70 is just a number: Force in prime spot to win 17th Funny Car title

Driver of Chevrolet Camaro SS is buoyed by U.S. Nationals win, No. 2 seed

DETROIT (September 5, 2019) — An emotional John Force, who turned 70 on May 4 – making him the oldest National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) race winner again — said he’s feeling his age but is buoyed by his fifth victory in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and prime opportunity to collect his record-extending 17th Funny Car championship.

Force, who drove the PEAK Chevrolet Performance Accessories Chevrolet Camaro SS to his 151st career win, enters the six-race Countdown to the Championship second to teammate Robert Hight in the standings.

Hight, a five-time winner in the Automobile Club of Southern California Camaro SS, will carry a 20-point lead to Reading, Pennsylvania, on September 13-15 when points were reset following the Indianapolis finale of the 18-race regular season.

“Racing is what I love to do. Winning Indy is the biggest thing on my bucket list and I never thought I’d get the chance again,” said Force, who last won the “Big Go” in 2002. “This is just incredible that someone my age could do this again. I’m trying to fight the old man every day.

“After I had my (2007) accident, the doctors told me, ‘You’re done; you ain’t gonna race. You’re going to be lucky to walk,’ but I’ve never allowed anyone to ever tell me anything, and I fought to get back. Then I started hearing, ‘you’re 70, this thing is over,’ and it’s really true. It’s how bad you want it.”

Force, in his 43rd NHRA season and with a fresh multi-year partnership extension with Chevrolet, is a study in perseverance. He qualified for 64 races before claiming his first victory in 1987 at Montreal. He qualified for his first Funny Car race in 1978 in a Chevrolet Corvette.

“It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you do it because you love it and I love it and when you don’t do good you do the best you can,” Force said. “There are a lot of guys with a lot more talent than me. They just don’t have a race car with the money and the right crew chief, Brian Corradi, Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi. I just happen to be one of the lucky ones.”

Oldest race winners in other major motorsports:

Formula One: Luigi Fagioli – 53 years, 22 days (French Grand Prix on July 1, 1951)

IndyCar: Louis Unser – 57 years, 5 months, 22 days (Pikes Peak on September 7, 1953)

NASCAR Cup Series: Harry Gant – 52 years, 7 months, 3 days (Michigan on August 16, 1992, which was the final victory for GM brand Oldsmobile)
Force and Gant share a couple of other notables:

Force had nine runner-up finishes before recording his inaugural NHRA Funny Car win. Gant finished second a gut-wrenching 10 times before collecting his initial Winston Cup Series win in 1982 at Martinsville.

Force was 38 years, 1 month, 24 days old when he won for the first time. Gant, who competed in late model sportsman cars, didn’t enter the Cup series full time until 1979, when he was 39. He was 42 years, 3 months, 15 days old when he scored his first win at Charlotte in 1982, driving a Buick.

For all but four of his 464 career Cup races, Gant drove a Chevrolet or GM brands Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac. Gant had a total of 18 Cup Series wins between 1982 and 1994.

Force has made 191 starts in a Chevrolet Funny Car, winning 20, and overall has 73 victories with GM. By model – Oldsmobile Cutlass (31, Pontiac Firebird (21), Chevrolet Lumina (10), Chevrolet Camaro (10), Oldsmobile Firenza (1). His first win in a Chevrolet came in 1994 on the way to his fourth NHRA Funny Car title. He raced a Lumina 50 a 50-8 round record, 11 finals, 10 wins and 12 low qualifier honors.

“I’ve got 151 victories. When do you walk out the door?” Force said. “Someday I’ve got to go out that door. And I said two things: It would sure be nice to win a (17th) championship. And it’d sure be nice to win Indy one more time. This race really meant a lot.”

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