John Force, left, went on a wild ride for the second consecutive NHRA event on Sunday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

The 16-time champion, John Force Racing out to solve team’s early season troubles


Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force has had a forgettable start to the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Seriesseason. With two crashes in the first two events, including the latest coming during Sunday eliminations at Wild Horse Motorsports Park near Phoenix on Feb. 25, Force just wants to get back to talking about racing.

And talking has always been a strong suit for the NHRA all-time great personality and champion.

“I feel great,” Force said. “I was in the office at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. Thanks to Simpson. The helmet protected me. I have no complaints. The race car protected me. We build good race cars and we can always try and build them better. John Force is good, I am healthy. I am going to get a couple of checkups to make sure I am OK. I was already goofy.”

Force, 68, said that he was knocked out in the Phoenix incident, but not at the season-opening event at Pomona, California.”

“Number one, I want to clarify a lot of people thought I was knocked out at Pomona,” Force said. “I wasn’t knocked out. I remember the race and I remember trying to stay off the wall. All those announcers, Dave Rieff and Tony Pedregon, do a great job. I got no problem with them. They can only talk about what they see, and they thought I was knocked out because I wasn’t pulling the brake handle.

“If you look at it, I’ve got my hands on the steering wheel trying to keep it off the wall to save the chassis. That’s my job. I came to a stop and pulled the brake. I was not knocked out. Some of the Safety Safari people, God bless them. They love us, and they want to protect us, but I was never knocked out. I remember the whole view. This week (at Phoenix), I was knocked out (chuckles), but with my hard head, who cares?”

Unlike daughter Brittany, who spent overnight in a California hospital following her own horrific crash in the first round of Sunday eliminations at Pomona,  John Force has had no trouble watching and dissecting the video of his latest crash.

“I’ve watched it over and over trying to figure out what took place,” John Force said. “We were lucky we didn’t get into the other driver (Jonnie Lindberg). It dropped a hole early and was going perfectly straight, and in the heat of battle, you aren’t going to lift, I don’t think. You want to win, and it is going, and you think you are going to win. We had an automatic shutoff that my guy on the starting line activated, and it didn’t shut the car off. We are going to address that with the vendor and make sure this thing is working properly.

“I am glad Jonnie Lindberg is OK. I got over in front of him and missed him and got up on the wall, and I was lucky I didn’t go over the wall. Then I got all tied up in his parachutes. We were going around in circles out there like we were dancing.”

Have you had a chance to analyze what went wrong?

“Without a doubt, we have a gremlin in our cockpit,” John Force said. “We have been pulling main studs and we are looking at the bolts. We are looking at the studs and how we cap them. We build our own engines, but a lot of racers are having the same problem — it just seems to be biting me the worst. It is only two runs that it has happened on major, but I am meeting with my guys and we’ll figure it out.

“It is not like things have just gone wrong. I don’t believe in that. It might happen one time, but it dropped cylinder leaving the starting line. It had a hole out the whole run and the car usually moves around and tells you something is wrong, but it didn’t move around — it went straight as an arrow and it didn’t talk to me. We’ll learn from it and move on.”