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The Inside Track | MORNING BRIEFING

His Career Choice Put Him on the Right Track

May 18, 2003|John Weyler

Drag racer John Force, who has won 12 of the last 14 National Hot Road Assn. championships for funny cars, has come a long way from the trailer park in Bell Gardens where he lived while attending high school and the rundown motels he slept in with his crew as a struggling racer two decades ago.

He just bought a hilltop home on 28 acres -- he calls it "my mountain" -- near his Yorba Linda headquarters, sponsors three racing teams, has more than 50 employees and signs $60,000 worth of payroll checks each week.

"Twenty-three years ago, we raced the Wendy's car for $40,000 a year," he says, shaking his head. "Now, I've got technology guys on my payroll making $175,000 a year who I don't hardly ever see and I sure don't know what they do."

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Trivia time: Who is the only person other than Force to have won a funny car championship in the 1990s?

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Repels vampires too? Japanese rock climber Yuji Hirayama and American Hans Florine recently set a speed record for the Nose route up Yosemite's El Capitan. The two completed the climb -- which takes most amateurs five days -- in 2 hours 48 minutes and 55 seconds.

Hirayama is a pop phenom in Japan, where his likeness is plastered all over Tokyo, including energy-drink ads.

"The [energy] drinks in Japan use garlic," Hirayama told Outside magazine, "with other weird things to make you happy."

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Defender of the masses: Many thought Vijay Singh came off like a chauvinistic jerk when he said he hoped Annika Sorenstam missed the cut at the Colonial, but Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News believes Singh was just standing up for less-talented colleagues whose spots in the field were threatened when she accepted a sponsor's exemption.

"Vijay Singh should be lionized, not Bob Ryan-ized," according to Cowlishaw, who also said Singh "was perfectly within his rights to speak out against her presence, a sentiment surely shared by fellow PGA Tour pros who have in many cases remained silent."

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Team terrible: Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has a few suggestions for the folks at ABC on how to improve their broadcast crew for the NBA playoffs:

* "Split up [Bill] Walton and [Tom] Tolbert.

* "Get another lead play-by-play man. [Brad] Nessler isn't sharp enough for either Walton or Tolbert.

* "Assuming he's key to connecting with the 'X-Games audience,' move [Sal] Masakela from sideline reporting, where he's useless, to pregame and halftime features.

* "Never ask Ahmad Rashad to do another insipid essay. If his buddy Michael Jordan can retire three times, why can't Ahmad just once?"

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Trivia answer: Cruz Pedregon in 1992.

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And finally: Mike Hlas in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, writing on Wayne Morgan, the former Long Beach State basketball coach who was named coach at Iowa State on Wednesday:

"Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy gushed about Morgan's 'honesty, integrity, and exemplary moral character.' Whether the two had met before Tuesday, it wasn't clear."

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-- John Weyler

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