FYI WIRZ: Top Achievers in NASCAR, NHRA, Music and Military Talk Success

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2013

Jimmie Johnson answers questions in Homestead-Miami Speedway before winning his sixth championship in November.
Jimmie Johnson answers questions in Homestead-Miami Speedway before winning his sixth championship in November.Dwight Drum

Common psychological threads seem to weave the fiber and inner armor of champions, celebrities, warriors, rock and country stars. Each rise to the top takes ambition, and no two persons are exactly the same, nor do any share identical paths.

But all achieve and ascend in popularity, and often most are rewarded financially as well.

Achievement isn’t all skill and intelligence; good luck and circumstances affect many careers, but intense, consistent effort seems to prevail.

The purpose here is to take fans and curious souls into the world of a few top achievers and highlight comments that might reveal common traits.

Some distinguished motorsports champions, including NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, NHRA’s Johnson Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Allen Johnson and Troy Coughlin, shared their drive. Country music star Dierks Bentley struck a chord with his take on making it to the top. Accomplished Army leaders Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Sergeant Major Frank Grippe and Navy Chaplain Captain William M. Kennedy brought their military expertise to the subject. 

Bentley, renowned country music star with seven albums and numerous award nominations, will release his eighth album in February 2014. He compared his world to NASCAR and shared his thoughts about success and the reality of having fans.

“We wouldn’t have anything to discuss if it weren’t for our fans,” Bentley said. “I think fans are the big key to both worlds. It’s just a love of doing it, whether it’s getting up there and sing[ing] every night or getting in the car and driving it.

Bentley also stressed the importance of following passions.

“No amount of money would make up for the love of doing it. It’s a grind after a teenager or something like that, but if you love what you do, you’ll do it as long as you can. Hopefully you’ll be successful at it.”

In NASCAR and NHRA, Jimmie Johnson (and crew chief Chad Knaus), John Force and Jeg Coughlin Jr. have a phenomenal combined 28 championships and 275 national wins.

Johnson’s demeanor and consistency is often compared to precision machinery. “It's such a team sport, and I think that gets overlooked at times,” Johnson said. “Certainly people just think of the driver and the driver's impact. Next in line would be the crew chief.” 

Johnson continued, “But as you work your way down through the different positions and the department heads and even people back in the shop, it takes everybody in the system to have the right mentality, to be pulling in the right direction.”

Force is probably known as much for his ability to fast-talk as he is for his ability to compete, but when he takes time for explanation his insight is worthy.

“When I started winning, I knew how to turn off that switch of pressure,” Force said. “Turn off that switch, the fear that makes your knees knock, you know what I mean, makes you sweat so bad you can't see through your visor. I learned to handle it.”

Force rolled on with his words. Typical.

“I'm not exactly Dale Earnhardt. I don't try to kid [anybody]. He had confidence like you couldn't believe. But so do I. But I believe luck is a big part of it.”

Coughlin Jr. is renowned in the drag racing world for his prowess at the electronic Christmas Tree, where reflexes are king. He shared some speedy explanations.

“Whether you are a rock star or a race car driver or a pro athlete of any sort—football, baseball, golf—it always boils down to someone who has a good process, a good plan, [who] is mentally strong and able to execute that plan,” Coughlin said.

He continued his analysis.

“Racing is no different than any other sport. You need a couple of game plans going into the action. The cream always rises to the top whether it be in a motorsport, business or any profession. It’s fun to watch.” 

Johnson drag-raced for years before rolling onto his first NHRA Pro Stock championship, but along the way he had the tools he needed. He shared his fast thoughts about champions.

“You’re normal people before you are any of that,” Johnson said. “It’s how hard you work, your schooling, your raising and doing right. You work hard enough, you have a character with all those things in it; you can do anything you want to.” 

Brother to Jeg Coughlin Jr, Troy Coughlin comes from a family of achievers. His father founded the international high performance parts business known to millions as JEGS. The company has transitioned from traditional mail order to JEGS.com with four brothers now at the helm.

Another Coughlin shared his family doctrine.

“I think the passion and desire for what you do,” Coughlin said. “Treat people like you would like to be treated. It’s a team unit and not individual. It’s a group effort. I think confidence, passion for what they do and surrounding themselves with good people.”

Lt. General John F. Mulholland, second in command of U.S. Special Operations at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., has achieved his status through combat and peace.

“I got here because of the great work of so many other Americans. I’ve had the privilege of serving with the finest soldiers and non-commissioned officers and officers.”

The general carried on.

“Do what you believe to be right and do it to the best of your ability. That’s all you can ever do and circumstances will take care of themselves.”

Command Sergeant Major Frank Grippe, like General Mulholland, has excelled through training and combat. He has risen to the top of enlisted ranks to become Command Senior Enlisted leader of CENTCOM at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Fla. Grippe quickly shared his beliefs.

“I’m pretty humble about what I do,” Grippe said. “In my world you take care of your troopers, as we say in the Army, and their family members. In the joint world that I’m operating in, it’s your service members and family members—one [and] the same.”

Capt. William M. Kennedy is Chaplain to thousands of souls.

“I had a lot of people who supported me along the way, wonderful teachers and mentors,” Kennedy said. “People who showed me I could do things better. Sometimes you fail, but then you pick yourself up and rededicate yourself to the mission.”

Nashville singer Jason Wyatt sings the National Anthem at Veterans Memorial Park in Florida.
Nashville singer Jason Wyatt sings the National Anthem at Veterans Memorial Park in Florida.Dwight Drum

Mulholland, Grippe and Kennedy recently helped dedicate the Iraq Veterans Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park in Hillsborough County, Fla.

Champions and celebrities aren’t common, but they do seem to share common strengths. Nurturing confidence, working hard, surrounding oneself with proficient people and running into a little luck now and then seems like a solid path to the very top.

Comments about successful traits are worth remembering.

Dierks Bentley answers questions to the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway before his track concert.
Dierks Bentley answers questions to the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway before his track concert.Dwight Drum

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


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