Force named Racer of the Year XIX, Drag Racer of the Year
Monday, March 10, 2014

Readers of Racer and have, by a landslide, voted 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world champion John Force as their overall Racer of the Year XIX and Drag Racer of the Year. 

The 64-year-old phenom earned his 16th Funny Car title last year, extending a record haul that seems unlikely ever to be beaten, and he shows no signs of getting out of the throttle anytime soon. As of now, Force is leading the 2014 NHRA Funny Car standings, too.

Closest to Force in the polls was 2013 Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel. His fourth straight title drew respectable applause in the overall voting, but with 67 percent of the votes, Force dominated the polls.

It’s the second time that Force has earned overall Racer of the Year honors, the first coming after he had fought back from serious injuries to take the 2010 Funny Car title. Incredibly, it’s also the 10th time he has been voted Drag Racer of the Year. 

“This is the kind of thing that really makes you stop and think,” said Force. “Someone was just telling me how great I did last year, and I had to tell ’em to stop. I didn't want to hear it. Still don't. It's like my dad told me once, a long time ago, when I came home bragging about how I'd just won 50 grand at some race. He said, ‘What makes you think you're so great? Because you read that in the paper? You're probably the one who told them how great you are.' I never forgot that. I try to stay hungry and stay humble and not think about it, but this award from Racer makes you think about it. The 2013 championship was special, and this award makes it even more special. All I can say is what an honor it is.”

Force, who was the overwhelming choice for overall Racer of the Year and Drag Racer of the Year, floundered through early 2013 but came alive at midseason and walked away with what he considers one of the most meaningful championships of his unparalleled career. It was his 16th Funny Car title, extending his own NHRA record, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the 64-year-old living legend.

Force won just six rounds through the first nine races of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season, then reversed his fortunes in June, winning seven rounds in just the next two races – in Bristol, where he took an event win for the first time anywhere in more than a year, and in Epping, where he was runner-up.

Stunned to discover that he would be losing both his Castrol and Ford sponsorships after 2014, Force put together a 14-5 win-loss record in the next few months and positioned himself perfectly for the six-race Countdown to the Championship. There, all he did was drive into the final round at five races in a row and win three of them – in t. Louis, Reading, and Las Vegas – to take the title in a runaway.

“There were times where, yeah, I wondered if maybe I wasn’t going to come all the way back to where I’ve been in the past, but in the end, they couldn’t stop us,” says Force, who was an amazing 19-3 during the Countdown. “At one point, I was really thinking about having to drive a Top Fuel dragster someday soon. That wasn’t my plan – there was no plan – but I would have done it if I’d had to. I’ll do anything. I needed this championship maybe more than I’ve ever needed one, just to show Corporate America that this ol’ man can still get it done, but I never believed it was all over. Never will. I’ll never be satisfied, and I’ll never let up. You can’t – you’ll fail.”

Keeping it in the Force family, daughter Brittany was the overwhelming choice as Racer Rookie of the Year. With a staggering 78 percent of the votes, she easily conquered the rookie field. Her nearest contender was Carlos Munoz, whose second-place finish in his Indy 500 debut earned him 9 percent of the votes.

The Racer of the Year Hall of Fame
Overall Racer of the Year

1995 Jacques Villeneuve
1996 Jacques Villeneuve
1997 Tommy Kendall
1998 Jeff Gordon
1999 Juan Pablo Montoya
2000 Michael Schumacher
2001 Michael Schumacher
2002 Michael Schumacher
2003 Paul Tracy
2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2005 Tony Stewart
2006 Michael Schumacher
2007 Lewis Hamilton
2008 Kyle Busch
2009 Jimmie Johnson
2010 John Force
2011 Tony Stewart
2012 Ryan Hunter-Reay
2013 John Force

Drag Racer of the Year
1995 Scott Kalitta
1996 Blaine Johnson
1997 Joe Amato
1998 Joe Amato
1999 John Force
2000 John Force
2001 John Force
2002 John Force
2003 Kenny Bernstein
2004 John Force
2005 Tony Schumacher
2006 John Force
2007 John Force
2008 John Force
2009 Tony Schumacher
2010 John Force
2011 Del Worsham
2012 Antron Brown
2013 John Force