John Force and Kenny Bernstein joined NASCAR owner and former driver Richard Childress as the 2012 inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama on Thursday night, May 3rd. Force and Bernstein became the 10th and 11th NHRA inductees into the prestigious Hall, which features among its members a distinguished roster of deserving drivers from all segments of motorsports.
The previous nine NHRA inductees were Mickey Thompson (1990), Wally Parks (1992), Don Garlits (1997), Don Prudhomme (2000), Shirley Muldowney (2004), Joe Amato (2005), Bob Glidden (2005), Warren Johnson (2007) and Bill Jenkins (2008).
Bernstein, the only race team owner to have collected wins in each of America’s three major motorsports series – NHRA, NASCAR and CART (IndyCar) – was a six-time NHRA world champion, earned 69 event victories and became the first to win world titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. He earned the title “King of Speed” after becoming the first driver to break the 300-mph barrier in Gainesville, Fla., in 1992.
“In 1979 in an NHRA event in Baton Rouge, La., John Force and I faced off in the final Funny Car round,” remembered Bernstein at the celebration. “It was one of the first times either of us had made it to a final round, and here we were racing each other. It’s ironic that 33 years later, we are both standing on this stage for this momentous occasion. If you had asked me in 1979 where we saw ourselves in 33 years, we never would have guessed our path would have led us here. John has been a good friend for all these years, and we’re pleased to have reached this destination together.”
Force, who owns NHRA records for victories (134), No. 1 qualifying positions (139), elimination round-wins (1,102) and world championship titles (15), focused on key people who meant the most to his career over the years. “One of the major people was Austin Coil,” said Force. “Without Austin, there is no way I am here tonight accepting this honor. I also have to thank my wife, Laurie, for putting up with me. I always tell people she loves me, but she just doesn’t like me. We used to sleep in the cab of a truck, and she did everything from writing my first contracts to most importantly raising our three amazing daughters: Ashley, Brittany and Courtney.”
Force went on to thank his oldest daughter, Adria, and her husband Robert Hight, who help run John Force Racing, as well as a host of sponsors, including long-time sponsor Castrol, Ford, AAA, and new sponsor Traxxas. According to a tweet from Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon, Force concluded the evening by trying to set up daughters Brittany and Courtney with Richard Childress’ grandsons, NASCAR drivers Austin and Ty Dillon.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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