at my pits.”  

Tags: racing, Hurco, NHRA

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