John Force sits in front of the image of Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway grandstands.
Dale Earnhardt has been dead for more than a decade, but his presence is still powerful, even outside of NASCAR.
Last weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — the drag racing facility adjacent to the 1.5-mile oval where NASCAR races — NHRA legend John Force locked up his record 16th Mello Yello Funny Car championship.
But prior to Force’s final round match up against daughter Courtney Force, John got on his scooter, left The Strip and rode over to the oval track, where he sought an audience with "The Intimidator," or at least his massive likeness on the side of the Dale Earnhardt Terrace grandstands.
"I needed to clear my head and I went across the street to look at that Earnhardt photo," Force said. "I remember Dale Earnhardt used to say, ‘I’ll do the winning and you marketing guys sell me.’ I never had the never to say that but the guy was a winner so he could do it."
After sitting outside the Earnhardt photo for a few minutes, Force got himself together, buckled up in his Castrol GTX Mustang Funny Car and outran Courtney’s Traxxas Ford Mustang, with an elapsed time of 4.06 seconds to his daughter’s 4.08 seconds.
The victory was Force’s third race win in a row and it locked up his 16th title. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, since Ford and Castrol both recently announced they would be leaving the sport after next season.
"Look at how those cars run side by side," Force said. "If there is anything I have done right it is putting together this team effort. We pulled together when it looked like we were falling apart. I have great companies with me and they allow me to do this. We won them a championship."