John Force mulls move to Top Fuel

KENT, Wash. -- NHRA legend John Force, an iconic, 15-time Funny Car champion, might end his career in a Top Fuel dragster because of sponsorship changes coming to his organization.

"With Ford leaving, if I don't find a new manufacturer, John Force Racing will have to evolve," Force said. "That could possibly mean moving another Funny Car to a dragster."

John Force and John Force Racing always has competed in the Funny Car class, winning 17 championships over the last 21 NHRA seasons. But JFR added a dragster this season for his daughter, Brittney Force, a rookie in Top Fuel.

Force might join her in a dragster in 2015, depending on future sponsorship.

"I don't want to do that," Force said. "Don Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein both did it later in their careers. I want to stay in a Funny Car, but I may have to adjust my business to make it work. I have to address the future."

Ford announced last week it was leaving the professional sponsorship side of drag racing after the 2014 season. Ford has been with JFR for 16 years.

Jamie Allison, the director of Ford Racing, talked about the changes on the Ford Racing website.

"It was a very tough decision," Allison said. "We made a business decision, reviewing our investment. We review all our motorsports programs regularly to ensure they are relevant for the company and supporting our outreach to our fans and customers."

Force, 64, has no plans to retire. He still is completing at a championship level, ranking fourth in the 2013 Funny Car standings.

"Right now, JFR has taken a major hit," Force said. "The mistake I made is I kind of believe some things are forever. I felt we were perfect.

"So I've got to find another vendor or John Force Racing, as we know it, could change. I have my job cut out for me. JFR cannot survive in its present form with major budget cuts. I'm looking for new partners."

Along with Ford's departure, Force is uncertain where things stand with Castrol, a company that has been on his cars for 28 years. Castrol recently was purchased by British Petroleum.

"Castrol is the greatest partner in the world and a great company," Force said. "But for the first time in 28 years, I know there's a hiccup. I'll know more in a few weeks."

Force is the most successful NHRA driver in history with 135 victories. JFR fields three Funny Cars, including one with driver Robert Hight, the 2009 NHRA champion, and one with Courtney Force, John's youngest daughter and the 2012 NHRA Rookie of the Year. Courtney was a cover photo last month on the ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue. Brittany Force ranks 13th in the standings as a Top Fuel rookie.

"I've always been a guy that believes when one door closes another one opens," John Force said. "This is an opportunity for someone new to come into the sport and be part of this organization, which some people call the first family of drag racing. Why not look outside the box? I have no choice. It's all open."