NASCAR Charlotte Auto Racing

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

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After Formula One races through the streets of Monaco in the morning and IndyCar takes on the Indianapolis 500 in the afternoon, NASCAR will host the nightcap in Sunday’s tripleheader of big races with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Last year’s 600 took a turn for the bizarre when a guide rope for an overhead TV camera came loose and fell onto the track, injuring multiple fans and damaging some cars as well.

At the end of the night, Kevin Harvick won out after taking the lead from Kasey Kahne on the final restart with 11 laps remaining.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know going into Round 12 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

CHARLOTTE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Fastenal Ford)
· Five top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 14.6, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, sixth-best
· 302 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 1,296 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.139 mph, sixth-fastest
· 3,891 Laps in the Top 15 (60.4%), seventh-most
· 689 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), eighth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Made In America Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 18.9
· Driver Rating of 84.7, 10th-best
· 204 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 3,434 Laps in the Top 15 (53.3%), 10th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Nine top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9
· Average Running Position of 9.7, second-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, second-best
· 452 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.928 mph, second-fastest
· 5,106 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%), second-most
· Series-high 923 Quality Passes

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)
· Five top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 14.7, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.8, seventh-best
· 1,463 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 175.970 mph, 10th-fastest
· 4,007 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), sixth-most
· 735 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s; nine poles
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 15.1, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.8, eighth-best
· 219 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.189 mph, fifth-fastest
· 3,855 Laps in the Top 15 (59.9%), eighth-most
· 700 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· Four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.2
· Average Running Position of 12.3, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 93.4, fifth-best
· 220 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.102 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,488 Laps in the Top 15 (74.3%), third-most
· 725 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet)
· Six wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 11.6
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.8
· Series-best Driver Rating of 111.1
· 621 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 1,292 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 176.938 mph
· Series-high 5,588 Laps in the Top 15 (86.8%)
· 922 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance / ThankAMillionTeachers.com Chevrolet)
· Four wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.4
· Average Running Position of 11.3, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.6, third-best
· Series-high 662 Fastest Laps Run
· 1,432 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.273 mph, third-fastest
· 4,462 Laps in the Top 15 (69.3%), fourth-most
· 814 Quality Passes, third-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· Two wins, eight top fives, 15 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.8
· Average Running Position of 13.9, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, fourth-best
· 363 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· 1,362 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.211 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,250 Laps in the Top 15 (66.0%), fifth-most
· 785 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· One win, two top fives, two top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 16.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.0, 12th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 175.869 mph, 12th-fastest

Joey Logano (No. 22 Pennzoil Platinum Ford)
· Three top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 10.4
· Average Running Position of 14.7, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 87.3, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 175.981 mph, ninth-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.8
· Average Running Position of 15.9, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 83.6, 11th-best
· 189 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 1,360 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 176.088 mph, eighth-fastest
· 3,124 Laps in the Top 15 (51.2%), 11th-most
· 610 Quality Passes, 10th-most

