From There to Here
If you thought you'd never see the day when John Force was on the cover of Drag Illustrated, well, welcome to the club. It'd be impossible to deny that a great part of the reason this independent publication was created was to cater to the racers that seemed to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the chosen few that are heralded by the sport's major sanctioning bodies. Even those of us here at DI that made the decision to put Force on the cover had reservations. Not only had the same old John Force story been told hundreds, if not thousands, of times before, but he's received more publicity than probably any other racer in the sport's history, had his own television show on A&E, and is the undeniable focal point of virtually every ESPN2 broadcast of the NHRA's races. Then came that fateful Sunday in Pomona, California, when John Force, at least in our eyes, put together one of the most incredible performances this sport has ever seen in an effort to win his 15th NHRA Nitro Funny Car world championship, and his 132nd race win. Sure, the stars and moon had to align in order for it to happen, but Force took matters into his own hands, rose to the occasion and delivered round after round. At his age, and considering what he has been through over the course of the last few years, it was as much unbelievable as it was impressive to see him leave on almost everyone, outrun everyone, and come from behind to win the title.
Regardless of how much attention he gets and has gotten over the years and how many wild and crazy interviews he's done, if there was ever a sure-fire way to earn the cover of DI - John did it in Pomona.
There are sure to be naysayers who want to see Drag Illustrated stick to its roots in fast doorslammer racing, but I can assure you that we're as much dyed-in-the-wool door cars guys now as we ever were. That won't change with one John Force cover. For those that feel it's a shame to see Force in the spotlight again when it could be given to a lesser known or more deserving person, try to keep in mind that the pendulum swings both ways. Believe it or not, during our cover photo shoot with John at his shop in Yorba Linda, California, about halfway through the deal he turned to me and said, "Do you think we have a shot at the cover?"
Surprised, choking on my words, and forever humbled, I replied, "Um, yeah. I think so."
To think that someone so accomplished in this sport would even consider the fact that his picture was being taken for something other than the cover of the magazine was, and still is, rather amazing to me. While I confess not to know John well, I was certain he'd be the type of person to simply expect to be on the cover. His humble demeanor throughout the process that day assured me that there was more to this man than meets the eye.
Around noon on January 5th, 2011, we finished up our shoot, having spent about four times as much time with the 15-time champ as we were scheduled to have. I'd hardly slept the night before, fretting that we'd not be able to get what we needed in the 60-minutes we were allotted in John's busy schedule, and the fact that he'd scrapped meetings and calls to spend time with us - posing for photos, telling stories, introducing us to his team - is something that I'll never forget.
Finally, though, Force had to leave us. He was heading to Los Angeles for a meeting with Castrol that he couldn't miss. Before he left I pulled him aside and thanked him for his time, expressed my gratitude, and before I could finish he stopped me. He said, "Hey, don't thank me. I should thank you. I'm honored you want me on that cover."
For the second or third time that day, Force had left me speechless. Honestly, I felt a lot like a proud father, but it wasn't just our precious little Drag Illustrated that I was
proud of. Truth be known, I was and still am far happier for all the more-than-deserving racers, tracks and organizations that are finally getting their long-awaited due on the pages of a internationally circulated magazine.
Remember, the pendulum swings both ways. To all the up-and-comers, all the heavy-hitters flying under the radar, and outlaw heroes that we have featured on the cover of DI over the course of the last 5 years, here's perhaps the most celebrated drag racer in history saying that he's honored to be in your company. I have to believe that feels good.
Certainly, there are those that are thinking that John Force on our cover means that we're outgrowing our britches, selling out, and losing our focus on the racers that deserve publicity but don't normally get it. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Our plan since day one has been to maintain a sharp focus on the men and women that make this sport possible, put faces to the names plastered on the side windows of race cars around the world, and be boundless in doing so - going wherever the story may be.
Force out front proves that we'll go to whatever lengths necessary to tell a story worth telling, but more importantly his presence aids us in our goal of exposing the masses to drivers, cars, series and facilities they wouldn't be otherwise. While it may be hard for some of us to believe, there are people that know drag racing only in the form of the NHRA and its national events and big name drivers like John Force. Putting him on our pages furthers our efforts to give the outlaw guys, the sportsmen, the heart and soul of the sport of drag racing the exposure they deserve.
Work Hard & Race Easy,
Wesley R. Buck
Editor-in-Chief [email protected]
Wesley R. Buck editor in chief
Dave Haldin chief executive officer
Wyatt Haldin president
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