Wolfe: The Pro 5.0 days, the Fun Ford Weekends, were fun, racing heads-up. Handicap starting is fantastic, because it made racing affordable to everybody, but I like heads-up. I always thought I was born 10 years too late; that I should have grown up in the '60s when all the muscle cars were around. But I was really lucky, because in the late '80s and early '90s, when the 5.0L fuel-injected Mustangs really took off, I was already in my late twenties, and I had enough money to where I could be competitive.
MM&FF: You still have the '86 5.0L Mustang at home in your shop. What's the best run you ever made?
Wolfe: I ran 8.35 at over 165 with nitrous on the car back in 1994. Now I've taken all that off the car. I did a Super Stock back-half on the car, and now the rules call for either stock rear suspension or a full-tube chassis, and my car is in the middle, just another back-half Mustang, so it's not competitive.
MM&FF: You're the first real racer ever to run this department at Ford Racing. Does that give you an advantage or a disadvantage in running this organization?
Wolfe: It gives me a different perspective. The real reason we're here, the reason for Ford's motorsports involvement, is to sell more cars, to improve the company's image. That's what we're all about, and that's what we'll be about in the future. My perspective may help us to reach out to the Sportsman racers more than we did previously. The Sportsmen are very loyal people, and they help us sell more cars to their friends and neighbors. Our quality, safety, and fuel efficiency are all very competitive now with anybody else out there, and our customers help tell our story.
MM&FF: Let's talk a little bit about Funny Car racing and safety. Ford was already leading the chassis improvement program for Funny Cars and dragsters, so what do you do now? Is there going to have to be a complete redesign of the Funny Car for safety?
Wolfe: The short answer is that we are proceeding with John Force Racing with safety enhancements that we think will be the next logical step, and the three-rail Funny Car with a wider cockpit or cocoon for the driver. We think these are huge steps in the right direction. John Force is very receptive, of course, because of what happened in his own team over the last 18 months.
Wolfe attended the MM&FF 20th Anniversary Reader Appreciation Party at Atco Raceway during
MM&FF: But can you leverage your horsepower and John Force's horsepower with NHRA to say to them, we have done all the research, the CAD drawings, the crash tests, and we think that, after a certain future date, all Funny Cars should be redesigned?
Wolfe: NHRA has already made enhancements that were put in place at the Denver race this year. There's also a level that goes beyond that, which all the Force cars have. All of those designs are not proprietary, and anyone can use them. I haven't met with NHRA myself, but I will be talking to (NHRA president) Tom Compton. We will push it as hard as we dare, as hard as we can push. The only question they may have is if this is enough improvement to mandate it. I don't think there will be a lot of resistance.
MM&FF: Before we leave the subject of drag racing, what about Pro Stock? Ford has been completely absent from Pro Stock drag racing for the best part of a generation.
Wolfe: Obviously, we're not even close to making that bold a statement about Pro Stock. The company is in the process of right-sizing, and at this point in time, we are trying to define where we want to go in the future. But, I can't see us getting into a factory-backed Pro Stock drag racing program, because we just don't have the resources. It will take a lot to catch up to where the other teams are. We would need to develop a 500-inch block and cylinder heads that we think someone will latch onto and do an independent development, and see if customers step up and buy them. However, we don't see a factory-backed program in the near future.