CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “I owe the sport of NHRA drag racing and I will stay here until I drop.”
Those were the words of John Force Thursday during a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the 15-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion did not announce his retirement, but did unveil partnerships with Just Marketing Group, Octagon and Rogers & Cowan that are designed to help grow the John Force Racing and NHRA brands.
The move comes after Force learned in late July that longtime sponsors Castrol and Ford Motor Co. would be leaving the team at the end of the 2014 season.
One could almost hear Eric Clapton playing softly in the background as Force explained how once again he’s found himself at a “crossroads” in his racing career.
“I was born with Polio. I fought it through school,” Force said. “I am fine. I always make it. But at the crossroads of my career, there were times that I just ran out of money. I was in a situation, ‘how do I go on?’ And I got a call from a race track in Houston. I was a little guy. There was a rainout and I wasn’t running NHRA then and Prudhomme, Beadle and McEwen and those guys weren’t going to make it to this match race. It was a crossroads that took me down a path.
“There was a crossroads when we lost Eric Medlen,” Force continued. “We had a great TV show. We were making money. Our ratings were great and we were helping grow the brand of NHRA. We lost Eric and I sat for days in tears, mentally wanting to quit and the Good Lord found me a way to do whatever it takes.”
During the early years of Force’s career, he was nearly broke all the time. Eventually that changed.
“I partnered up with people,” he explained. “Castrol, 18 years; Ford Motor Co., Auto Club, Traxxas, Brand Source, Mac Tools, Freightliner and these people teamed up with me. Financial was never my problem in the last 15 years. And I will fight because we are here to fight for the championship this weekend and fight for the championship in 2014. I thank Castrol for what they did. We will fight to the end. But in 2015, my life starts all over again.”
While Force is actively seeking the sponsorship money for his Funny Car and his daughter Brittany’s Top Fuel car, and that is what the new partnerships are designed to deliver, it’s not all bleak on the sponsorship front.