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NHRA Notebook: John Force forced to find sponsors

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2013

John Force went public Thursday with a quest for new funding for his National Hot Rod Association team.

Force, a 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion and the sport’s biggest name, will lose his John Force Racing organization’s two primary sponsors after the 2014 season.

Without Ford and Castrol paying the bills, Forceis looking for new backing.

“For the first time in (28) years, we’re on the market,” Force said at a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway, just down the road from zMax Dragway, where the NHRA’s Carolina Nationals are scheduled this weekend. “I’ve got a fight on my hands.”

Force has been associated with Castrol for 28 years and Ford for 17. The companies informed Force this year they were pulling out of drag racing.

Force has hired marketing and entertainment agencies to help him find new sponsorship, which he said will cost several million dollars. His family – which includes NHRA drivers Courtney and Brittany Force – will again star in a reality television series called “Driving Force” that once aired in the 1990s.

Daughters Brittany and CourtneyForce also drive for John Force Racing. John Force’s son-in-law, Robert Hight, is a successful Funny Car driver and president of the company.

“This is hard on me, I am very stressed about this,” said John Force, 64. “But racing is what I do. I taught my children about it and brought them into it. So I’m doing this for them because I won’t be doing this forever.”

Notes

• Antron Brown, who won the 2012 Top Fuelchampionship, is seeded sixth in the Countown to the Championship playoffs, which will begin with the Carolina Nationals.

“All these racers are bringing their best stuff here,” Brown said Thursday. “We all had all better be tight and right.”

Brown has victories this season at Gainesville, Fla., and Commerce, Ga. He was the No. 1 qualifier at the regular season’s final race in Indianapolis this month but was upset in the first round by No.16 Morgan Lucas.

“Everybody has a solid shot at this,” said Brown.

• Thirdseed Jeg Coughlin thinks the numbers might add up for a shot at his fifth Pro Stockchampionship.

“The other two times I won the Countdown, I was also third coming in,” said Coughlin, who took the 2011 season off.

Coughlin, who also won the title in the pre-Countdown years of 2000 and 2002, is a Dodge Avenger teammate with the two drivers seeded around him, No.2 AllenJohnson and No.4 Vincent Nobile.

“Between the three of us, maybe we can knock some heads this weekend,” said Coughlin.

• Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Matt Smith isn’t far from home. He is from the small town of King in Stokes County and graduated from South Stokes High in 1991.

“This is our home track and we’re looking forward to racing here and starting the Countdown right,” said Smith, whose father Rickie Smith races in the NHRA’s Pro Mod Series and is a five-time International Hot Rod Association champion.

Matt Smith, who won at Norwalk, Ohio, in July, is seeded second behind Hector Arana Jr.

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