FYI WIRZ: Motorsports Champions Like NHRA's John Force Knows Fast and More

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2013

John Force snaps a photo for a fan with her camera at the PRI Trade Show.  Credit: Gary Larsen at
John Force snaps a photo for a fan with her camera at the PRI Trade Show. Credit: Gary Larsen at

Knowing what instantaneously released 8,000 horsepower can do to any driver’s concentration or body has a lot to do with winning.

In the NHRA Drag Racing Series—where two fast Funny Cars, Top Fuel dragsters, Pro Stock Cars and Pro Stock Motorcycles line up to race a long, straight track to the precious finish line—speed takes prime focus.

In 2013, the NHRA Series will be known as the Mello Yello Series, but the season will be far from calm. Drag racing is designed that way.

The motor blast at the Christmas tree on drag strips has nothing to do with the holiday season that has just passed. But it has much to do with the many teams and drivers that bring side-by-side racing to drag racing fans.

Lining up and winning NHRA championships is no easy task given the caliber and dedication of competition. The reality of win-the-next round-or-pack-up-and-go-home is always present.

Many NHRA Mello Yello teams are preparing for wins next season and will be testing in the warm Florida climate soon.

Previous to winter preparation, the motorsports horizon seemed bright at the recent Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Orlando, where drag racing champions John Force, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Allen Johnson made guest appearances.

They shared their comments for this article about contending and winning championships.

Comments were also shared by Doug Yates, engine builder, and Jeg Coughlin Jr., JEGS principle and champion. The racing industry is supported by vigorous businesses supplying winning engines and parts—like Roush Yates and JEGS High Performance Parts.

John Force, 15-time Funny Car champion, knows plenty about taking his drive all the way to the top again and again:

Do it because you love it. Be true to it. Don’t do it for the money. You’re wasting your time. If you make money, well then you’re one of the lucky ones. Do it for a passion of loving a crowd. If you’re lucky—taking care of a sponsor that takes care of you. Love racing cars, the competition.

NHRA Top Fuel dragster champion icon “Big Daddy” Don Garlits has an icon name for many reasons. He also has solid wisdom:

It’s really hard. It’s a 24/7 focus. You got to work 18 hours a day. And you never got to take your eyes off of the goal. And every time somebody says it can’t be done and you can’t do it and you run into an obstacle—Think of that as a learning process and something that is going to catapult you even further.

The rear engine car and blowing my foot off at Long Beach is a good example. I could have easily quit. I made a lot of money up to that point. I never had to make another run. I used that terrible accident to take the sport to another plateau. That’s how you have to do it.

You have to make everything that seems bad at the time—you turn it into good.

2012 Pro Stock Car champion Allen Johnson has been drag racing contending for years. This year he was the run-away leader with numerous wins:

The difference for us is just consistency from previous years. We had to match up personnel-wise with the teams that were winning championships. You got to learn how to win to start with and that all adds up into points. So, that’s what we did and that’s what we will continue to do.

Four-time Pro Stock Car champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. grew up in drag racing where his father created a worldwide mail order business from a hobby:

There are so many factors to build a championship running team. Leadership, engineering, communication, organization, horsepower, driving and good ol' luck! Today’s NHRA teams are multi-million dollar operations and any weakness is the mentioned areas surfaces quickly with the level of competition that exists.

Doug Yates also grew up in motorsports where his father Robert Yates built engines and operated a NASCAR team. He is now the principle in Roush Yates, building engines and more:

You see it in all walks of life. Some people find a way to always succeed. They never give up. They know where they want to go. It’s just a matter of time and perseverance. And they’re going to get there. That’s what you see with the great champions of this sport. And it doesn’t take long to see it. I remember the great drivers that we had, the Davey Allisons and Ernie Irvans of the world, even the Matt Kenseths. Whether you shooting basketball with them, playing monopoly or on the racetrack, they’re there to win and they got one thing in focus. They’re winners in everything they do. That’s to me what the great ones are really about, some people that excel and succeed in whatever they do—that’s what champions are about.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.