Hight-Force

Robert Hight, left, and John Force interact with fans at Baldwin Filters on Wednesday in Kearney. Hight and Force are two of the top drag racers in the National Hot Rod Association.

KEARNEY — Baldwin Filters has aligned itself with one of the top teams in the National Hot Rod Association.

The Kearney-based company agreed to a partnership with John Force Racing on Jan. 30 in hopes of growing its brand. Nearly six months after joining forces, Baldwin Filters welcomed John Force and Robert Hight — two of the top drag racers in the country — to Kearney on Wednesday to give them tour of the facility and allow employees to interact with the two drivers.

Force, 70, is a 16-time NHRA world champion racer and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee.

Hight is a two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion racer and member of John Force Racing, He also is Force’s son-in-law.

“Baldwin is a great product,” Force said. “I started with ParkerStores, and we use their line of products in our shops. It’s a good product with good people. To come here today to meet the backbone of America is cool.”

Force is the oldest driver to win a tour event (69) and the oldest to win the championship (64). He also has won the most rounds, owns the record for most consecutive starts (395), the record for final round appearances (251) and the record for No. 1 qualifying performances (154).

He was the first drag racer to earn American Driver of the Year when a national panel of motorsports journalists selected him in 1996.

“I love what I do,” Force said. “The race car does the running for me, and I’ve been doing it for 45 years since I came out of high school.”

Baldwin Filters started in Wisconsin in 1936 and moved to Kearney 17 years later. In February 2017, Baldwin Filters became part of Parker Hannifin Corporation Filtration Group and offers heavy-duty lube, air, fuel, coolant, hydraulic and transmission filters for over-the-road vehicles and off-road equipment.

Force has had a partnership with Parker Hannifin’s ParkerStores for the last three years.

Baldwin Filters marketing division manager Dave Amato talked with Force two years ago at a show in Las Vegas. Nothing materialized then with a partnership, but last fall the talks resumed and the two parties came to an agreement.

It marks Baldwin Filters’ first major sponsorship.

“We wanted to really emphasize the Baldwin brand,” Amato said. “The Baldwin brand is here to stay. The Baldwin brand is strong, and after our acquisition with Parker, we wanted to continue to drive the Baldwin brand. It’s not going anywhere, and quite frankly, it’s getting stronger.”

The NHRA heads to Denver for races this weekend. In the Funny Car division, Hight sits first in points with Force 176 points behind in second place.

Last year, Hight finished second while Force placed ninth in the overall season standings for the Funny Car division.

“I’ve won 16 championships. I won 10 in a row, which the Yankees never did that,” Force said. “My time is running out, I know it. But I have Robert Hight coming up. He’s already a champion and is in the points lead right now. “

@DanZielinski3​