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Auto racing: John Force goes to NHRA finale with 16th title in hand

Published: Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 12:05 a.m. CDT
John Force celebrates his 16th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship title after a victory Oct. 27 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As he lined up for the final round at Las Vegas 2 weeks ago, John Force refused to look over at his competitor.

Force had a shot to wrap up a record 16th Funny Car title, and couldn’t let the emotions of racing his daughter affect the outcome.

“I turned the switch on. I didn’t even want to know that was Courtney next door to me,” Force recalled.

He avoided Courtney after they both advanced out of the semifinals at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, and told his youngest daughter after the event that he loved her, always wants her to do her best – but he just couldn’t be around her that day.

“I didn’t need the emotion to take over, that that’s my little girl, or I would have choked,” Force said. “I needed that round. Probably the worst that I’ve ever needed to win a round to win a championship. I needed it in my whole career more than my first championship. This is the one that’s going to keep John Force in business.”

Force went on to beat Courtney, wrapping up the title in the penultimate event of the NHRA season. It’s made this weekend’s finale at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., a coronation for the 64-year-old drag racer.

The championship comes at a crossroads for the larger-than-life Force, who won’t pick up his AARP card and slide quietly into some blissful life of retirement. He wants to keep racing, and he wants his team to stay in business, so he’s fighting hard to do so despite losing his two biggest sponsors in a brutal 1-2 punch earlier this year.

In separate and unrelated decisions, both Ford and Castrol motor oil said they are pulling their support of John Force Racing after the 2014 season in what both companies said were pure business decisions.

Force is working hard to find replacement money, but learned from the late Dale Earnhardt that winning is the ultimate selling point.

“Earnhardt made the statement, he told his people in the boardroom – I was there – ‘I’ll do the winning, you guys sell me,’” Force said. “Well, I’m not exactly Dale Earnhardt. I don’t try to kid nobody. He had confidence like you couldn’t believe. But so do I.”

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