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Dale Jr. Download: Tune in for wild interview with legendary drag racer John Force

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Tuesday’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download may go down in history as one of the wildest, most raucous episodes ever.

What else would you expect when your guest is legendary drag racer John Force – who talks almost as fast as he drives.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion, who is one win away from earning his 150th career national event victory, joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and co-host Mike Davis on this week’s DJD. Catch the video portion of the telecast on today’s edition of NASCAR America from 5-6 p.m. ET.

They covered a number of topics, from gators to golf, to all of the crashes and fires Force has endured in his career, his racing family, and much more.

In fact, the ever-so-chatty Force had so much to talk about that this week’s DJD lasted over two hours.

Click here for the full Dale Jr. Download. But before that, here’s some of the top highlights:

John Force. Photo: NHRA.

Force on Dale Jr.’s new book, Racing to the Finish: My Story: “Hey, I read your (book). Unbelievable. I got an education. And you know what, I thought it’d be all about racing, but it really was all about the things that happen to race car drivers. And people don’t get it, but I got it. I’ve been doing this for 100 years, before you were born son. And I look at this and said, ‘Oh God, I never realized so many things.’ I called up my shrink and said I needed to be committed today. But I learned so much. If you get a chance, buy this book. I’m not trying to plug it (Dale Jr. said go right ahead). But it was great. I got it, took it. My daughter Courtney joked. We went to Tahiti … and it was painful for me. But I got up every day and started reading the book because I needed something to do. My daughters will tell you, I got hooked on it. I started underlining things so I could remember how things happened. It was just really cool. I never fell asleep reading your book. I spent a couple hours every day reading your book. It was really cool reading it and the education I got.”

Force on some of the songs that are played over drag strip public address systems when he brings his car to the starting line: “(They used to play) ’Jesus Take The Wheel’ and they used to play ‘Take This Job And Shove It’ and they played it at every race when I got ready to start my car. Now, they play, ‘I Don’t Want No Rockin’ Chair’ and half the fans in the stands say ‘I never heard these songs. Who is this guy?’”

Force turns 70 this Saturday. What keeps him going: “There’s reasons why I stay in this sport. We lost a young driver, Eric Medlen, and three months later, the cars had gone through a transition. We lost (Scott) Kalitta and a number of other drivers. … We’re warriors, but that ain’t the truth, that ain’t the way the world really works. … You start realizing things can go ugly here. You’re not Superman and you get through it. But I looked at Eric and I thought there must be a reason for me, why would the Good Lord take a beautiful kid like him and keep a guy like me. There must be a reason. When we lost your dad, it broke my heart. When you watched the funeral, you thought it was the president. In the middle of it, there must have been a reason for me to build safety, now I have chassis shops and motor programs in Indy.”

Who will fill Force’s shoes when he retires – that is, IF he ever retires: “I’m doing okay in the points, but the last couple years I’ve been struggling. I think they’ve all filled my shoes already. But I love these young kids and yeah, we have arguments and fights and things that go down, but they love what they do and they want to be the best. … Matt Hagan, (Jack) Beckman, (Ron) Capps naturally, the Pedregon brothers (Cruz and TV analyst Tony). … Next week, I’m going to be 100 in Atlanta. I’m embarrassed to say my age anymore. But I don’t know where to go, I’m just kind of lost out there. New stars are growing. (Steve) Torrence, the kid who won the championship (Top Fuel, last season), J.R. Todd. … They’re speaking out from the heart because you have to talk from the heart.”

When asked about whether he has any hobbies, Force went from golf to gators, both with near-disastrous results: “I don’t have a life. I go fishing with my grandsons and they say ‘you don’t know how to fish, do you? You don’t know nothin’ but a race car.’ tried golfing once. I was on the golf course. I hit the ball from the tee and it went to the right. Tiger Woods couldn’t have done that. It bounced off the golf cart. Wally Parks, founder of the NHRA, was sitting there and he didn’t see the ball and it just missed him. So they said, ‘you drive the beer cart.’ Me and my buddy drove the beer cart and drove it all day and we were so drunk.”

Now, as for the gators: “So we went swimming in a big old pond. A guy come by and said, ‘Hey, get out of there, there’s (water) moccasins in there.’ I almost got ate by a gator in Florida a couple weeks ago. If it’s a gator, it’s put there on a rail. … I was in a restaurant once in Florida with my brother, we looked out a window and saw a gator walking around across the back of the restaurant. So we went out there and a guy said, ‘Are you nuts?’ I said how could they just let a gator walk around there. They said, ‘you better be afraid.’ If I’m going to go down, if it ain’t in a race car, I want to tangle with a great white (shark).”

While there’s still plenty more to come in the podcast, we’ll leave you with one last Force comment that presents a strong visual: “And then I watched the ‘The Exorcist.’ Oh man, I got a real problem. I sat in my bedroom, hugging my teddy bear, waiting for the exorcist to come in.”

Once again, tune in to the TV version of the Dale Jr. Download today on NASCAR America on NBCSN from 5-6 p.m. ET., or hear the full interview with John Force by clicking here.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”