by Jon Asher
John Force is the winningest driver in NHRA history. His 125 victories have resulted in 14 championships (plus one with AHRA). At one point he won 10 consecutive titles and has also scored 23 Top 10 finishes.
The wins helped to make Force one of the most popular drivers on the NHRA circuit, but certainly not the only reason. Long before he started winning – and he went to 10 final rounds before doing so – he was a fan favorite because they knew he was one of them.
As an owner-driver, his race team encompasses four Funny Cars. One is driven by his daughter, Ashley, another by his son-in-law, Robert Hight, and the fourth by ace tuner-turned-driver Mike Neff.
His unselfishness has earned him the respect of even his rivals. The late Al Hofmann was one of Force's most bitter rivals, a man who rarely had a kind word for him in public or private. Then Hofmann suffered a horrifying crash in winning the '97 Gatornationals. When he awoke in the hospital, there was Force, anxiously waiting to see if he was all right. Force stuck around until Hofmann was well enough to be released, and then drove him home in his motorcoach.
The harsh reality of life hit Force in March of 2007 when his young driver, Eric Medlen, died after a testing accident. A lesser man might have crumbled, but Force gathered himself and his team, and with Eric's father, John, leading the way, embarked on a safety crusade that's destined to change the face of drag racing forever.
Force suffered his own setback in 2007 season when he was grievously injured in a crash, but his recovery was buoyed by the outpouring of support he received from millions of fans and his fellow racers. While he has a noticeable hitch in his step these days, he's back behind the wheel, still capable of kicking butt and taking names. His eyes remain focused on the future, and the young drivers who compete with and against him. He is, in every sense of the word, legendary.