FORCE WINS 15TH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, 8TH AUTO CLUB FINALS POMONA, CA -- On a day that could not have been scripted any better, the namesake of John Force Racing, 14-time Funny Car champion John Force, became a 15-time NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car...
FORCE WINS 15TH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, 8TH AUTO CLUB FINALS
POMONA, CA -- On a day that could not have been scripted any better, the namesake of John Force Racing, 14-time Funny Car champion John Force, became a 15-time NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car champion by racing to the semi-finals with wins over Gary Densham and Bob Bode. For Force it was more than a team effort because he had to have fellow Ford racer Bob Tasca III eliminate points leader Matt Hagan in a first round upset to open the door for Force's comeback win.
"We got it (the 15th championship) and we got it because of the shot heard round the world; Bobby Tasca III winning that first round in that Ford Mustang. We couldn't count on this kid (Matt) Hagan to stumble. We knew if we got him in the final it was too late. Somebody had to get him and Bobby got him. That opened the door for us. We just ran our cars and stayed with our game plan. I just have a great bunch of kids. I see the tears in their eyes, the emotion supporting me when I run out of steam, and taking the Full Throttle can out of my hand when I go over center," said the 132-time winner Force.
Force did not stop simply by clinching his championship he won two more rounds and the 46th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals ending the 2010 season on an 8-0 streak in eliminations dating back to the penultimate NHRA Las Vegas Nationals when he beat Hagan the final.
Force credited the championship to the addition of former crew chief turned driver turned crew chief Mike Neff. The trio of Neff, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly made all the right calls at the beginning of the season and then down the stretch.
"I give credit to a great bunch of guys led by Mike Neff who teamed up with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. There was so much experience there and so many championships. Neff just brought a new energy into this team. We went all year with the lead and then we stumbled in Reading when the clutch pedal fell off and we couldn't get it in reverse. We had meetings two or three times a week reinforcing the fact that we can't make any more mistakes. We opened the door for Hagan and he took advantage of it," said Force.
When Force was asked to comment on battling the young Virginian cattle rancher Force gushed about the future of one of the NHRA's brightest rising stars.
"He came over and congratulated me. Hagan is a class act. He has so many championships ahead of him it is going to happen. The kid is pretty calm and cool. He was like staring down a bull. I can read people pretty good. A lot of drivers over the years have had shaky knees but not that kid. He was like let's go dance and luckily we walked away with the championship. I needed that to come back to show I could still do this job," said a proud Force.
In a race career that is littered with records stacked upon records Force as added one more bullet point that he is reticent to promote. With his 15th Full Throttle world championship he becomes the oldest champion in all of motorsports at the age of 61 years and six months out-distancing NHRA Pro Stock driver Warren "The Professor" Johnson who was 58 years old when he won his last championship.
The championship also gives John Force Racing 17 Funny Car championships in 21 years. To put that achievement into perspective, the Boston Celtics have won 17 NBA titles since they first tipped in up in 1946.
The battle for the championship was something that the six-time winner and eleven-time finalist in 2010 weathered with a determination that flew in the face of normal convention. When he won his first championship in 1990 it was getting over the first hurdle for the winningest driver in NHRA history.
"The first one (championship) is always the most satisfying because you never know if you are going to get it. My knees were knocking on the first one. I go up there and I do the drill. Probably the next most was after we lost Eric and then my crash when we got together with Ford."
In 2007 Force suffered his most devastating season from a personal stand-point with the loss of teammate Eric Medlen and then his own crash at the Texas Motorplex in September. Months of rehab had him back in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang for the start of the 2008 NHRA season but only one win over the next two seasons had a number of people questioning the wisdom of moving forward. Force never lost the faith in his beliefs that a safer car could be designed that could also win championships. He also had nearly unprecedented support from his many sponsors.
"Everyone worked together to build a race car that would be fast, light and affordable but also would protect the driver and win championships. Last year Robert (Hight) won and I was a mess not even winning a race last year. Castrol stood with me with all my other sponsors. They could have walked away. They have stood with me for twenty five years. Auto Club and (CEO) Tom McKernan were the same way. They said they weren't just with me because I won championships. It was the fact that I spread the gospel and the way I am with the people. All my other sponsors Ford, BrandSource, Mac Tools, they could have quit in this economy they had every right to take their money back instead of investing it in a guy with broken arms and legs. I lived in that gym. When I cried and said I didn't have it anymore my kids and wife told me that wasn't the John Force that they knew and loved. I just sucked it up. They helped turn me into a tiger," said Force.
"To come back from there (the Dallas accident) my whole life has been the road and racing. That is all I've ever known since I was kid driving trucks. In high school I raced at Lions Drag Strip. I snuck my mom's car out of the garage. This is the only place I want to be. I don't know how to go home. If they took the driving away from me I would be done. This is my focus every day of my life," said Force.
"My baby girl (Ashley Force Hood) is out here. She is telling me she'll make me proud telling me if I get him (Hagan) in the semis and I'll give him everything I've got. I told her she already made me proud. I am proud of Robert for winning the championship last year. I told them both I am so proud of the two of you and if we don't get him then maybe he is just better than us this year."
Ashley Force Hood also moved up in the points from fourth to third in the Full Throttle point standings with her first round win over Jim Head combined with a first round loss by Jack Beckman. Robert Hight finished his season in 8th place after dropping his first round race with Melanie Troxel.