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Charlotte Motor Speedway History
· Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959.
· The track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson.
· The track was repaved midseason in 1994.
· The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999. It changed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 2010 season.
· The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Notebook
· There have been 110 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two races per year since the track opened in 1960. In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65).
· 520 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway; 371 in more than one. 427 drivers have competed in Coca-Cola 600; 285 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Charlotte with 64. Terry Labonte leads all active drivers with 57 starts; followed by Mark Martin with 56. Bill Elliott has made the most Coca-Cola 600 starts with 31; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in 600 starts with 21.
· Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway (World 600) in 1960 with a speed of 133.904 mph.
· 41 drivers have Coors Light poles at Charlotte, led by David Pearson with 14. Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers in poles at CMS with nine.
· David Pearson and Ryan Newman are tied for the series most Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Coors Light poles with six each; followed by Jeff Gordon with five.
· 12 drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Charlotte. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Charlotte with 11; from the fall of 1973 through 1978.
· Jeff Gordon won five straight Coca-Cola 600 poles at Charlotte between 1994 and 1998.
· Youngest Charlotte pole winner: Jeff Gordon (10/10/1993 – 22 years, 2 months, 6 days).
· Oldest Charlotte pole winner: Bobby Allison (10/11/1987 – 49 years, 10 months, 8 days).
· 45 different drivers have won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, led by Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and Jimmie Johnson with six wins each.
· 30 different drivers have won the Coca-Cola 600, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with five; Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne lead all active drivers with three each.
· Nine drivers have posted consecutive wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including three consecutive by Fred Lorenzen (fall 1964 and both 1965) and four straight by Jimmie Johnson (both in 2004 and 2005).
· A season sweep at Charlotte has occurred eight times, including each season from 2004-2007.
· Seven times from seven different drivers has the winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race gone on to win the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Davey Allison (1991), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2003), Kasey Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010).
· Youngest Charlotte winner: Jeff Gordon (05/29/1994 – 22 years, 9 months, 25 days).
· Oldest Charlotte winner: Cale Yarborough (10/06/1985 – 46 years, 6 months, 9 days).
· Hendrick Motorsportshas the most wins at Charlotte in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 17: Jimmie Johnson (six), Jeff Gordon (five), Darrell Waltrip (two), Ken Schrader (one), Terry Labonte (one), Casey Mears (one) and Kasey Kahne (one).
· Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Charlotte; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford with 29. Chevrolet also has the most Coca-Cola 600 wins at 22.
· 14 of the 110 (12.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the Coors Light pole; the two most recent were Jimmie Johnson in 2004 (Coca-Cola 600) and 2009 (fall event).
· The second-place starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
· 31 of the 110 (28.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the front row: 14 from the pole and 17 from second-place.
· 83 of the 110 (75.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Charlotte have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Nine of the 110 (8.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Charlotte was 37th, by Jimmie Johnson in the Coca-Cola 600 of 2003.
· Richard Petty leads the series in runner-up finishes at Charlotte with nine. Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers with three.
· NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison are tied for the series most top-five finishes at Charlotte with 23. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Charlotte with 31. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 22.
· Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Charlotte with a 7.038.
· Joey Logano leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Charlotte with a 10.400.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte without visiting Victory Lane at 35; followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 28.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the May 29, 2005 race won by Jimmie Johnson over Bobby Labonte with a MOV of 0.027 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but only once for the Coca-Cola 600 (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2005 (334/336), fall of 2007 (334/337) and the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 (400/402).
· Five of the 110 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 won by David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip Racing. Four of the five races shortened were the 600-mile events (1968, 1997, 2003 and 2009).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway twice; the fall race of 2002 and the fall race of 2008.
· Seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Michael Waltrip (5/26/85), Elliott Sadler (5/24/98), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/30/99), Jimmie Johnson (10/7/01), Brian Vickers (10/11/03), David Reutimann (10/15/05) and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (5/29/11).
· Four active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (10/10/93), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5/28/00), Ryan Newman (5/27/01) and Aric Almirola (5/27/12).
· Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (5/29/94), Matt Kenseth (5/28/00), Jamie McMurray (10/13/02) and Casey Mears (5/27/07).
· Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Charlotte with 1,569 laps led in 25 starts.
· Two female drivers have competed at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
Janet Guthrie
1976 – Coca-Cola 600, Started 27th, Finished 15th; National 500, Started 26th, Finished 22nd.
1977 – National 500, Started 27th, Finished 9th.
1978 – National 500, Started 31st, Finished 35th.
Danica Patrick
2012 – Coca-Cola 600, Started 40th, Finished 30th.
2013 – Coca-Cola 600, Started 24th, Finished 29th; Bank of America 500, Started 35th, Finished 20th.

NASCAR in North Carolina
· There have been 518 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 28 tracks in North Carolina.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord – 110
North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Wilkesboro – 93
Rockingham Speedway, Rockingham – 78
Hickory Speedway, Hickory – 35
Asheville-Weaverville Speedway, Weaverville – 34
Occoneechee Speedway, Hillsboro – 32
Bowman-Gray Stadium, Winston-Salem – 29
Southern States Fairgrounds, Charlotte – 17
Charlotte Speedway, Charlotte – 12
Concord Speedway, Concord – 12
Wilson Speedway, Wilson – 12
New Asheville Speedway, Asheville – 8
Dog Track Speedway, Moyock – 7
Raleigh Speedway, Raleigh – 7
Cleveland County Fairgrounds, Shelby – 6
Champion Speedway, Fayetteville – 4
Greensboro Agriculture Fairgrounds, Greensboro – 3
North Carolina State Fairgrounds, Raleigh – 3
Tar Heel Speedway, Randleman – 3
Forsyth County Fairgrounds, Winston-Salem – 2
Harris Speedway, Harris – 2
Jacksonville Speedway, Jacksonville – 2
Tri-City Speedway, High Point – 2
Gastonia Fairgrounds, Gastonia – 1
Harnett Speedway, Spring Lake – 1
McCormick Field, Asheville – 1
Salisbury Super Speedway, Salisbury – 1
Star Lite Speedway, Monroe – 1

