Force still Funny Car's driving force at 64

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2014 at 11:06 am •  Published: February 21, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) — John Force has three grandchildren and will hit retirement age in three months.

Put him in the cockpit of a Funny Car and it's like he has taken a dip in the pool from "Cocoon."

"People joke about my age and senior discounts at Marie Callender and all that, but I put on this fire suit and I'm 24 years old again — Superman," Force said as he gets ready for this weekend's NHRA races at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler. "Laugh at me all you want. I can still get it done."

He sure can.

At the age of 64, Force is drag racing's force of nature.

A high school quarterback who lost every game he started — 0-27 — he has become one of the most dominating drivers in any motorsport, winning 139 races and 16 NHRA titles, both records.

Force has shown that age hasn't slowed him down any, backing up his 2013 championship by winning the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., racing to an elapsed-time national record of 3.965 seconds two weeks ago.

The frenetic energy that took him into racing in 1979 hasn't waned, allowing him to still blow past the competition at more than 320 mph at an age when most race-car drivers are long retired or talking into a microphone.

"I can come to the track and be tired and mentally wrong, and all of a sudden fans start cheering, little kids run up to you and it gets you going," Force said. "It's just what I love to do. I wonder sometimes if the light is ever going to burn out. I'll have days where I crawl out of bed and it's, oh, man, I can't keep doing this, then I'll get to that race track and I change."

It hasn't always been easy.

In 2007, Force wondered if he could continue racing after Eric Medlen, a driver for John Force Racing, died in a testing crash. Force nearly had racing taken away from him later that year, when a 300 mph accident in Dallas had doctors telling him he'd have to relearn how to walk and that racing was out of the question.