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|Born||John Harold Force
May 4, 1949
Bell Gardens, California, U.S.
|Related to||Laurie Force (wife)
Adria Hight (daughter)
Ashley Force Hood (daughter)
Brittany Force (daughter)
Courtney Force (daughter)
Robert Hight (son-in-law)
Graham Rahal (son-in-law)
Autumn Hight (granddaughter)
|Teams||John Force Racing|
|Best finish||1st (16 times) in 1990 1991 1992 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013|
|1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013||16 NHRA Championships|
John Harold Force (born May 4, 1949 in Bell Gardens, California) is an American NHRA drag racer. He is a 16-time Funny Car champion driver and an 18-time champion car owner. Force owns and drives for John Force Racing. He is one of the most dominant drag racers in the sport with 144 career victories. He graduated from Bell Gardens High School and briefly attended Cerritos Junior College to play football. He is the father of drag racers Ashley Force Hood, Brittany Force, and Courtney Force. His oldest daughter Adria Hight is the CFO of John Force Racing [JFR].
Current drivers racing under him are son-in-law Robert Hight, and daughters Brittany and Courtney. Mike Neff was crew chief for John two separate times. Effective July 2013 Jimmy Prock replaced Mike Neff as crew chief, with Mike Neff becoming crew chief for Robert Hight. Neff, who was once the Crew chief for rival driver Gary Scelzi, raced in a 4th Funny Car for Team Force from October 26, 2007, following the death of Eric Medlen, until the end of the 2009 season. However, in 2010, after a 2009 season in which Force did not win a single race, Force parked his 4th car, and named Neff as his new crew chief instead. This decision resulted in Force winning his 15th NHRA Championship. His nickname among several of the drivers, as well as several announcers within the sport of drag racing is "Brute Force", a nickname he earned by his dominating wins during his run of ten straight NHRA championships. Force, his daughters, Courtney, Ashley, and Brittany, and son-in-law Robert Hight are collectively known in drag racing as "The First Family of Drag Racing".
Force was born to Harold and Betty Ruth Force. As a child he lived in logging camps, Indian reservations, migrant farms and trailer parks. He survived childhood polio with therapy and perseverance of his mother and family. He played football in high school and attended Cerritos College.
John is one of six children of Harold and Betty Ruth Force. John had five siblings. Walker, Louie, Tom (now deceased), and Cindy Hem (married to Skip Hem) were all older than John. Dana (Baby Force) Marino, is ten years younger than John. Walker and Cindy still live near John in Southern California. Walker Force and Louie Force have worked with John over the years, but Walker Force is the only sibling now working at JFR. Younger sister Dana (Marino) did not grow up in the same house or spend any time with the family in the early years of the Force Family Racing activities. Dana now attends some of the NHRA events as she is a part-time Intern-Journalist with "The Motorsports Report" based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and resides an hour south in Kingman, AZ. She is a realtor by trade, but is Aunt Dana to Adria, Ashley, Courtney and Brittany. Much of the family still attends NHRA National events to cheer on John, Robert Hight (Adria's husband), Courtney and Brittany when the events are closer to their homes in Pomona, Las Vegas, Sonoma, and Phoenix.
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Early in his career, Force drove a Corvette, a Monza and then in the 1980s switched to an Oldsmobile Cutlass through the end of the 1993 season. He drove a Chevrolet for 1994, quickly changing to a Pontiac in 1995 and 1996. Force was a Ford driver and team owner from 1997 until 2014, when he returned to Chevrolet.
Between 1987 and 1996, Force won sixty-seven of 203 NHRA national events, four of nine Big Bud Shootouts, and six World Championships. In 1996, with Austin Coil tuning, Force went to the final round in sixteen of nineteen national events, taking thirteen wins, one of the best records ever in Funny Car history. His domination would continue, with ten NHRA FC World Championship wins from 1993 to 2002, including six straight 1997-2002; his success was so amazing, he was accused of cheating (and was willing to strip off his firesuit to prove he was not). Between 1997 and 2006, Force went to the final in 105 of 228 events and took sixty-one tour wins, as well as qualifying for all ten Big Bud Shootouts, winning in 2000 and 2006.Between 1997 and 2006, Force went to the final in 105 of 228 events and took sixty-one tour wins. On top of that, he had ten of the quickest or fastest passes in Funny Car.
Force's points finishes were 23rd, 8th, 26th, 16th, 20th, 4th, 13th, and 5th from 1978-1985. Force then had Castrol Motor Oil jump on as his main sponsor, and was even more successful. From 1986-1995, he finished 4th, 4th, 6th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, and 1st. He then had fellow driver and arch-rival Cruz Pedregon's younger brother, Tony, come aboard to drive John's 2nd car. From 1996-2000, John finished 1st all 5 years. In 2001, John had longtime friend and fellow drag racer Gary Densham drive a third car. In that same year, John once again finished as the champion, which he followed up with an astronomical 10th straight world title in 2002. In 2003, for the 1st time since 1992, John didn't win the title. It was not all lost however, because teammate Tony Pedregon won his 1st world title. At the end of the season, Tony Pedregon went on to join brother Cruz in their own racing organization, and Gary Densham went on to race independently. John found quick and personal talent in 2 young-guns. Eric Medlen, son of long-time JFR crewmember John Medlen, came on to race. John's other driver, Robert Hight, was his son-in-law and crewmember. Both had a lot of success in their season, but John topped both in 2004 with a 13th world title.
