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.”

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Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.