There are few professional drivers that have had such an amazing and somewhat illustrious career like John Force. It was his sheer determination; strength and perseverance that helped this legendary drag racer clinch his 16th NHRA® Mello Yello® Funny Car World Championship in 2013.
In retrospect, 2013 was an uphill battle for John Force. To say it was a dogfight for just going rounds, let alone winning races would be an understatement. In the thick of it, the legendary John Force reshuffled his crew chiefs and teams much to the chagrin of his competition. Some racers even doubted John’s ability to stay in the game and felt his best days as a competitor were in the rearview mirror. Little did they know this iconic driver had a plan and was well on his way to winning his 16th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Championship.
Maybe it was John’s humble beginnings of being the youngest of five siblings with his fry cook mom and truck driving dad. He overcame childhood polio to become the quarterback of his high school football team only to lose every game he played for three seasons.
However, that didn’t discourage John to follow his dreams and achieve his goals in life. If anything, it taught the 2013 champ a valuable life lesson to never give up, especially when he began his racing career way back in 1974. It was on a tour of Australia that the novice John Force experienced his first catastrophic mechanic failure of his hard charging Funny Car as flames engulfed the fiberglass body. Exiting the burning wreck, John was okay but he would later tell fans for decades, “I’ve been on fire from here to Australia,”.
John Force’s reputation as “disaster on four wheels” was prevalent among the established Funny Car racers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. For nine long seasons, he didn’t win a single NHRA tour event and was looked down upon as a half-baked racer that blows up his engine and throws parts all over the track. Starting his racing career with less than stellar reputation as a serious competitor, who could have imagined that John Force would become the most prolific winning driver in NHRA history.
Behind every good racer is a spouse that helps do whatever it takes to get the car down the race track. John’s wife, Laurie, met John when he was get beat every weekend at drag strips across the country. Laurie knew what she signed up for and the fact she was a team member that packed the parachutes, mixed the fuel and backed the car proved her love and dedication to her husband and his dreams. With virtually no encouragement from anyone, Laurie even suggested that John should quit but then realized that she and John were in this for the long haul through good times and bad.
It wasn’t until 1985 and the arrival of Austin Coil as crew chief that John Force’s career began to get traction. With his newly acquired sponsors, Coca-Cola and Wendy’s, fellow racers began to take John’s Corvette Funny Car seriously. Things really got into high-gear when a year later, John Force signed his first contract with Castrol GTX for a modest $5,000 plus oil.
It’s this fighting spirit within John’s soul that has had him putting on his fire suit and strapping himself into the seat of a nitro Funny Car for over three decades. Force has won more rounds, more races and more championships than anyone. He’s sold more souvenirs, given more motivational speeches and delivered more memorable one-liners. Furthermore, with Castrol, his sponsor since 1986, he’s closing in on the record for the longest continuous marketing relationship in sports.
Even through the darkest days of Force’s racing career such as the tragic and sudden death of his friend and teammate Eric Medlin along with John’s own crippling accident at Dallas, both in 2007, John never threw in the towel. If anything, he was more determined to make these 8,000 horsepower Funny Cars safer. Even though it’s about winning, John knows it’s also about safety. With daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney behind the wheel of their own supercharged race cars, John makes sure they’re as safe as possible.
Anything aspect that sets John Force apart from those who have dominated in other fields, from sports to business to politics, is his longevity. We also know John’s not ready to climb out of the driver’s seat anytime soon as it’s Best Miles Ahead for the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car Champion.
He has been a Top 10 finisher for 29 consecutive seasons, an NHRA record, and has won a tour event in 25 of the last 26 years, failing to do so only in 2009, two years after surviving a potentially fatal accident at Dallas, Texas.
Such success led in 2012 to his enshrinement as a first ballot inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. He also is a member of the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Mich., and in 1996 was the first drag racer ever recognized as Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing.
For 2014, the familiar Castrol GTX® High Mileage® paint scheme will be on John Force’s Mustang Funny Car as he sets out to claim an unprecedented 17th NHRA Funny Car championship. While this is no easy task for any driver, John is ready to take on the challenge. With over 8000-horsepower at his command, John can rest assure that when he steps on the throttle, his engine is protected by our great products that are up to the task of him getting him to his 17th world title.
So far in 2014, John Force in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang has set both ends of the NHRA record with a 3.965 second ET at over 324 miles per hour while winning the NHRA Winternationals. John also was runner-up to Robert Hight at the NHRA Gatornationals. Currently, he just trails his fellow teammate, son-in-law and president of John Force Racing Inc., Robert Hight but it’s a long season and we know John will surpass his record of a 139 NHRA Funny Car wins before too long.