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John Force to Take Part in Celebration of Life for Friend, Sponsor and Racing Fan Frank Tiegs

For nearly 50 years, John Force has taken great pride in the personal relationships he has built with sponsors who have supported himself or other drivers and cars within the John Force Racing organization.

While Force is thankful to have a strong rapport with sponsors, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion and winner of 155 national events typically considers sponsors as friends first and business partners second.

Such was the case with Frank Tiegs, the man Force and several thousand others will pay their respects to today in a Celebration of Life at 3 p.m. PT at Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash.

Tiegs, of Pasco, Wash., sadly passed away February 8 at the age of 66. A successful entrepreneur who started his business empire with just one farm in Pasco, Tiegs went on to own more than a dozen businesses that included real estate, farming, processing, finance, development and marketing.

Among his most successful businesses were Oregon Potato and Washington Potato, Flav-R-Pac, the Lewis and Clark Ranch, and Montana Brand Tools.

“Frank Tiegs was one of the most incredible, inspiring and generous people I’ve ever met,” Force said. “He was so easy-going and easy to like and easy to talk to. He didn’t let anything stop him, even after being forced to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair after he was paralyzed in a car crash a decade ago.”

Force first met Tiegs in 1990, shortly after the legendary drag racer earned his first NHRA Funny Car championship. They reunited more than 2 ½ decades later, and their renewed friendship began with a mutual love and appreciation of racing and muscle cars, and particularly their respective families.

“There were a lot of similarities between Frank and myself,” Force said. “We’re both family men. We both have a love for our wives, our children, our grandchildren, even our own employees. He was just an unbelievable individual who loved racing, all kinds of auto sports, not just NHRA but also NASCAR, IndyCar, boat racing – he just liked it all.”

For five years, Tiegs would go on to sponsor two-time Top Fuel champion and John Force’s daughter Brittany, and three-time Funny Car champion and John Force Racing president Robert Hight in a Flav-R-Pac branded dragster and Funny Car, respectively.

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Tiegs’ Montana Brand would also sponsor the Top Fuel dragster of up-and-coming racer Austin Prock.

“When I was told of his loss, it was a very sad day for us and all of our employees and workers at John Force Racing,” Force said. “He was good to a lot of people.

‘You had to love his personality. I’d be in the middle of a conversation, where I’d be talking for 15 minutes, 20 minutes and forgetting that the guy’s trying to enjoy the races. And then when I stopped, he’d make a statement like, stone serious: ‘Did your Mom drop you on your head when you were little?’ Then I’d realize I was talking too much, I’d apologize and I’d go away. And then he’d laugh and say, ‘Come here, give me a hug.’ That’s just how he was.

“You just had to grow to love the guy. And he did so much good for people. He never told me about the things that he did, but I heard it from family members and other people, things that he did to help people less fortunate.”

The biggest highlight of the Force-Tiegs friendship came on August 4, 2019, in the Northwest NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., when Force and Prock performed a drag racing rarity by winning both ends of the two NHRA Nitro classes.

But the victories were more than just another Wally for the trophy case. For Force, it was a milestone 150th victory of his Funny Car career, while for Prock, it was his first-ever win in a Top Fuel dragster (he has switched to driving a Funny Car this season in place of Hight, who is sidelined for personal medical reasons).

Tiegs attended that fateful race in August and it’s hard to figure out who had the bigger smile on their face in the winner’s circle: Force and Prock for winning or Tiegs for sponsoring and witnessing the rare double triumph.

“He always made it clear to us, ‘Force, don’t pitch me, don’t sell me, I come here to enjoy the races,’” Force said. “Going to the races really and truly was a getaway for him. He always came with his wife, with his children, his grandchildren and his buddies. That was his time to get away from work, his ‘me’ time, and it was well-deserved, given how hard he worked. He earned that “me” time. And when we were together, I had a lot of fun with him.

“I had so much respect for him, not just because he was a sponsor, but because of the way that he knew how to communicate with me. Austin Coil (Force’s former crew chief who led Force to 15 of his 16 Funny Car championships). was that way, too. Coil could communicate with me and I just grew to have such a love for this guy, it’s unbelievable.

“I’d watch (Tiegs) hug his grandkids or his wife or he’d even hug me sometimes. After he told me to shut up, he’d say, ‘Come here, stupid,’ and then he would give me a hug.’ I was excited to see him when we got to the racetrack.”

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Force still can’t believe his good friend is gone.

“Frank passed away far too young,” Force said. “He had so much more to do and life to live. But at the same time, he lived a very full and rewarding life, with a family he loved so much and which he always put ahead of everything else, including work.

“He loved two things growing up: farming and muscle cars. But nothing was more important or more loved by Frank than his love of his family, namely his wife and kids, and all his friends.

“And given the large crowd that is expected to come out to honor him, there also was a lot of love for Frank, as well.

“From everyone at John Force Racing, we all want to say we love you, Frank, and we love your family and your friends. You will be missed but you will not be forgotten, I promise.”

This story was originally published on March 29, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.