The thought of John Force as comic book superhero is not as far-fetched as it might seem on the surface.
After all, the 63-year-old drag racing icon, who competes this week at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a “Destination Force” version of his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang, has lived a life that defies normal convention.
He overcame childhood polio, grew up in poverty as the youngest son of a fry cook and a truck driver, failed in a bid to follow his brother Walker into law enforcement because, as he tells it, “I failed the ink blot test,” and, ultimately, survived his own ineptitude and that of his volunteer crew to become a professional drag racer.
Starting out with a car that could barely get out of its own way, he went from the spectacular to the sublime, trading the crash-and-burn image he nurtured early-on (“if you can’t win, be spectacular) for the mantle of NHRA Full Throttle World Champion.
Not one championship, mind you, but 15, the last at age 61 after coming back from a crash in Dallas, Texas, that would have ended the career of any normal human being. Force, as it turns out, is exceedingly abnormal.
Despite a compound fracture of the left ankle, broken bones in his hands, feet, fingers and toes plus ligament damage, Force, despite a month-long stay at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, was back in his race car four months after the accident and in the winners’ circle at Topeka, Kan., four months after that.
Having endured all of the physical and mental trials – plus knee surgery before the start of the current season, it doesn’t seem all that strange for the 134-time tour winner’s futuristic adventures as righter-of-wrongs to be chronicled in “graphic novel,” modern-speak for comic book.
Unveiled at last month’s Indianapolis Comic Book Show, the Destination Force Castrol Mustang will be on display Thursday night on Fremont Street before making its only competitive appearance in the 12th annual Big O Tires Nationals starting Friday.
A project undertaken by daughter and two-time former Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion Ashley Force Hood, Destination Force is projected as a continuing series of adventures loosely based on Force’s experiences in the real world.
“I wanted to race this Funny Car the minute Ashley showed me the comic book,” said the 2012 inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. “The whole story behind Destination Force was my story and to take it in a whole new direction with a comic book was great.
“I know the fans loved the book and we have been selling a lot of them at the car shows, through our John Force Racing website and the John Force RaceStation apparel store,” he said. “We’ll be selling them on Fremont Street, too. Bottom line, I want to get this Destination Force car in the winners’ circle.”
Although he has said he “never says never,” Force concedes that his bid for a 16th series championship may be over.
“Maybe I can’t win the championship,” he acknowledged, “but we moved up (from 10th to sixth in points with a semifinal finish two weeks ago at Reading, Pa.) and we’re gonna keep fighting these next two races.”
While LVMS once was Force’s nemesis (he won just once in his first 18 appearances and twice failed to make the starting lineup), the 15-time Auto Racing All-America selection has turned things around since his first appearance in the Big O Tire Nationals resulted in a first round double disqualification involving himself and Bob Bode.
In fact, just two years ago became only the fifth driver in history to sweep the spring and fall races.
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