First of all, congratulations, and to thank you again for being so much a part of NHRA for all of these years. Tell us what it means to you to be part of this Gainesville race, racing in Stock Eliminator? You have the Hall of Fame inductions tonight. You have the great match race with Darrell Gwynn, which will raise lot of money for charity this weekend. It's a busy weekend for you here. Tell us about your feelings for the weekend.
DON GARLITS: This place is special to me because you know it kicks off the drag racing in the Eastern part of the United States and a few years ago this became the biggest drag race in the world and I'm quite proud of that. I think it's one of the finest facilities in the world for racing.
It is a special place and I've won the race a few times, broke some records here, became the first car, to go about 270 miles an hour, and it's just like old home week, and of course, this match race that's coming up with Darrell Gwynn and these electric cars that ought to be something to watch and see if they have got those things even enough, that's going to be the problem. But they say the cars are really pretty. I have not seen them yet but they say they are really pretty and they really look like the cars we raced in 1986.
Of course, I'm trying to run an automatic [transmission] car. I really like that it's a lot of fun racing in the Sportsman ranks. It's a super bunch of guys. It's like the old days they come over and help you load parts, it really is not corporate type of racing that racing has become; it reminds me of the days that I started racing and I like those days. I had a lot of fun in racing. We did it for years and years before money had anything to do with it. We did it because we just loved to run our cars. And that's kind of like sportsman racing. We do it because we love to run the cars. It's just great to be here with the NHRA and it's really nice, they have been super people.
You said you never raced for money but you've won a lot of money over the years. You revolutionized the sport, and of course were also voted the No. 1 driver of all time in the history of NHRA (in 2001 during NHRA's 50th anniversary celebration). So tell us, those two things, does one stand out as a highlight in the career more than another?
The other thing that I think is a better accomplishment is the (rear-engine) dragster. It is about safety and saving lives and increasing the performance and there just isn't any way to get around it. The second thing is the drag racing Hall of Fame.
MODERATOR: He's a three-time national champion and if you don't think he's got that competitive spirit, he really wants to beat Darrell out there this week, so that should be a lot of fun when he and Darrell get on the track, relive some of the great moments, not only in Gatornationals history but NHRA's history as well. It's great to have Big Daddy with us this weekend.
Sitting next to him is John Force, and we are two races into the season, we have had two press conferences and you sat next to Don Prudhomme at the last race and now you are next to Big Daddy this week. For a guy that's done all that he's done in the sport of drag racing are you still awed getting to share the stage with guys like that?
JOHN FORCE: What was the question? (Laughter). I was depressed this morning coming in because last night, late flights, I'm coming into town with Lori and Courtney, true story. Coming down, doing everything right, and Smokey just pulls me over. So I go right into the John Force bull drive talk to get out; "Hey, you know how fast I'm going to be going at the Gators this weekend?"
And he said, "I don't know how fast you are but I know what my speed deal showed, and you got a ticket." Told me: Shut up, get back in the car and see you at the Gatornationals.
But he was doing his job because I was speeding. But when I got here, this is cool, because the greatest racer of all time, Don Garlits, we all know that but I'm surrounded by him and on the other side Mr. Busch here of NASCAR and I was with you guys with the road show all last week, and they are really cool, the drivers at NASCAR, like they are really hot stuff.
But when you really get on that side, they are the real deal and they are just like us. I am just honored to be sitting between NASCAR and the greatest of all time. And that ain't just sucking up. I'm trying to get into that museum one of these days when I prove myself. What was your question?
THE MODERATOR: Big Daddy would be more than happy to let you into the museum if you will pay him six bucks, just mention his name when you get there...
You mention the road show you took out to Las Vegas and that will be a big part of John Force Racing this year and it will be a big part of the NHRA's 60th anniversary celebration. Tell us about the road show. It's quite an endeavor.
JOHN FORCE: It's always been my life and I love NASCAR and all types of motorsports, but it's really about putting people in the seats, and if we can help NASCAR go out there and promote and hang out with these guys and they come back here to race their hot rods and hang out with us, in this type of car.
And during the Great Depression, people had to go to movies and ballgames. Now in this economy we are in, we are trying to drive them to the races and if we can cross over, that's what the road show is. It's a combination of Robert Hight's Dodgers car, the Elvis car, the Superman car, Driver of the Year car, every car that I had. And there's so much hype about it, but the problem is the show ain't even done yet. One of them is still being built.
Our videos are to educate the fans, and with the interviews we are going to give to talk about why Kurt loves drag racing and why I love NASCAR. It's just about how to put people in the seats and educate them, in the airports, malls, movie theatres, tell them about Don Garlits. He's not just a guy that's a great racer, promoted his cars, he drove his cars, he raced them and he survived Shirley Muldowney, that's the biggest.
But Prudhomme was out there with his show and that was unbelievable, we saw it in L.A. They got big screen theatres to watch all this. And we just go to malls, airports but we are going to NASCAR, we are going to state fairs, we are going to the Super Bowl, Castrol is involved so just a lot of places. No weekends off is what I told Courtney and she said, "Dad, I've been to Florida four times this month and I've seen nothing but the airport and the interstate." I said, "Welcome to drag racing."