For more than 30 years and 16 national Funny Car championships, John Force has been a thunderous influence in NHRA drag racing.
So it’s fitting that the winningest driver in NHRA history will be honored this weekend at one of the most popular dragstrips in the country, Bristol Dragway – otherwise known as Thunder Valley.
Force will be inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame during driver introductions prior to Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Force will join a number of other luminaries that have been inducted to the track’s Hall, including Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman Bruton Smith, legendary racer “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, NHRA multi-team owner Don Schumacher and former Bristol Dragway/Bristol Motor Speedway general manager Jeff Byrd.
Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Dragway and Bristol Motor Speedway, issued a statement honoring Force’s induction into the track’s Hall:
“As NHRA celebrates 50 Years of Funny Car, it makes perfect sense to honor John as a Legend of Thunder Valley. From his victories at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals to his 1999 Winston Showdown win in his iconic Superman scheme, great stories about John are continually told, and we’re delighted to honor him during race weekend.”
Force is the winningest Funny Car driver at Thunder Valley with four wins there. He also has a runner-up finish, was No. 1 qualifier once and also has an additional victory as a team owner.
Force also holds the current Bristol Dragway Funny Car record for both elapsed time (3.978 seconds) and speed (323.43 mph).
One of Force’s biggest accomplishments came in 1999 during the non-points Winston Showdown exhibition race that pitted Funny Cars vs. Top Fuel dragsters.
Driving a special Superman-themed Funny Car, Force defeated Top Fuel driver Bob Vandergriff Jr. in the final round to claim the event’s overall victory.
It was that win that also prompted NHRA to return to Bristol Dragway for the first national event held there since 1967.
Prior to Sunday’s induction, Force will take part with fans and daughters and fellow drag racers Courtney and Brittany Force in a pre-race track walk. Fans that attend the race will receive special edition hero cards to mark Force’s induction as well as his achievements at Thunder Valley.