· 431 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as North Carolina.
· 46 drivers from North Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 28 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

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Hinchcliffe, SPM docked 25 points; team fined $20,000 for domed skid wear at Texas

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 10:  James Hinchcliffe of Canada, driver of the #5 ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Chevrolet, practices for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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We haven’t had post-event penalties issued really, at all, this year in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

But a big one has just come to James Hinchcliffe and the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda team from INDYCAR, with a post-event infraction found.

Per INDYCAR, the domed skid was worn too much at the end of the race.

That has triggered a 25-point penalty to Hinchcliffe and the No. 5 team in the drivers and owners championships. It takes them down from 392 points and eighth place in the championship to 367 and ninth. The team has been issued a $20,000 fine.

Ironically, Ryan Briscoe’s No. 5 SPM car got docked post-Texas last year, although with not as severe a penalty. The team was fined $5,000 for violating Rule 14.8.5 (Rear Wing Main Plane Angle).

Here’s the INDYCAR release, below:

INDYCAR announced the following post-event infraction from the conclusion of the Firestone 600, which was completed Aug. 27 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas:

•  INDYCAR fined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports $20,000 and penalized the team 25 entrant and driver points after the No. 5 entry of James Hinchcliffe was found in violation of Rule 14.6.8.2.2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series rule book (domed skid wear) in post-race inspection.

“In our post-race analysis this week it was determined the skid plate on the No. 5 entry was worn and in violation of our rules,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “This was both a performance advantage and a safety concern, as the domed portion of the skid had been ground down to the point it would have been ineffective.”

Members may contest the imposition of the penalties pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.

The REAL Force that drives NHRA superstar John Force: his wife Laurie

Two weeks ago at Brainerd (from left): John, Laurie, race winner Brittany, grandson Jacob, Courtney, grandson Noah and the couple's oldest daughter and former racer, Ashley.
(Photos courtesy John Force Racing)
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Whoever coined the phrase “Behind every good man is a better woman” could very easily have been thinking of Laurie Force.

As Laurie and her husband, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, close in on their 35th wedding anniversary next month (Sept. 26), life together has been a drag – a perpetual drag race, that is – but it’s never been boring.

Laurie is the yin to John’s yang. While her oftentimes hyperkinetic husband rolls through every day and everything he does at 330 mph – even when he’s not in his famed race car – it’s been Laurie who has been the steadying influence, the one who has been a sea of calm and leadership and voice of reason.

As John Force prepares for the sport’s biggest race of the year, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend in Indianapolis, Laurie will once again be there by his side, keeping steady a ship that can sometimes become rocky due to John’s quest for excellence and winning.

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HE FLIPPED A CAR RIGHT AFTER FLIPPING FOR HER

John and Laurie first met at a wedding of mutual friends in 1972, where John was best man and Laurie was maid of honor. They dated off and on for nearly 10 years before getting married in 1981.

Early on in their courtship, John wanted to impress his new love by showing how fast his car was. On a quiet, nondescript street in Southern California, John got behind the wheel while Laurie watched from the sidelines.

Before you could say “one-day 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ,” John hit a curb, flipped the car and it promptly caught fire.

It would be the first of numerous times where he’d flip his car – and occasionally catch fire – over the following 40 years.

And yet, Laurie stayed. She wasn’t shaken, wasn’t afraid. She knew her eventual husband lived, slept and breathed drag racing.

Force and Laurie early days

When John proposed marriage, Laurie knew it would be a wild ride being married to a drag racer; she just never knew it would be as wild as it has been.

“We dated off and on for 10 years before we got married,” Laurie told NBCSports.com in an exclusive interview. “So, I don’t have the excuse of well, we got married and I just didn’t get the chance to get to know him better. I had plenty of chances. I couldn’t say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I did know.”

I had plenty of chances. I couldn’t say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I did know.

John has gone from a struggling amateur racer to the winningest driver (145 wins) and champion in NHRA history. For the better part of the past three decades, John has been the face of NHRA. You literally cannot talk about the NHRA without mentioning John in the conversation.

He’s the sport’s biggest icon, fan and pitchman. And even though he’s now 67 years old and is watching two of his daughters follow in his footsteps (another daughter, Ashley, also raced before starting a family), there’s no slowing John down.