Since 2000, Force has been sponsored by BP's Castrol brand, continuing the relationship between Force and Castrol that began in 1985. After winning his fourth Funny Car title in 1994, Force earned the nickname of "Brute Force" from drivers, and even announcers such as Steve Evans. This nickname hearkens back to his early days on the track, when he drove his own unsponsored car, named "Brute Force". Force had a cameo in a 2004 episode of King of the Hill ("Dale Be Not Proud"), in which Dale Gribble donates a kidney to Force, after which it appears he does not need it.
In 2006, Force won his 14th NHRA World Funny Car Championship, defeating Capps in the quarter-finals of the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals which mathematically eliminated Capps and teammate Robert Hight from the championship. Force went on to win the event, his third of the season and 122nd of his career.
After the death of Eric Medlen, and John Force's crash in Ennis, Texas at the 2007 O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals, Force started 2007 poorly, suffering a DNQ ending a 20+ year consecutive qualifying streak. He rebounded, winning the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee, then proceeded on to three more final rounds, winning another race in Sonoma, California, putting him fourth in points and allowing him to make the first cut in NHRA's new point system, the Countdown to the Championship aka the "Countdown to Eight". He stumbled again in the next two races but, again, rebounded until his crash.
On September 23, 2007, Force was injured in a crash at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas as he crossed the finish line against Kenny Bernstein. Bernstein's Funny Car drifted into Force's lane, clipping the final timing cone and a foam block which shot into Force's lane. Initially, it was thought that the block ruptured Force's left rear tire, causing it to come apart, violently shaking the chassis until it broke apart. However, it was determined by NHRA after thorough review, that the block went behind Force's tire and was not the cause of the wreck. Injuries sustained were a broken ankle, abrasion of his right knee, a dislocated left wrist, and badly mangled fingers and toes. Phil Burkart Jr. was added as Force's replacement for the remainder of the 2007 season, starting at Las Vegas.
2008 was a subpar season for Force who finished 7th, out of the top five for the first time since early in his career. However, after the death of driver Scott Kalitta, he was instrumental in the development of some of the safety precautions that were implemented throughout the rest of the season, and along with retired 6 time world champion Kenny Bernstein [4 Funny Car titles, 2 Top Fuel titles] and seven-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, with backing from NHRA's Track Safety Committee, assisted in developing a sensor that monitors the engines of Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars. Should the engine backfire at any time during a race, the fuel pump is automatically shut down, and the parachutes are deployed. The idea was to either minimize or eliminate the circumstances that led to Kalitta's death. This safety device became mandatory and was put into place at the start of the 2009 season. Also, a brake handle that, instead of needing to be pulled back toward the driver, was set up to be pushed away from the driver was made an optional setting for the Funny Car division. This change happened because when the 2008 season began, Force's right arm was still in a cast, due to broken fingers, and he needed a different way of using the brakes on the car, rather than the traditional handbrake that needed to be brought back toward the driver; also, in the 2007 accident in Texas, Force had lost some grip in his right hand, and had some problems putting enough pressure on the handbrake to unlock it from position to apply the brakes. This led to the development of the forward application handbrake, which has given several drivers in the Funny Car class quicker access to the brakes. Though Force only finished seventh in the points in 2008, he became influential within the NHRA for innovations in driver safety.
2009 once again saw Force finish outside of the top five. John finished 9th, daughter Ashley finished 2nd, and Mike Neff placing 10th. However, he would win his 16th overall championship as a car owner, with teammate Robert Hight's championship, placing Force as the winningest car owner in NHRA history.
The start of the 2010 season saw Force celebrate 25 years with the same sponsor, as well as 34 years in the NHRA. On February 14, Force won the season opener at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in the 50th Winternationals in California defeating Ron Capps. After 13 events, Force had 4 wins, and lead the Funny Car points standings with 933, 58 ahead of teammate Robert Hight.
Going into the Auto Club of Southern California Finals in Pomona, CA on November 14, 2010, Force needed some help to win the championship. He started the day 38 points behind 28-year-old Matt Hagan, who ran for team rival Don Shumacher and his team. In order to capture the championship he needed to finish two rounds ahead of Hagan. With Bob Tasca III taking Hagan out in the first round, Force won his first round over Gary Densham and second round win over Bob Bode, securing the championship. He then went on to victory beating Melanie Troxel in the semi-finals and in the final, defeated Jeff Arend. John Force now has the distinction of being the oldest NHRA champion in history. Long time crew chief Austin Coil resigned from John Force Racing on November 16, 2010.
