DATE OF BIRTH: May 4, 1949
HOMETOWN: Yorba Linda, Calif.
FC CAREER WINS: 148
FC CAREER FINAL ROUNDS: 248
FC CAREER NO. 1: 155
CAREER BEST ET: 3.832 (Gainesville, 2017)
CAREER BEST SPEED: 335.15 mph (Pomona 1, 2017)
John Force 2017
John Force is not one to sit still. Even after a Hall of Fame-career that includes a record 16 Funny Car championships and 147 NHRA victories, Force is still hungry to add to his legacy.
As Force races for his 17th championship in 2017, he’ll be guided by new leadership on his PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Crew chief Jimmy Prock returns to John Force Racing, and he’ll be joined by co-crew chief Chris Cunningham.
“I’m putting the band back together,” Force said. “Jimmy Prock is returning home, and Chris Cunningham is coming with him. This is a great opportunity to grow the company as NHRA continues to grow, too. To bring talents like Jimmy and Cunningham will make John Force Racing stronger. And it will make the PEAK Chevrolet a NHRA Mello Yello championship contender.”
Force has been a title contender for most of his brilliant career, and he was again in 2016. Force won at Denver, Sonoma, Charlotte and Las Vegas to increase his career total to a record 147, far ahead of the next closest competitor in the NHRA record book. He finished fourth in the Funny Car points standings, the 32nd consecutive season he ended up in the top 10 – another NHRA record.
Among his numerous other records include 1,263 round wins, of which 33 were added last season.
Despite that solid season, Force hopes to improve in 2017 with the addition of Prock and Cunningham, who helped Jack Beckman set records the previous two seasons. Prock has 41 career victories at JFR - 27 with Robert Hight, 8 with Gary Densham and 6 with Force.
Force’s most recent Funny Car title in 2013 was an uphill battle. To say it was a dogfight for just going rounds, let alone winning races would be an understatement. Some racers even doubted his 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, though his team lost every game he played for three seasons.
But that didn’t discourage Force to follow his dreams and achieve his goals in life. If anything, it taught the 16-time champ a valuable life lesson to never give up, especially when he began his racing career in 1974.
It was on a tour of Australia that the novice 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 OK, but he would tell fans for decades, “I’ve been on fire from here to Australia.”
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 an 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 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 and future wife Laurie met when he was getting beat nearly every weekend at drag strips across the country.
Laurie was a team member herself, packing parachutes, mixing fuel and backing the car after Force’s notoriously long burnouts. With virtually no encouragement from anyone, Laurie even suggested that John should quit but then realized they 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 newly acquired sponsors Coca-Cola and Wendy’s, fellow racers began to take Force’s Corvette Funny Car seriously.
It’s this fighting spirit within Force’s soul that has had him putting on his firesuit 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.
Even through the darkest days of Force’s racing career – such as the tragic and sudden death of his friend and teammate Eric Medlen, 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 10,000 horsepower Funny Cars safer.
Even though it’s about winning, John knows it’s also about safety. With daughters Brittany and Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight behind the wheel of their own supercharged race cars, John makes sure they’re as safe as possible.
Looking toward the future, Force named Hight as JFR president in 2012. Daughter Adria Force Hight serves as Chief Financial Officer and daughter Ashley Force Hood is Vice President and President of the John Force Entertainment production studio.
Another aspect that sets John Force apart from those who have dominated in other fields, from sports to business to politics, is his longevity and his determination. Force has maintained a solid partnership with long-time sponsors Auto Club and Mac Tools, and he’s developed new relationships with PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil, Monster Energy, Advance Auto Parts and Chevrolet. The constant salesman and showman continues to amaze on the race track.
He won a tour event in 29 of the last 30 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.