For at least a decade, success seemed to come easily for Funny Car racer John Force. His reputation morphed from leaker to legend almost as fast as his 337.33-mph career-best speed. He seemed untouchable, even sold T-shirts with the word emblazoned on them. As if 2007 (the year the sport lost John Force Racing rising star Eric Medlen and nearly lost Force, as well, in a catastrophic accident at Texas Motorplex) weren’t jarring enough, along came 2020. Coronavirus and all its attending issues had a negative impact on everyone to some degree. But for Force, a man with a staggering $8 million payroll, the pandemic packed an especially powerful punch.
Force planned to come back with his full four-car team as soon as the sanctioning body gave everyone the green light. In the meantime, he tried to keep all of his employees working, even against the adamant advice of his attorneys. He tried to remain loyal to his staff, his sport, and himself. But overwhelming financial dictates made him do something decidedly un-John-Force-ish: throw in the towel for a full year. He said he couldn’t bring himself even to say “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” He just called it “19.” He dreaded it for its ruinous potential, both medically and financially, and finally had to admit that he had found an enemy tougher and meaner and more unforgiving than he ever thought nemesis Al Hofmann could be.
But just like he did when he was young and lived in his car parked in brother Walker’s driveway and existed daily on a boiled egg and soda pop, John Force survived. Nothing coronavirus threw at him could stop him. Walker Force wasn’t surprised. Years ago, he said of the brother called a daredevil, “You can knock him down, whip him, stomp on him, but the next day he’ll be knocking on your door.”