NHRA legend John Force starts 47th season while openly wondering ‘How far can you go?’

John Force NHRA
Will Lester/MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — “Big Daddy” Don Garlits tried to get NHRA legend John Force into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame years ago. Several times, actually.

Force declined every invitation.

“I kept telling him, ‘There’s other guys that need to go in, and I’ll be around awhile, I hope,’” Force said. “He finally called me and said, ‘You need to go.’”

Force, who will turn 74 in two months, relented and was the headliner of the 2023 class that was formally inducted Thursday night on the eve of the NHRA season. The often-colorful and always chatty Force delivered a nearly 20-minute speech that was as rambling as it was wide-ranging in front of a packed hotel ballroom that included the 91-year-old Garlits.

He promised to finally pay off several outstanding debts from decades ago and said he’s working on getting daughter Courtney back on track. Courtney stepped away from racing in 2019 and has since given birth to two daughters.

“Why am I still doing this at my age? Because I love it,” John Force said.

The 16-time Funny Car champion also made it clear he’s not thinking about retirement as he begins the season-opening Gatornationals this weekend. He even signed a three-year contract extension with Chevrolet and his primary sponsor, Peak, in December.

“How far can you go?” Force told The Associated Press. “I’m 73 now. I want to be respectful to the sport, but I also want to help the sport. I want to help it grow, and it needs some help right now.”

Force remains NHRA’s top promoter and drag racing’s unquestioned spokesman, roles he started to embrace long before his first championship in 1990. He went on to win 15 more, including an unprecedented 10 in a row between 1993 and 2002.

His last title came in 2013, and he hasn’t finished better than fourth over the last eight years. His team skipped most of the 2020 season, but he returned to win in 2021.

But John Force Racing continues to thrive, with daughter Brittany winning her second Top Fuel championship in six seasons in 2022, and teammates Robert Hight and Austin Prock finishing second and third, respectively, in Funny Car and Top Fuel. Hight came up three points shy of winning his fourth title, a number that would tie him with NHRA legends Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme.

Force, meanwhile, is entering his 47th professional NHRA season. He holds nearly every record imaginable, including championships, final rounds (264) and event wins (155).

“Racing is what I do,” Force said. “I didn’t really come for the money or the trophies. I wanted to make a living and I wanted to race. That’s what I get to do. It’s easy for me.”

It’s resulted in now six Hall of Fame inductions, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2008, the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame at Fort Worth in 2011, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2012, the California Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2019.

“I’ve lived it and I love it. It’s taken care of me and now my family,” said Force, who takes great pride in watching three of his five grandchildren race. “Those kids motivate me. You live through your children. Now I’m living through my grandchildren.”

Motocross 2023: Results and points after SuperMotocross Round 18 at Hangtown


For the second consecutive week, Jett Lawrence had perfect results in the Pro Motocross round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California with a pair of moto wins and the overall victory, only this time he didn’t have Chase Sexton, who sat out the round with a concussion, to keep him honest in the second race.

Jett Lawrence’s performance in the first two Motocross rounds has him thinking of a rookie championship. – Align Media

Lawrence led all 16 laps of both races after taking the holeshot in the second moto and grabbing the lead from Dylan Ferrandis in Turn 2 of Moto 1. Lawrence claimed a four-second lead in Moto 1 and five seconds in Moto 2, but as dominant as it seems on paper, there were some exciting moments during the weekend. In the second race, Lawrence wanted to build an advantage that would allow him to maintain his pace and he nearly high-sided a couple of times in heavy ruts.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

In his second race back from a concussion, Ferrandis finished in the runner-up spot with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. While his finish of second overall goes into the record books, Pro Motocross points are rewarded for each individual race and that meant Ferrandis lost eight points in championship battle to Lawrence. With Sexton failing to mount up for the race, Ferrandis advanced to second in the standings with an 18-point gap to Lawrence. Equally important, Ferrandis gained ground in the SuperMotocross World Championship (WSX) points and now has a gap of 44 over 21st-place Justin Starling.

Cooper Webb is also in his second round since returning from a Supercross injury suffered in Nashville at the end of their season. Claiming results of fourth and second in the two races, Webb earned 40 SuperMotocross points at Hangtown and closed in on Sexton in the WSX battle. Sexton entered Hangtown with a large enough lead that he could not be overtaken, but he is now only 38 points up and could face a difficult decision next week at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado if he wants to hold onto his lead.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger had an adventurous weekend in which he seemed to close on Lawrence in his second race before crashing and dropping to fourth. Coupled with a fifth-place finish in Moto 1, he earned 35 points and was credited with fourth overall.

Cashing in on confidence he gained in the final rounds of the Supercross season, Adam Cianciarulo earned his first top-five of the Pro Motocross championship after narrowly missing out last week with a sixth. He earned the distinction with consistent results of fifth in Moto 1 and fourth in Moto 2.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Hunter Lawrence showed his back to the competition at Hangtown, just as he did the week prior at Fox Raceway. – Align Media

The Lawrence brothers made history last week as the first siblings to win in two Pro Motocross divisions on the same day. Fans should get accustomed to seeing this happen with some regularity as Hunter Lawrence posted identical results in Hangtown to those he had at Fox Raceway in the season opener.

In both races, Lawrence got off to a slow start in Moto 1 and had to claw his way back to the podium. He dominated Moto 2 in both rounds to earn the overall victories.

Justin Cooper did not allow Lawrence to gain much of an advantage in the Motocross points’ standings, however. Finishing second in both motos, the earned only one point less than Lawrence. His modest showing in Round 1 of the outdoor season has him 12 points out of first in the championship standings.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Haiden Deegan scored his first moto win in just his fourth start in the series. In the first race of the day, he had to withstand constant pressure from Cooper, but when his teammate closed in on him, Deegan reached down and found a little more speed. Now that he’s won one of these races, he has his sight set on challenging Lawrence for the title. Deegan is second in the Pro Motocross championship standings with a 10-point deficit to the leader.

Haiden Deegan scored podiums in both Motocross rounds of 2023. – Align Media

Tom Vialle tied his career-best finish of fourth overall with a seventh-place finish in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. Vialle was fourth last week in overall ranking and has one fourth-place finish in the Supercross series that came in the Triple Crown format at Arlington.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

RJ Hampshire rounded out the top five with a pair of fifth-place results and 32 points for the round. Even though the deficit is a whopping 61 points, Hampshire climbed to second in the SuperMotocross championship standings now that Jett Lawrence has moved to the big bikes.

Jalek Swoll struggled last week and finished 21st overall at Fox Raceway. This week, he finished on the cusp of 10th in both races with a ninth in Moto 1 and 11th in Moto 2. In the SuperMotocross standings, he has a lot of ground to make up. He currently sits 49th on the chart with a 70-point gap to Chance Hymas, who is on the bubble to earn a guaranteed position in the SMX Mains for the three playoff races that will be held on September.

2023 Motocross Results

Round 1: Jett Lawrence, Hunter Lawrence win

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 18: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top
Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s