NHRA: Now that he’s 67, there’s still no slowing down for John Force


Top Fuel driver Chris Karamesines is still racing at the age of 84.

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits is heavily involved in developing electric dragsters – and racing them – also at the age of 84.

John Force, who turned 67 earlier this month (May 4), may wind up racing past 84 at the rate he’s going.

Force is the winningest driver in NHRA history, with more than 140 race wins and 16 season championships in the Funny Car ranks.

But it wasn’t too long ago – 18 months, to be precise – that Force’s racing career appeared to be over, or close to it. When Castrol Oil ended its 30-year sponsorship of Force, his daughter Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight, and Ford ended its 20-year partnership as car manufacturer of record for John Force Racing — both deals coming to an end after the 2014 season — Force seriously began to wonder if he’d ever race again.

Suddenly, in what he calls his darkest hours as a racer, Peak Antifreeze and Lubricants, as well as Chevrolet, came to Force’s rescue to replace Castrol and Ford.

And now, as JFR is six races into its second year with Peak and Chevy, things continue to get better and look more optimistic for all three Funny Car drivers.

So, the question that is invariably asked of Force seemingly at every race, is how long will he continue racing? Speculation has Force behind the wheel for another three years, at least. Other speculation has him staying in a Funny Car until Courtney or Hight win the championship – or another daughter, Brittany Force, wins the Top Fuel championship.

Then again, we may still be watching Force racing 20 years from now, if he has his way and his health remains good.

One thing is for certain, though: Force and Chevrolet are attached at the hip. He’s not going anywhere and neither is the Detroit automaker.

“I’m gonna end my career here,” Force said. “We’re going to race a long time. Why change as long as we can perform?”

Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Jim Campbell, is a long-time fan of Force. When the opportunity came up to sign the living legend and return him under the Chevy banner, Campbell moved quickly to bring Force back into the Chevy family.

“Jim Campbell is all about winning,” Force said. “He does it in NASCAR with Hendrick (Hendrick Motorsports) and in IndyCar with Penske (Team Penske). They win.

“Look at us: 18 championships in the last 25 years (16 by Force and one each by Hight and Tony Pedregon). This is really big that we’re back with somebody with that mindset.

“That’s the way all the manufacturers think, but Chevrolet got right on this thing when I was out of a job. Peak picked me up, Auto Club with Robert (Hight), Traxxas with Courtney (Force) and Monster with the dragster with Brittany (Force).

“I won with Chevy in the early days, GM, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and I won those championships. I’ve kind of come home. To be back in this car, with these people, it’s really exciting.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski