NHRA’s Force Parks His Cars For Rest Of Season

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 31 2020

The season is over for Funny Car team owner/driver John Force. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

NHRA icon John Force confirmed Friday his four-car team will remain parked for the remainder of an ever-changing 2020 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season schedule in order to “live to fight another day.”

“I’m going to prepare to come back next year stronger than ever,” Force said in a release from his home/corporate headquarters in Yorba Linda, Calif. Rumors surrounding the 16-time Funny Car world champion and his organization surfaced when JFR failed to enter the first of two consecutive national events at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in Brownsburg, Ind., July 11-12 after a four-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to that event, Force most recently missed a race at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, in April 2018 _ snapping a streak of 221 consecutive starts.

JFR’s lineup is led by “Brute” Force, company owner/CEO and winner of 151 races. Robert Hight is the three-time/reigning Funny Car world champion and president of JFR. Brittany Force is the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel world champ and the last of three Force daughters still racing. Force protege Austin Prock, son of JFR tuner Jimmy Prock, won the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as 2019 NHRA Rookie of the Year competing in Top Fuel.

JFR did compete in the season’s opening two races at Pomona, Calif., and Chandler, Ariz., in February. “Suddenly, the virus hit, and it changed the world,” Force said. The spike in COVID-19 cases throughout California certainly figured into Force’s decision to hunker down. At 71, Force sits in the crosshairs of COVID-19’s high-risk age group and does not want to chance infecting himself, wife Laurie, an expanding extended family and his remaining employees.

John Force Racing’s Robert Hight. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Jim Fluharty)

“Robert Hight and I got back from Gainesville (Fla.) and we started working on a plan _ we had to reset John Force Racing,” Force said. “Everyone was having to adapt. We had to make cuts everywhere. We ran numbers over and over. In our contracts with sponsors we have guarantees. They get social media, certain number of races, certain number of race days, activation at races and other commitments. No matter how I looked at it I couldn’t deliver on those commitments. It just wasn’t fair to them.

“The impact of not being able to deliver on these commitments makes sitting out the rest of the 2020 season the right thing to do. No matter how I looked at it, no matter how much I personally invested, I couldn’t make it.

“At that point, I made the decision to ‘live to fight another day.’ We can’t fight now, we can’t race right now. But with what I have, with the help of my sponsors and my own personal money, I can maintain. I have to protect my family, my employees, my teams and my sponsors. What I built was a team that could win. All I have to do is get to next year. It will look different, but I have all my department leads and my sponsors _ Auto Club, Chevrolet, PEAK, Monster, Frank Tiegs owner of Flav-R-Pac and Montana Brand, Cornwell Tools, Parker Store, Baldwin Filters _ they’re all supportive.”

JFR has earned 21 NHRA championships and posted 280 professional victories in Funny Car (269) and Top Fuel (11). In addition to Yorba Linda, JFR maintains a shop in Brownsburg, Ind., outside Indianapolis.

“Watching all the people that went racing _ NHRA, the Safety Safari, TV, the media, all the winners, all the teams _ thank you for racing and keeping the sport alive,” Force said. ”I am really heartbroken I’m not out there. If I had stayed and raced, I couldn’t come back. If I step back now, I can. I want to be with all of you again and I want to be competitive.

“We will continue to support all our sponsors, doing their promotions as planned and stay relevant on social media for the fans. We are going to continue to build race cars, as we always have, build engines, mount bodies, parts and do everything we can because we are open for business in Indy and California.”

Force was voted 1996 Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing. He is a 2011 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, and driver of the PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Hight drives the Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car. Hight is the 2009, 2017 and 2019 Funny Car world champion and 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner. Brittany Force won that rookie honor in 2013. Prock drives the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist Top Fuel car.

“When I first got into racing, I always had a love for cars. I loved the comaraderie of the team, I loved the competition,” Force said. “As I evolved, I realized what it took to become a winner. It took money and that’s when I started chasing corporate America. I had no personal wealth, I had to find sponsors to get me the crew chiefs I needed to win.

“As the winning happened, I found a new love. The fans. The fans are what kept me motivated and made me never ever think anything would come to an end. Even in the hardest of times, I call them crossroads, I got through it with the help of the fans and my sponsors.”


The Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park, scheduled for Aug. 21-23 in Topeka, Kan., has been postponed until the fall with an exact date to be determined. The change is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHRA officials and Heartland Motorsports Park are working with the Shawnee County Health Department to develop a plan to reschedule the event.

“Topeka is fortunate to have a county health department that sincerely cares about public safety and also understands the economic impact of one of Kansas’ largest events,” said Chris Payne, owner of Heartland Motorsports Park. “After many conversations, the decision was made to postpone the event to the fall. Heartland Motorsports Park holds many milestone records. The cooler fall weather will not only be more comfortable for the spectators, but also bring favorable conditions, great racing, camping, and the chance of setting new records.”

Event ticket holders will receive more information from Heartland Motorsports Park and NHRA via email soon and are encouraged to visit heartlandmotorsports.us to learn about their options.

The remainder of NHRA’s 2020 schedule remains the same, subject to change based upon state and local guidelines. For more information about the NHRA schedule and the COVID-19 protocols, please visit NHRA.com.

Revised 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule:

July 11-12 _E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Brownsburg, Ind.

July 18-19 _Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, Brownsburg, Ind.

Aug. 6-9 _Dodge NHRA INDY Nationals, Brownsburg, Ind.

Aug. 28-30 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga.

Sept. 3-6 _Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, Brownsburg, Ind.

Sept. 11-13 _Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa.

Sept. 18-20 _NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C.

Sept. 25-27_ Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

Oct. 2-4 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 9-11_ NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

Oct. 16-18_ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas

Oct. 23-25 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas

Oct. 30-Nov. 1_Dodge NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas

Nov. 13-15 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Pomona, Calif.

Note _ All events will contest Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Saturday and Sunday only. The U.S. Nationals will contest one Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying round on Friday and two rounds on Saturday.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 31 2020
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