They are the NHRA's version of the Sunshine Boys. Call them drag racing's Generation LX.
NHRA legend Warren Johnson, at 66 years old, will come to this weekend's O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, three weeks after becoming the oldest driver in NHRA history to win a Full Throttle Series event.
And the irrepressible John Force, 61, has shown he's fully recovered from a serious accident in 2007. Already the NHRA's record-holder with 14 championships and 129 victories, he's won three events this year and leads the Funny Car point standings.
Clearly, they are fulfilling Force's comment earlier this season that "60 is the new 40" in drag racing, though Johnson concedes he's had a senior moment or two.
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"When we're doing things in the shop, I'm thinking about two or three different problems that we're attacking at the same time," said Johnson. "Once in a while, I'll just start focusing on one of them and completely forget about the other one.
"Yeah, you can have a senior moment. Hopefully it's not on the starting line."
When Johnson found himself at the finish line of the final elimination May 2 at Gateway International Raceway , it was the 97th win of his career (trailing only Force on the all-time list), but his first since 2006 at Phoenix.
"It was bizarre," Johnson said after snapping a winless streak of 98 races. "I've never seen such a rash of fluke circumstances in all my years of racing, and I started this in 1976."
After beating first-round opponent Ron Krisher with a holeshot start, Johnson took the next three rounds when each of his opponents suffered a variety of mechanical problems.
"Allen Johnson shook the tires in the next round, which he has a propensity to do, one out of five or six times," Warren Johnson said. "Mike Edwards broke something in the engine, I don't know exactly what it was. Then something happened to Jeggy (Coughlin). I don't know whether he forgot to turn the fuel pumps on in the final. He moved about three feet and that was it.
"We stayed consistent all day. We were competitive. We just made less mistakes than everybody else is it what it amounted to. You know, that's why they don't run races on paper. You have to be at the racetrack to run them."
Force, meanwhile, went winless in 2009, snapping a streak of 22 straight seasons with at least one victory. In fact, he didn't even make a final, and there were whispers that the horrific accident in Dallas had taken something out of him.
But Force became a workout warrior in the gym during the offseason and started the season with a bang by winning the season opener in Pomona, Calif. He also won the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte and two weeks later at Las Vegas.
"I'm not stupid; I know my age," Force said. "The last couple of years I've been kind of faking it. But I even called last year the No Excuse Tour. The truth is, I am back in good shape. I'm living in the gym. It's starting to show on the racetrack.
"I always have fun racing even when I'm getting spanked. There are no highs without the lows. I've been on a roller coaster. Just kind of got stuck in the mud. We're back in the ballgame. ... Do I have a good race car? Without a doubt. But my physical and my mental being is really strong. I've got those senior moments, yeah, there were days I thought it's over, I'm not going to make it. But we're back in the ballgame."
Johnson has won six Pro Stock series championships, the last in 2001 when at 58 he became the oldest driver ever to win an NHRA championship. In that time Johnson earned the nickname "The Professor" for regularly giving on-track lessons to his opponents, and during his four-year drought, he wondered if he was too good a teacher.
"A lot of the other guys have picked up significantly in performance, and we were off a little bit," Johnson said. "Part of that is we tend to probably experiment a little too much. It's like any athletic endeavor: You're never as good as you used to be. This isn't quite the same as ontrack racing or some of the more endurance sports.
"You can compete for quite a few more years than in some of the other forms of motor sport. At the same time you still have to be on top of your game."
So how long does Johnson plan to keep racing? Until he's 70? Until he wins No. 100?
"I never set a goal as far as the number of wins," said Johnson, who has won five times in Topeka, most recently in 1998. "One day when I get up, I'm going to say, 'That's enough of this, I'm going to move on to something else.'
"I'm still enjoying it. I always said, it's better than a job. If you do something that you enjoy, you don't ... want to retire from it. As long as we can remain competitive and we get enough sponsor support to make this program a financial success, we'll still continue it."
Force, who has won nine times at Topeka, including 2008 for his first victory after the accident, sees no end in sight.
"The truth is I really love what I do," said Force, who has a 115-point lead over his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, and a 120-point lead over his son-in-law and 2009 champion Robert Hight in the Funny Car standings. "I love to watch Robert. Even when he beats me, I stand at the end of the track and I watch his interviews. I'm so excited to watch Ashley, Robert and (daughters) Brittany and Courtney.
"I want to still show my kids that I'm good. Some of them are so little they don't remember when I was winning ... or when I was dominating. I'm going to do this until I drop. Probably will be on a racetrack someday. It will be real embarrassing. But I'll have my kids there and my family to pick me up. It's just what the Force family does."