Legendary drag racer John Force, securing a badly needed auto-manufacturing sponsor for his four-car team, said Thursday he signed a multi-year deal with Chevrolet.
The announcement came three weeks before the National Hot Rod Assn. opens its season with the Circle K Winternationals in Pomona on Feb. 5-8.
Force, 65, is a record 16-time champion in the sport's funny car class and one of drag racing's most popular drivers. Funny cars and top-fuel dragsters are the NHRA's two elite, 300-mph divisions.
Force's Yorba Linda-based team has two other funny cars -- driven by Force's daughter Courtney and team president Robert Hight -- and a top-fuel dragster raced by another of Force's daughters, Brittany.
The team was rocked in mid-2013 when two of its major sponsors, Ford and the Castrol motor-oil firm, said they would pull their support after the 2014 season. Those companies and other sponsors covered most of the team's costs, which amount to $20 million or more annually.
Force vowed to get new sponsors and he did, first enlisting the Peak antifreeze company and the Lucas Oil firm and now Chevrolet. Financial terms of the Chevy deal were not disclosed.
It's actually a return to Chevrolet for Force, who raced Chevys early in his career. "It's personal to me, it means a lot," Force told reporters on a conference call. "I'm going back to my roots."
Force's dragsters bear virtually no resemblance to Chevrolets sold on dealers' lots. But the manufacturer provides key technical and engineering support along with financial aid.
Drag racing now "is so competitive that you need the backing of a major auto manufacturer," Hight said. Force said he also held preliminary talks with Toyota but there was "nothing in writing, nothing on the table."
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