As of February 7, 2011, JFR has already flip-flopped cars between John, Robert, Ashley, and Mike. Ashley Force Hood announced that she was expecting her 1st child, and would sit out the 2011 Full Throttle Drag Racing Season. John Force would drive Force Hood's new Ford Mustang with Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuning, sponsored by Castrol Motor Oil. Robert Hight will remain in the Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang. Mike Neff, after co-crew chiefing John Force's car with Austin Coil, will drive Force's car from John's 2010 championship season. Neff's Ford Mustang will be sponsored by Castrol Oil. As of February 7, 2011, JFR started testing for the 2011 season. Out of the 11 testers so far, Force is 1st, Hight was 5th, and Neff was 6th. As of July 31, Force is 7th in the points standings, while teammate Mike Neff is leading, and Robert Hight is in second.
2012 saw John welcome a fourth driver to his stable, former Top Alcohol Dragster champion, and daughter Courtney, who was in the running for the Auto Club Rookie of the Year Award, she will be driving the Traxxas Ford Mustang in her rookie season, and she has done something that only sister Ashley has done, beat her father in the first meeting between the two, taking John out of the Arizona Nationals in Phoenix in just the first round. Although Force was unable to retain the championship, finishing in fifth, he saw Courtney win something he never did, the NHRA Road to the Future Rookie of the Year award, and Courtney's second-place finish in the season helped cement John Force Racing's legacy for several years to come.
During the start of the 2013 season, Ashley announced her retirement from full-time competition, this left the Force team short a driver. Rather than find another driver to take Ashley's place within the Castrol GTX Funny Car, John did something he had never done before, field a Top Fuel car, with daughter Brittany behind the wheel. On July 26, 2013 it was announced that after the 2014 racing season Ford Motor Company would no longer be a part of John Force Racing. It was also announced that after the 2014 racing season, primary sponsor Castrol would be leaving JFR after a 29-year business relationship
During the penultimate race of the 2013 season, Force beat his daughter Courtney in the final round to win the race and his 16th NHRA Funny Car Championship.
In 2015 John announced a partnership with Chevrolet. He competed in the 2015 racing season with a new sponsorship deal from Peak Antifreeze.
Achievements and awards
- Selected as "Driver of the Year" for all of American motor racing in 1996 by a national panel of motorsports journalists, the first drag racer ever so honored.
- 139 wins in 226 final rounds (first driver with 100 wins)
- First NHRA drag racer to achieve 1,000 career elimination round wins (1,000th win: first round, 2008 NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Int'l Raceway in St. Louis, Missouri), where he defeated Ron Capps for the 1,000th round win.
- First driver to set an official NHRA Funny Car elapsed time under five seconds in the quarter mile (October 16, 1993, Texas Motorplex, 4.996).
- 16-time NHRA champion driver, and 18-time champion owner
- Ranked #2 on the NHRA Top 50 Drivers, 1951–2000, behind Don Garlits
- With daughter Ashley, first father/daughter pair to compete against each other, during the first round of the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta in 2007, which Ashley won.
- Only driver to have won more than ten championships in his division, beating the record once held by retired NHRA Pro Stock Champion Bob Glidden, who had 10 championships
- Most event #1 qualifications in NHRA history, with 147 (as of February 8, 2014)
- Force received the Lee Iacocca Award at Bristol Dragway on June 16, 2012
- Most consecutive championship seasons - 10 (1993-2002)
- "John Force: Driver". John Force Racing. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
- "Changing things up, and I ain't dead yet -- John Force's Autoweek blog". autoweek.com. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- "John Force not slowing down and his competitors know it". Motorsport.com. Retrieved 2016-02-29.
- Geiger, Rob (November 25, 2013). "Ways of the Force". Autoweek. 63 (23): 61.
- personal family interviews and Dana Marino, The Motorsports Report.
- Burk, Jeff. "50 Years of Funny Cars: Part 3" in Drag Racer, November 2016, p.53.
- Burk, p.54.
- Burk, p.60.
- Burk, p.60.
- Burk, p.60.
- Burk, Jeff. "50 Years of Funny Cars: Part 3" in Drag Racer, November 2016, p.56.
- NHRA driver Force can't recall crash, http://wayback.archive.org/web/20090309133648/http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/092507dnspoforceupdate.105ff9951.html. Retrieved June 1, 2016. Missing or empty
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- "Castrol ending 29-year partnership with NHRA's John Force Racing". autoweek.com. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
-  Although Chuck Etchells had beaten Force to the five-second barrier October 1, 1993, with a 4.987 at Topeka, Etchells failed to make a subsequent pass within one percent of that time at the event, which is required to set an official record. Force ran a subsequent pass within one percent.
- Official website
- Interview with John Force
- The Truth about Force's crash and heat-treated funny car chassis
- Thinking Back To An Eye-Opening Day With John Force[dead link]
- Pro file on NHRA.com
- Driving Force website
- Driving Force profile
- John Force at the Internet Movie Database
- Even at 65, he’s still NHRA drag racing’s driving Force - NBC Sports, Jerry Bonkowski, October 3, 2014