INDIANAPOLIS – This coming Labor Day weekend will be the return of the 63rd U.S. Nationals to Lucas Oil Raceway Park sanctioned by National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). It is the NHRA’s Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Daytona 500 as the most prestigious event on the NHRA schedule.
Since 1951, when the NHRA was formed by Wally Parks, there is a long list of famous drag racers that compete in the NHRA’s many national events. At the top of that list is one of most prolific drivers in NHRA history. His name is John Force and he is the owner and leader of John Force Racing.
In the past 25 years, John Force and John Force Racing (JFR) has been the most dominate Funny Car racing team. Their success and their statistics are unparalleled in the NHRA”s drag racing overall rich history. They are near the top in the number of total Championships as well as team wins regardless of the sanctioning body. With those numbers, they compare to the Chip Ganassi Racing team, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske owned by Roger Penske.
Let’s take a brief look at those three race teams’ numbers.
Team Penske is by far the overall leader with 469 wins and 29 championships in 51 years of racing. Chip Ganassi Racing has 18 Championships and 190 wins in 30 years of racing. Rick Hendrick Motorsports has 303 wins and 12 Championships in 33 years of racing.
The John Force Racing team has compiled a total of 250 wins in the NHRA Funny Car class. John leads the team with 148 wins himself. Seven other drivers share in the teams total wins – they are Robert Hight (39), Tony Pedregon (27), Mike Neff (10), Gary Densham (8), Courtney Force (8), Eric Medlen (6) and Ashley Force (4).
Sadly, Eric Medlen was killed in a 2007 testing accident while John’s career almost ended in a 300 MPH accident at Dallas, Texas later in the year. These two incidents called for a major re-design of the Funny Car chassis, which hadn’t had a major change since the 1970’s. The JFR crew chiefs and Ford Design Engineers re-designed the funny car frame for more structural support and improved the cage design around the driver.
John Force Racing has won a total of 18 team championships. They also won 12 in-a-row from 1993 to 2004. By comparison, here is a list of the other major race teams and their number of championships.
At the top of this list is Karl Kinser’s Sprint car Race Team with Steve Kinser (16 World of Outlaws Championships). Next on the list is Ferrari in Formula 1 (15 driver Championships). Then, Don Shumacher Top Fuel Racing Team (14 NHRA Top Fuel Championships), followed by Petty Enterprises with Richard Petty (7 NASCAR Championships) and Richard Childress Racing with Dale Earnhardt (7 NASCAR Championships).
John Force himself has won 16 of the teams’ 18 Championships. The other two Championships were won by Tony Pedregon in 2003 and Robert Hight in 2009. John won his 16th crown in 2013.
There was a lot of hype about Jimmie Johnson winning five NASCAR Championships in a row. Impressive? Yes, but how about John winning ten Funny Car Championships in a row from 1993 to 2002!!! He also is credited with winning four U.S. Nationals titles as part of his 148 wins total.
Even though John will turn 67 this year there is no sign that he is slowing down. He realizes his racing career is winding down so he is making plans for the teams future. He is focused on bringing in a new generation of drivers and support personnel to keep the team performing at the same high level as in the past.