Last week John Force, a funny car driver, won his 16th national championship. Amazing? Quite frankly very amazing. Here is a guy who has raced against very competitive and well funded fields of other funny cars and has won the championship 16 times! Want more amazing? How about the fact that he is 64 years old.
Get that, folks, 64 years old and driving a 10,000 HP car that requires split second timing. Driving a wild machine, that will reach over 300 MPH in a quarter mile and hit 0-60 in less than a second. Take that Corvette! And races are sometimes decided by 1000ths of a second. Sounds like a young man's game, but John Force is still racking up the wins (over 130 to date) and still winning championships.
But I was there when it began.
Force was an underfunded truck driver, who bought the car above from his uncle, Gene Beaver, in the early '70's and started to race in California. Always trying his best to put on a good show, he worked himself up to better equipment and ran under the name "Brute Force".
But as he gained experience, things began to change and he became somewhat of a phenomenon. How so? Take a close look at this picture......
Something stand out? How about all those sponsors' names? Now, at this time John hadn't won a single national event, but he had been a runner up numerous times over 14 years. He did have another skill though, he was a great self promoter. How else can you explain Coca Cola, Wendy's, Jolly Rancher and Castrol lining up to give him money.
Finally it happened and I was there to see his break through. It was at the Grand National at Sanair Dragway, in 1988. The only NHRA national event held outside of the US. And it happened on a Monday, since rain delayed the Sunday finals. I had been visiting my brother, who lived outside of Montreal, so my wife and some of his family drove to Sanair to see the finals. Everyone got in free and there were probably a few hundred people at most to witness Force's first big win. And also the last drag race, my wife would ever let me take her to (the noise!).
It was like the flood gates opened and over the next 25 years, Force would win an average of 5-6 events per year and he and his team would win 18 national championships (all but two by John himself) and the John "Brute" Force funny car show would go on and on and on.........
And I was there when it all began.
Until next time.......