To him, the R word – retirement – is a dirty word.

“People talk about him retiring and I think well, he’d just sit at home and drive me crazy,” Laurie says. “He still just can’t let go of it.

“The thing he loves is the driving, so if he retired from that, he’s still going to be out there, he’s still going to be doing that, so I say you might as well continue to drive then, if that’s what you really love.”

There has been talk that John may hang up his firesuit after his current contracts with several sponsors including Peak and Chevrolet expire after the 2020 season, when he’ll be 70.

Yet at the same time, John has said he may follow in the footsteps of Top Fuel racer Chris Karamesines, who is still rocketing down dragstrips around the country at 300 mph – at the ripe age of 84.

“I think deep down he’ll know,” Laurie said of if or when her husband will call it quits. “When it’s just too exhausting or he’s just not there anymore, then he’ll want to quit and it’ll be the right time.”

Through it all, Laurie is always there, offering a balance when things can get a little crazy. And with John and his effervescent personality, things indeed can get crazy at times.

“She never had an ego like me,” John Force told NBCSports.com in an exclusive interview. “She was the one person that would tell me I had an ego. She would tell me the reality of life. I think that checks and balances is what has kept me going.”

1st win-AHRA nationals Chicago, John and Laurie Ashley a (1) (1)

Particularly in the early years, Laurie unquestionably was — and continues to be — the backbone of John Force Racing. She wrote contracts, sold merchandise, packed the parachutes on the back of John’s car, cooked for the team (back then, it was usually a ragtag group of volunteers) and even mixed the nitro fuel that powered John’s Funny Car.

She even worked on the car at times. While Austin Coil would eventually come on board and become John’s legendary crew chief, taking him to the majority of his 16 championships, Laurie was – and still is – the crew chief of John’s life.

Even when John failed to win even one race in the first nine years of his professional career, Laurie never wavered in her support or belief in her man and his ability. Leaving was not an option. Love will do that.

“Laurie is the love of my life,” John said. “She is the backbone of my family. In the early days she drove the pick up truck, mixed fuel and did the parachutes on my race car. She did all that while she was going to college to get an education. I was lacking in that. I wrote the first Wendy’s contract and they sent it back to me. She re-wrote it and I knew then she was in and I needed to marry her.

“Through the road with the ups and downs of this life, as much as you love it, it has its bad sides and it is hard. You need a balance and that is Laurie. She always kept the kids in line and got them an education. She helped keep the peace between me and them when I was nuts.”

And keep going they have: From their humble beginnings, the couple has built a multi-million dollar empire in both Southern California and suburban Indianapolis, with over 100 employees.

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FAMILY FIRST, DRAG RACING A CLOSE SECOND

And then there’s their family. John and Laurie have three children – two who are racing currently (Brittany in Top Fuel and Courtney in Funny Car) and Ashley (as noted, who retired from driving to raise a family but serves as a vice president of JFR).

“When we decided to have children, I thought it would be best to name them A, B and C, to make it easier for John to remember their names,” Laurie said.

When we decided to have children, I thought it would be best to name them A, B and C, to make it easier for John to remember their names.

John also has another daughter, Adria, from his first marriage, who serves as JFR’s Chief Financial Officer and is married to Robert Hight, JFR’s president and a 2009 NHRA Funny Car champ.

John and Laurie Force along with daughters, from left, Ashley, Brittany and Courtney
John and Laurie Force along with daughters, from left, Ashley, Brittany and Courtney (isn’t she cute with her pacifier?)

That all members of Force’s family work within the JFR organization is not surprising. Laurie built a strong family unit while her and John’s daughters were growing up. With John on the road so much, missing school events, more birthdays than they can count, and the like, Laurie spent much of the time raising the family by herself.

She was the one who took the girls to piano lessons, cheerleading practice and competition, dance, ballet, picnics – and then of course shepherded the girls when they would visit racetracks to watch their father drive.

In so doing, the Force family has developed an undeniable and strong bond. Without question, while drag racing has put food on the table and clothes on their backs, family is the most important aspect for John and Laurie.

To Laurie’s credit, she made sure that all three daughters went to college and earned their degrees.

And when the three girls all decided to get behind the wheel of a Funny Car or dragster, Laurie – in her mid-50s – earned her own drag racing license to get a better understanding of what her girls would go through and how she could best counsel them.

