John Force, one of drag racing's most legendary figures, will add yet another racing accomplishment to his illustrious career resume when he becomes just the fourth NHRA racer inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Force, a 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion (1990-'91, '93-2002, '04, '06, '10), will be honored Thursday, April 7, at the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala held in the Speedway Club's Grand Ballroom at Texas Motor Speedway during the Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR doubleheader race weekend.
Force's induction will highlight an evening that recognizes the accomplishments of some of the biggest names in motorsports, all while benefitting Speedway Children's Charities at Texas Motor Speedway. Others being recognized are seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Richard Petty; defending race winner of Texas Motor Speedway's Samsung Mobile 500 and AAA Texas 500 Denny Hamlin; five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson; four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon; and veteran motorsports reporter Terry Blount.
"Being inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame is a great honor," Force said. "I have a lot of great memories racing in Texas. They say everything is bigger in Texas. I won my 100th race in Houston and that was a huge milestone. When you think of the other great Texas drag racers like Raymond Beadle, Kenny Bernstein, Eddie Hill, Lee Shepherd, to add my name to that list is amazing. The fans in Texas have always been some of my best. When I was in the hospital after my crash in 2007 (at the Texas Motorplex), they brought cakes to Baylor (University Medical Center in Dallas) for me and waited outside for days. I'll never forget that."
Force will become the 13th member enshrined into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. He joins previous inductees A.J. Foyt (2003), Johnny Rutherford ('03), Terry Labonte ('04), Lee Shepherd ('04), Kenny Bernstein ('05), Jim Hall ('05), Eddie Hill ('06), Mark Martin ('07), Jim McElreath ('07), Bobby Labonte ('08), Bruton Smith ('08) and Joe Gibbs ('09).
Force joins Shepherd, Bernstein and Hill as the only NHRA racers inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. The Lone Star State has provided the best and one of the more terrifying moments of Force's career. Entering the 2011 season, Force has registered 13 of his 132 career victories in the state of Texas. One of his most unforgettable drag racing moments also came in Texas, and it wasn't celebrating a win or championship.
In 2007, Force was involved in a near-fatal accident when he blew a tire that sent his car careening into Bernstein. After six hours of surgery and several months of rehabilitation, Force returned to for the season opener in 2008. His redemption came in 2010 when he became the oldest NHRA champion, winning his record 15th championship at the age of 61.
Petty, one of NASCAR's iconic figures, will be honored with the Bruton Smith Legend Award. Petty has been synonymous with NASCAR, starting his career as a driver in 1958 and since retiring from racing in 1992 he has remained active in the sport, serving as car owner of Richard Petty Motorsports. Petty's career is highlighted by his seven series championships (1964, '67, '71, '72, '74, '75, '79), which is tied for the most in history with the late Dale Earnhardt. Petty's ultimate racing honor came last year as he was among the five individuals inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's inaugural class.
Hamlin, last year's most dominant Sprint Cup Series driver at Texas Motor Speedway, will be awarded the Texas Motor Speedway Racer of the Year. Hamlin became just the second driver in speedway history to sweep both Sprint Cup Series races in the same season – winning April's Samsung Mobile 500 and November's AAA Texas 500. His victory in the AAA Texas 500 served as a clear indicator that he was a championship contender as he overtook Johnson for the championship lead, marking the first time since 2005 that Johnson was not leading entering the final two races of the season.
Johnson, the defending five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, will receive the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award. Johnson has dominated the sport – becoming the first driver to win five consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships – and doing so with his modest and humble personality. He also embodies the ideals of sportsmanship off the track. His charitable contributions through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation have helped raise more than $3.5 million for charitable organizations.
Gordon, Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, also will be recognized for his contributions off the track as he will receive the Maj. General Thomas Sadler Award. He has championed the efforts of Speedway Children's Charities through his contributions with the Jeff Gordon Foundation Corvette Raffle. Since beginning the raffle in 2006, he has helped raise more than $400,000 for Speedway Children's Charities at Texas Motor Speedway.
Veteran motorsports journalist and Houston native Terry Blount will receive the Excellence in Motorsports Journalism Award. Blount's career has spanned more than 30 years with tenures at some of the largest newspapers in the United States. He has worked at the Houston Post, Houston Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News and currently is a motorsports writer/columnist for ESPN.com. During his career, he has missed only one major race at Texas Motor Speedway since it opened in 1997.
Blount has earned numerous writing honors, including the Citation for Writing Excellence from Hearst Newspapers and the Excellence in Journalism Award from the Houston Press Club.
Fans will once again have a say in the voting for the top moment of 2010 at Texas Motor Speedway. The choices have been narrowed to three moments: Hamlin's sweep of Texas, Kyle Busch's record fifth consecutive Nationwide Series victory at TMS, and Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton's scrap on the backstretch during November's AAA Texas 500. Fans can submit their vote by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, located in the outdoor atrium adjacent to The Speedway Club, is open year round and free to the public. The Hall of Fame atrium features pedestals of the inductees, including their career highlights.
The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala benefits Speedway Children's Charities at Texas Motor Speedway. The organization's mission is to care for children in educational, financial, social and medical need in order to help them lead productive lives. Speedway Children's Charities at Texas Motor Speedway has distributed more than $7.5 million in grants to local children's organizations in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties.
A VIP reception hosted by previous Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame inductees will take place prior to the awards ceremony beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on the ninth floor in the Grand Ballroom. The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will begin at approximately 8 p.m. CT.
Table sponsorships, beginning at $1,200, and individual tickets for $150 are available by calling the Speedway Children's Charities office at (817) 215-8421 or visiting www.scctexas.org.