JOHN FORCE CLAIMS CAREER VICTORY NUMBER 148 WITH GATORS TITLE
Nitro Funny Car legend John Force added another line to his illustrious resume Sunday.
The 16-time NHRA world champion, driving his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, beat Jonnie Lindberg to capture the title at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Force clocked a 3.928-second elapsed time at 328.14 mph to muscle past Lindberg’s 3.971-second lap in his Jim Head-owned Funny Car.
“They made one little mistake out here, they let me find the music,” said Force, 67. “I remember when I was 15 years old driving around without a driver’s license and the music carried me. The Beach Boys, Merle Haggard, I loved that life. I got after him (Lindberg) and we gave the fans a race at the Gators. I love Jonnie (Lindberg’s) attitude. He told me he took it easy on me. He said ‘I let you win old man.’ I just love him to death and I gave him a big ol’ hug.”
This was Force’s NHRA-record 148th career national event win in his 248th career final round. Force’s final round win also was the 2,500th Funny Car round win for John Force Racing. Lindberg is on the other side of the spectrum as he was competing in his inaugural nitro Funny Car race.
“I made a lot of changes coming here, and I don’t know if I’m smart or just lucky,” Force said. “Either way, I surround myself with great people. They are the ones who make it happen and then the sponsors and the cheer of the crowd.”
Force’s victory parade consisted of wins over Del Worsham, Jack Beckman, and Tommy Johnson Jr. before he ousted Lindberg.
Force has advanced to the final round of the NHRA Gatornationals 13 times, winning eight times (1992-1996, 1999, 2001, and 2017). Force’s victory also was his 17th win a Chevrolet-bodied Funny Car making him the winningest Chevrolet-bodied Funny Car driver in NHRA history.
“I showed you all, this old man can still get it (done), age is not a limit,” Force said. “I don’t go to a race without believing I can win. The day I don’t believe I can win, then it’s time for me to quit. I found the music and they’re going to be sorry I found the music, trust me.”
Force’s victory came 10 years to the day of Eric Medlen’s on-track crash during a test session at Gainesville, Fla., a crash that eventually took his life on March 23, 2007.
“Losing Eric Medlen here was hardest on his dad, (John),” Force said. “I know he (Eric) rode with his dad with (Jack Beckman) and Dean Antonelli (with Beckman), but Eric Medlen saved my life. I know a son would always root for his dad, John Medlen, and we are all friends and a big family. I know if his dad can’t win, he would like to see John Force (win) one more time. I know he was in my heart all day. I love you Eric. I know he was with me there in the final.”