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John Force Dishes on Retirement, Replacement and 2023 Funny Car Season

At 74, John Force, an icon in NHRA Funny Car racing and a 16-time world champion, frequently addresses queries about his retirement plans and the future of his four-car racing team. During a recent webinar for EPartrade Race Industry Week, Force hinted at potential succession or “retirement” plans, noting that if necessary, John Force Racing Top Fuel driver Austin Prock could seamlessly replace him.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do because I’m not getting any younger. But what’s cool is we’ve built a situation,” Force confessed to moderator Joe Castello. “If any reason I went down, and I could, any day, [Austin] Prock would step right into my seat. Wouldn’t be a problem. He’s driven Funny Cars. He’s driven dragsters.”

He also mentioned Robert Hight’s versatility, his daughter Brittany Force’s Funny Car license, and the team’s overall preparedness.

“Robert Hight can drive anything. Brittany is licensed in Funny Car,” Force continued. “So we try to make our company where we can always cover our backs.”

Force, who hasn’t won a race in 2023 and has only one win in the last two seasons, emphasized the commitment of his sponsors and the need to keep racing for livelihood. Despite challenges in finding and training new talent, he remains determined to ensure the survival of John Force Racing. He also mentioned hiring a new crew chief, reflecting his proactive approach to team management.

“I made some mistakes – I didn’t have a backup for [Brittany’s Top Fuel crew chief David] Grubnic,” stated Force, who has yet to announce the co-crew chief. “We’ve fixed that. We hired a young kid that’s going to come over who was a crew chief, and he’s joining us. So we’re excited about that. And we’re still lookin’. We’re looking for more people.”

Despite his age and the physical toll of racing, Force finds rejuvenation and a sense of identity when behind the wheel. He humorously recounted his daily struggles and conversations with his doctor, showing a mix of determination and self-awareness.

“I’m having fun,” said Force. “When I get in that car, I know who I am. Look, I’m not trying to kid nobody. I’m not young like Robert. I get up every morning, and I sit on the end of the bed, and I go, ‘Where’s this day going to go?’ My chest starts poundin’. I have to call my doctor: ‘Am I having a heart attack?!’ He says, ‘No, Force. You’re going to work yourself to death, and you’ll never change.’ But when I get in that car, I get young again.”

Finishing seventh in the 2023 standings without a win, Force remains undeterred, using his experiences as motivation to continue competing.

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“I didn’t win the way I wanted to win this year,” Force confessed. “But I ain’t done. It’s going to motivate me more.”

Force, along with JFR drivers Austin Prock and Robert Hight, will be attending the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show on Friday, December 8, in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

This story was originally published on December 4, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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