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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Force to thank Gordon with special Chevy Camaro in Charlotte

  
John Force’s memories of Jeff Gordon go back to the early 1990s, when the two drivers were just getting started on their impressive championship runs. As Gordon wraps up a legendary career at the end of this season, Force wanted to say thank you to Gordon in a way that only the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion could, with a fully flamed Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Force will run the Funny Car for one race, the NHRA Carolina Nationals, starting Sept. 18.

“I got the idea for the flames from Jeff telling me years ago he was a fan because I was always on fire. He was right; when I got started, we were on fire from here to Australia. I always enjoyed seeing Jeff at races and award banquets. The guy was just so polite and professional, but you knew he had the eye of the tiger, too.

 You don’t win all those championships on your good looks. This special Funny Car is just a way for me, my family, my team, my sponsors, NHRA, and the fans to say thank you for being a great champion and being such a great driver in NASCAR. I put as many flames as my designer Brandon [Baker] could fit on my hot rod in Jeff’s honor,” said Force, who will unveil the Funny Car on Friday at the NHRA Carolina Nationals.

In addition to recognizing Gordon’s racing success, Force wanted to say thank you for the many times the pair of Chevrolet drivers shared a stage or autograph line throughout the years.

Force met Gordon in the early 1990s, when they were seated next to each other at an end-of-season awards banquet. Gordon admitted to Force he was a little nervous about speaking to a big crowd, and Force gave the young driver some humorous advice to get him through the event. Those tips worked for Gordon, and he has recounted this story many times throughout the years, to Force’s amusement.

Years later, when both drivers were established champions, Force and Gordon crossed paths at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., when Force made a hamburger run for a group of drivers that included Gordon and Rusty Wallace. Because of a scheduling mix-up with Force’s limo driver, Force actually drove his limo to the racetrack and to In-N-Out. In the process, the limo ran out of gas, and the drivers had a good-hearted laugh about the whole incident as they recalled how Force insisted on driving and getting hamburgers for his NASCAR friends.

“I loved being around the NASCAR guys. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was my hero, and I learned a lot from him. Getting to know Gordon over the years has been a lot of fun. We see each other at NASCAR races, and I know his kids love coming to the drag races at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte. He is just a great guy, and I am proud to run this Chevrolet Camaro to thank him for everything he has done for motorsports,” said Force.