COMMENTARY | 64-year-old NHRA Funny Car champ John Force isn't about to slow down - not when he's staring a lack of sponsorship in the face. Force's John Force Racing team was informed last season that both Ford and Castrol were leaving the sport after 2014, after both sponsors had been with the driver for decades. The patriarch of the Force family team, which also includes daughters Courtney (Funny Car) and Brittany (Top Fuel) and son-in-law Robert Hight (Funny Car), has been busy seeking new sponsors for 2015 and beyond, but that doesn't mean he's going to stop doing what he loves - winning.
The 16-time champ opened up his title defense with a win in the Circle K NHRA Winternationals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in California, his seventh win in the event and 16th at his home track. Force picked up his 139th career win by defeating his most recent rival Matt Hagan - who was runner-up to Force for the championship in both 2010 and 2013 - in the final round on Sunday. Force earned round wins over Paul Lee, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Bob Tasca III.
Force kicked off the weekend by resetting the national elapsed time and national speed records in qualifying on Friday, running 3.966 seconds at 324.12 mph. While the speed held up, Force was able to better the elapsed time record during the finals with a 3.965-second run, earning a 20-point bonus for setting the new record.
"We had a good race car. It's amazing," said Force. "We're trying to build our sport and come out here and run good for you all and the fans, and it's hard sometimes. Jimmy Prock and that whole brain trust did a great job. We're back in the game. Everything's just going right. I don't get it. I ain't that good of a guy. I'm just excited. There's a lot going on (with sponsors), and man, what a good time to flex your muscles."
Force did add a major associate sponsor for the 2014 season and beyond just prior to the season opener at Pomona: PEAK Antifreeze and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid will be on all four JFR cars as part of a multi-year agreement. "We are excited to add PEAK and BlueDEF to the John Force Racing team," said Force. "We pride ourselves on treating all of our sponsors like family for more than three decades. Bringing PEAK and BlueDEF into the family will make us stronger in 2014 and for many years to come. We have had a lot of conversations about the future and I know this will be a great deal for everyone."
Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were also winners at the NHRA Winternationals. alBalooshi earned his third career win by holding off Doug Kalitta; he also earned round wins over Tony Schumacher, 2013 Top Fuel champ Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence. Line earned his 32nd career win and third in the Winternationals by defeating Matt Hartford, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and V. Gaines.
The 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues Friday through Sunday, February 21 through 23 with the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona.
Sources: "Force, alBalooshi and Line Race to Victories at Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona," NHRA Media, February 9, 2014
"PEAK Joins John Force Racing as a Major Associate Sponsor," press release, February 7, 2014
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in motorsports. She also covers the NHRA at Examiner.com.
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