The legend lives on.

For a little longer, at least.    

John Force, 75, continues to defy Father Time, and that was evident Sunday when he claimed the Funny Car title at the New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.

Force clocked a 4.081-second elapsed time at 319.29 mph to edge Austin Prock, his John Force Racing teammate – and the young driver whom Force on Saturday said would fill the 16-time champion’s seat when he eventually retires. Prock trailed at the finish Sunday, but not by much, taking the runner-up spot at 4.096, 316.38 in front of a sell-out crowd at New England Dragway.

Afterwards, Force had mixed emotions about his 157th NHRA victory. 

“I'm down because I don't like beating my teammate,” Force said. “He's the future. Robert Hight will be coming back” to drive the car Prock is currently piloting.

“I'm not getting into any dramatic stuff,” he added, “but I realized that, at the other end (of the track), I didn't even want to do an interview. My time's up. It was up when I turned 65. It was up when I turned 55.

“I want to be positive. You'll see me here. I'll be here next year, and I'll probably be in a Top Fuel car. But what I'm saying is I look at a young kid like Prock and they have all that natural ability. So does (Matt) Hagan, so does (Ron) Capps, J.R. Todd, (Tim) Wilkerson's kid (Daniel) out there. All of them just have that natural (ability). It's a fight for me just to stay in the game, and it shouldn't be that way. My team deserves better.”



Sunday’s performance was the culmination of magical weekend for Force, coming on the heels of Saturday’s victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. In that special event, he beat Daniel Wilkerson, then KO’d Blake Alexander in the finals via a holeshot.

Despite comments about being a liability to his team, Force is enjoying a solid start to the 2024 season. Sunday’s victory was his second of the year – he won the Winternationals in late March at Pomona, Calif. – and he came into the race at Epping on the strength of a runner-up showing in Joliet, Ill.

Crew chief Daniel Hood “is doing a great job, and so is (Chris) Cunningham. I teamed them up and Tim Fabrisi. They gave me a car that goes down the racetrack every run, and I haven't had that in years,” Force said. “So, anyway, I just wanted to say that and get it over with.”

Force’s victory parade consisted of wins over Buddy Hull, Blake Alexander, J.R. Todd and then Prock.

Force is no stranger to the winners circle at New England Dragway, as he also won in Epping in 2015 and 2021.

“People keep saying I've almost been here 50 years. I started in '74, but I was driving Funny Cars before that,” Force said. “Just couldn't win, couldn't qualify. Nobody knew who I was. Lions, Irwindale, Orange County. So, I've been around 100 years …”



Force’s constant chatter about his retirement has created talk that it may be coming sooner than later. Wrong, he said.

“I went on an interview … they go, ‘Are you going to Bristol?’” for the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals next weekend, June 7-9. “Yeah, I'm going to Bristol. I got sponsors that pay me. I got to be there, and I've got to get some deals signed,” he said.

“I've got to watch what I say because I got sponsors paying me millions of dollars,” he added, “but I'm not what I used to be and I know it now. I've got to get some young kids in here that deserve that chance before it's too late for them.”

Force may think he’s over the hill when he doubts his ability to get the job done. The pair of wins at New England Dragway prove otherwise for the racer whose 16 championship are 10 more than the next driver on the Funny Car list, Kenny Bernstein.

“You want to call somebody the GOAT? Call Austin Coil the GOAT,” Force said of the crew chief who put him on a winning path. “He is the greatest of all time because he took a truck driver and turned him into something, and I can't forget that, or I got no reason to wake up in the morning.”  

Force moved up to second in the points standings after seven races, just 22 points behind Prock.

“I'm going to race,” Force said. “Bernstein said, ‘Make them drag you out. Make them drag, rip that firesuit off you.’ He told me that about two weeks ago. ‘Rip it off you.’ And I said, ‘How long can I do it?’ He said, ‘Don't quit. No matter how ...’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I ain't like I was.’ He said, ‘It doesn't matter. You're still out there.’”