John Force won his first race in a Chevrolet product and he’ll win his next NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car contest in a Chevrolet Camaro, it was announced today by Force, company president Robert Hight, Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell and...
The effervescent Force, who has 16 Funny Car titles on his resume and has won 141 races leading up to this 2015 season, made the announcement on a conference call. All three of the John Force Racing (JFR) Funny Car entries, for Force, Hight and daughter Courtney will be Chevrolet Camaro floppers.
“This was an opportunity to go back to my roots,” bellowed Force, whose first 60 starts were behind the wheel of a Chevrolet product. From 1978-80 he raced a Corvette before switching to a Chevrolet Citation (1981-2), Camaro (1983-4), Corvette for 1985 and then a Cavalier the following year. He won the 1994 NHRA Funny Car title with a Chevrolet Lumina, posting a 50-8 record in 11 final rounds, with 10 victories and 12 No. 1 qualifiers.
Campbell, Chevrolet’s vice president for performance vehicles and motorsports said he’d been talking with the team for a while and interest grew within General Motors. He remarked that Force is “a a racer’s racer and a legend on and off the track. He’s a fierce competitor and we’re proud to welcome him back to Chevrolet.”
Force had been working with Ford and Castrol for a long period of time but knew two years ago that the two long-time partners would be leaving. He announced the addition of Peak products at Las Vegas, the penultimate race on the schedule and revealed Lucas Oil as his lubricant partner during the Pomona finale. “These days you can’t race without a manufacturer,” Force stated. “We needed a major sponsor and people kept asking where we were going with a manufacturer. Everybody wanted me to stay with Detroit and GM was where I wanted to land,” he emphasized. “It’s a change and this change is good.”
The deal with Chevrolet was Force’s best holiday gift as the contract was signed just before Christmas. “My heart was with Detroit because John Force Racing is American-made. We build 90 percent of our cars here and this new relationship is right for us,” Force said.
This was an opportunity to go back to my roots.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Force had no discussions with Dodge but he did talk with Toyota because he’s got friends in that company. “They have a big group of teams and drivers and we did have conversations but nothing was in writing or on the table. This is where I wanted to land,” he said. “The key is that we have Chevrolet to ourselves in Funny Car. The key is we’ve got an exclusive.”
More testing needed
There have been no aero or wind tunnel tests on the new Camaro body that Force, Hight and Courtney Force will debut at Pomona the first weekend of February during the season-opening Winternationals. The body has been approved by NHRA - which must occur before it can race in competition - and all lengthy revamps and redesigns to create the Camaro body are, as of today untested. John Force Racing will be spending the coming week at Phoenix’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona testing the three cars to get them ready for the 24-race grind.
There have been many changes at John Force Racing since the end of the 2014 season. Shortly before the closure of competition in NHRA, Force’s tuner Jimmy Prock left to join Don Schumacher Racing and after the season was complete, John Medlen left to join Prock in tuning Jack Beckman’s Dodge Charger R/T. Dean Antonelli, who had been working with Brittany Force on her Top Fuel dragster, together with Todd Smith, will now handle business development for the team, as JFR begins selling more components to competitors.
“John Force Racing has to reinvent ourselves for the future for financial reasons. We race what we make and we’re selling those products to others. John Force isn’t broke,” he contended. “I’m strong; I could fund the car (Brittany’s) and I would if I had to but now I don’t have to.” Brittany’s sponsor is expected to be announced at either Phoenix or Gainesville, the second and third races of the year. “I know what I’m doing with the Top Fuel car,” he contended. “Brittany will be there with a full budget.”
Last year daughter Ashley Force-Hood got her competition license renewed and Force said that, should anything happen with anyone else on the team, she would be the backup driver, perhaps doing testing chores when her siblings, her father or brother-in-law have other obligations.
Campbell, whose company won 11 titles (drivers’ and manufacturers’) in several different series last year, including Stock Eliminator, Super Stock and, of course, with Erica Enders-Stevens in NHRA’s Pro Stock class in 2014, said Chevrolet, which has sponsored the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals the past two years is looking forward to expanding its drag racing presence throughout the country. With Chevy being the official truck of NHRA and with GM’s big reach throughout the Mello Yello and Lucas Oil Sportsman ranks in drag racing, “We are focused forward to to be hyper competitive on the track. We’ve got an amazing lineup at John Force Racing and we look to bring home another NHRA manufacturers’ championship.