“She motivated those kids,” John said of his wife. “She told them if they were going to do it (racing) do it like your dad. Because she said I did it the right way.”

While John would talk to the girls about how to cut a quicker light on the starting line or how to peddle a car from wrecking, Laurie wanted to make sure the girls were racing because they wanted to – not because Dad wanted them to.

“The girls come to me all the time,” Laurie said. “I think John’s hardest position is to walk the line between father and boss.

“It’s difficult for him because he’s so used to being in charge.”

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That difficulty of sorts stems from John’s protective nature of what he still calls “my little girls” – even though Ashley is now 33, Brittany is 30 and Courtney 28.

“He just sees them as his little girls and he’s going to come in and tell them what to do and how they should drive,” Laurie said. “I think that’s a big struggle for him in letting go. He can’t understand that they aren’t him, they can’t get all amped up on the starting line and have great reaction times. For them, they have to work through it differently.

“He’s still in charge and wants to run everything and hasn’t realized the girls are adults now, too, and they want him to try to. He’s also trying to win. He loves to watch his girls win, but not when it means he might have to lose. He’s still in it to win it.”

He wants to win even when he’s not racing.

“He’s a workaholic,” Laurie said. “For him to take a break from that is pretty huge. We try to go on vacations, slow down and have fun, and he struggles with that because he thinks if he lets go for one day, the whole business will fall apart.

“It’s hard to get this ‘No worries, let’s just go have fun’ kind of guy, because it’s not built into him to be that way. I think when he enjoys life is when he’s around his daughters and of course the grandkids and we can just do simple things like stay home and barbecue, go swim or let the grandkids drive their little cars around the front driveway. It’s when he’s like that that I think he’s most happy.”

For some reason, John’s three “grandbabies” as he likes to call Autumn (Adria and Robert’s daughter), and Jacob and Noah (Ashley and son-in-law Dan Hood’s sons), not only seem to calm grandpa down, they also bring out a side of John not many people see.

Example: cell phones. John isn’t just technologically challenged.

“The best way to say it is he doesn’t want to learn,” Laurie said. “It’s like teaching an old dog new tricks. He’d rather have somebody do it for him. He just stays in that kind of zone.

“Even the little grandkids that just turned five, they show him how to work a cell phone. They can go on it, pull up games, pull up anything. John’s always stuck, always lost.”

Even something simple as a kitten can have a big impact on John.

“We used to have animals and then about six, seven years ago they all passed on, so we never got any new animals because John suddenly decided he was allergic,” Laurie said. “Sure enough, people would bring an animal around and he’d start a coughing attack.

“Then Brittany got one and we were kind of kitty sitting for her and John fell in love with that little thing. In the middle of the night, he’d get up to go to the bathroom and it would follow him there and I could hear him talking to it in the bathroom.”

family at races

As a result, John and Laurie now have a new kitten of their own, Champs.

As for her own champ, Laurie is very proud of all that John has achieved in his career, going from nothing to the greatest driver the sport has ever known.

And she’s been there every step of the way.

“I was there at the very beginning,” she said. “I saw when he couldn’t even start his car up. Or when he oiled a track down so bad that they kicked him out of the race.

I saw when he couldn’t even start his car up. Or when he oiled a track down so bad that they kicked him out of the race.

“I saw how bad it was and how we didn’t have any money and were just scraping to get by to get $600 from two runs at a match race – and then they’d deduct $500 for a grease sweep (to clean up the oil that Force’s car laid down). It was terrible back then.

“Really, he did not come from money, did not have an easy time of it, didn’t have sponsors lined it. He had basically nothing, but just the determination and the hard work he put into it.”

But Laurie also had determination and put in as much — if not more — hard work as John did to assure his success. Without equivocation, he gives her all the credit.

“I can’t imagine my success or the success of the girls without Laurie,” John said. “I don’t think I would be where I am. I am not just saying that. I am such a radical person. I am too emotional to be a crew chief. If you give me 10 roads I will try and run down them all. I am the one running into walls when there is an earthquake in California and she is calmly taking the kids and moves them to a safe spot. I don’t think I would be here without her.”

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THE DAY LAURIE FORCE WOULD RATHER FORGET

John Laurie Brittany Jacob

Looking back on her husband’s career, Laurie has all the wins, championships and good times to remember. But there’s one time that she’d rather forget: the day her husband almost died in the worst crash of his career.

