John Force wins AARWBA's Titus Award

POMONA, Calif. -- John Force made more history Saturday night as the first four-time winner of the Jerry Titus Memorial Award presented each year to the driver earning the most total votes in balloting for auto racing's official All-America Team as selected by the membership of the American Auto Racing Writers, Broadcasters Association (AARWBA).

Winner of 10 consecutive NHRA Funny Car Championships and a record 106 races in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Force broke a tie with former CART and Formula 1 Champion Mario Andretti and current Winston Cup standout Jeff Gordon. Each had won the Titus award three times.

John Force on his way to 100th Funny Car win.
Photo by Mike Stucker.

An All-America selection for a record 10th consecutive year and for the 11th time in his career, Force has earned the greatest number of All-America votes four times in the last seven seasons. He previously won the Titus Award, named for the late Jerry Titus, a former journalist and racer, in 1996, 1999 and 2000.

Gordon won the award in 1995, 1998 and 2001 and Andretti was the Titus winner in 1977, 1978 and 1984.

Force was recognized Saturday at the annual AARWBA banquet at the Sheraton Suites hotel on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fairplex. In addition to feting the 13 members of the 2002 All-America Team, the banquet honored racing pioneers Hershel McGriff and Parnelli Jones.

From Phoenix, Ariz., where he was the keynote speaker at a function hosted by Mac Tools, one of the principal associate sponsors of his team, Force said that "while it's great to win this award for the fourth time, I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to be there to accept in person and thank those who made it possible.

"This is the first time I've ever missed the banquet," Force lamented. "I've always tried to support the (AARWBA) because the media has always been so supportive in my career. It's a great honor to be in the company of guys like Mario Andretti and Gordon, but I couldn't have done any of it without (Crew Chief) Austin Coil and Castrol GTX. Both have been with me for 18 years."

In Force's absence, teammate Gary Densham accepted both his All-America award and the Titus Award.

Force is one of three drag racers to have won the Titus Award in the last 33 years. The first was Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, who led the All-America balloting after winning the 1976 NHRA Funny Car Championship, and Shirley Muldowney, who, in 1982, became the only woman to win the award after claiming her third NHRA Top Fuel title.

In addition to Force, the current All-America team also includes drag racers Larry Dixon and Frank Manzo, both first time selections. Dixon won the 2002 POWERade Top Fuel title and Manzo enjoyed a near-perfect season in the winning the Top Alcohol Funny Car championship.