Keeping Pace

Force Not Ready For Retirement Yet

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

If you think that 14-time NHRA champion John Force is ready to leave the strip-think again.

"I'm in better shape than I was before the crash,"  the 126-time tour winner said of the September, 2007, accident that left him with injuries that confined him to a Dallas hospital for almost a month.  "I feel like I can still do this; I can still win.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

April 29, 2009-A recent article in the Wall Street Journal characterized John Force as, and we quote, "the owner of John Force Racing and once a dominant champion who still drives a Funny Car at (age) 59."  Nice. 

While technically accurate, that portrayal understandably struck a nerve with the 14-time champion who, 20 months after the crash that almost took his life, insists he still has a few more championships left in him.

The upshot is that this week's 13th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway has taken on a little more urgency for Force, who hasn't won a Full Throttle tour event in almost a year.

"I'm in better shape than I was before the crash,"  the 126-time tour winner said of the September, 2007, accident that left him with injuries that confined him to a Dallas hospital for almost a month.  "I feel like I can still do this; I can still win.

 "But saying it is one thing; doing it is something else.  Prudhomme (four-time former champion Don "the Snake" Prudhomme) told me that one day you just wake up and can't win any more.  I keep wondering if today's that day -- but I feel good and I've got a good hot rod.  I still love doing this."

Besides, it's not like Force is an NFL defensive back who no doubt would have lost a step or two by the time he approached 60 -- or even 30, for that matter.

"My car does the running for me," said the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection.  "My reaction times are still good and I've been down more racetracks than anyone out here.  What am I going to do, sit at home?  I'd drive my family crazy."

So, the tour is not close to getting rid of the one-time truck driver whose childhood dreams of a football career were ended by a bout of polio that left him with one leg shorter than the other.

Last year, Force made history at Gateway where he won his 1,000th racing round.  It was the only round he won before exiting, stage left, in round two.

This year, he's aiming a little higher.

If he can get his third Midwest Nationals victory, he not only would validate his latest championship bid, he would extend to 23 the number of consecutive years in which he has won at least one event and he would become the first driver in 40 years to win an NHRA tour event in a Ford-powered Ford Funny Car

Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage entry is one of two John Force Racing Mustangs presently powered by the new BOSS 500 Ford engine developed collaboratively by Ford and John Force Racing, Inc.

The last time a Ford-powered, Ford-engineered and Ford-bodied Funny Car won a tour event was Sept. 1, 1969.  Force hopes to end that long drought this week in a race in which he has gone the final round five times in the last 10 years.

Force, the only drag racer to have won as many as 100 tour events and the first named Driver of the Year for all of American motor sports (1996), hasn't been in a final round since he won last year's O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan.  That's one streak he's not interested in extending.




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.





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