During a run in a race at Texas Motorplex south of Dallas in September 2007, John crashed hard. He sustained serious injuries including severely mangled fingers and toes (there was talk early on of possible amputation of some of his digits), a broken ankle, fractured left wrist and a right knee abrasion.

He was hospitalized for a month, but after intense physical rehabilitation, less than five months later John proved wrong the naysayers that said he might never race again. Not only did he come back, he eventually went on to win his 15th and 16th championships in 2010 and 2013.

“When he had his accident, when he was on drugs in the hospital, I have to say, I didn’t think I was going to get my husband back,” Laurie said. “The stuff he said – I think when we took him off morphine, he became himself and he was so determined to be back in the race car.

When he had his accident, when he was on drugs in the hospital, I have to say, I didn’t think I was going to get my husband back.

“I remember telling him you can’t even walk or crawl, but he said, ‘I think I’ll be there by the first race of the year (in 2008).’ The fact that he did it, I’m still pretty shocked.

“It was a hard role for John to be in because he wants to be in charge of everything – and for once, he couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything for himself. … But the better he got and the more results he saw, it just encouraged him to work harder.”

Fans love Force because he’s real. What you see or what you hear is what you get, the real, true, unplugged John. But when pressed to reveal something about her husband that his millions of fans have never known, Laurie laughs at something John may blush at when he reads this story.

“He is the mushy one in our relationship,” Laurie said. “I never thought I would see that happen, but he definitely is.

He’s the mushy one in our relationship.

“He’s very emotional and watching movies, it’s the same thing. He just thinks I have no heart if I’m not bawling at a movie. I think most people wouldn’t know that about him, that he’s so mushy.”

John Force? Who knew?

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Massive weekend ahead for RGR Sport in Mexico City

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17:  The RGR Sport by Morand Ligier of Ricardo Gonzalez, Filipe Albuquerque and Bruno Senna drives during the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
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RGR Sport’s Ricardo Gonzalez has been building for this moment all season.

If it wasn’t enough to be just be team owner and co-driver of the team’s No. 43 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, in a car with Filipe Albuquerque and Bruno Senna, he has also taken on the role of promoter for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Mexico City.

The rare owner/driver/promoter trifecta isn’t something you see often, but this has been something Gonzalez and his team around him have been working on since announcing their program at the start of the year.

Gonzalez has been hard at work coordinating his responsibilities to ensure the race is a success for the team, championship, and the loyal Mexican fans; most of the grandstands are sold out.

A result for the trio would be icing on the cake – they won at Silverstone and have gone fourth, 10th and second in the three races since – but the bigger goal of the weekend is showcasing Mexico City once again to the sports car world at large at the redone Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Formula 1 and Formula E have already held successful races here in the last year, and this is the third FIA championship – second World Championship – now joining the party in Mexico.

Senna, Albuquerque and Gonzalez. Photo: RGR Sport
Senna, Albuquerque and Gonzalez. Photo: RGR Sport

“Things are starting to get crazy in Mexico and the excitement level is really starting to build now!” Gonzalez said in the team’s advance release.

“It’s been a lot of work and still a lot to go, but everything is looking great and no doubt the WEC paddock and fans will be impressed with our event. As a team, it’s also our most important race. Being the home heroes puts a lot of pressure on us, but also gives us more motivation than ever to give our fellow Mexicans a win here!”

Sporting director Toni Calderon added,  “For us as a team obviously this is a hugely important race, but on the operations side of things we approach the same as any other event, so nothing has changed on that side. On the marketing and PR side, things are quite busy but we will make sure that our drivers are focused and ready to win once they are at the race track!”

MRTI: Hamilton Jr. set for Indy Lights debut in Monterey

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Photo: Davey Hamilton Jr. Racing
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It appears that Davey Hamilton Jr. will make his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires debut next week at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after all, with McCormack Racing.

Hamilton Jr. will be in the team’s No. 34 Dallara IL-15 Mazda, with Impact Racing and Piloti Shoes serving as team supporters of the race weekend at Laguna Seca.  Hamilton, Jr. carries additional personal support from Kingdom Racing, Dahl Tug and Barge, and Cocomo Natural.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to compete in the Indy Lights with Jack McCormack and to make my debut on the road course,” said Hamilton, Jr., an 18-year-old sprint car veteran and son of Davey Hamilton.  “I’m looking forward to getting some laps under my belt to have a solid weekend.”

More information is here, via the Indy Lights official website.