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John Force wins 147th NHRA Funny Car race

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, October 30th, 2016

NHRA Drag Racing

 

Story and photos courtesy of Elon Werner and Gary Nastase

LAS VEGAS – John Force was racing in his 246th final round and he picked up his 147th win today at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Force won for the second time in the Countdown to the Championship and outran his daughter Courtney Force in the 47th all JFR Funny Car final. The 16-time champion moved up from No. 7 to No. 5 in the Mello Yello point standings and just seven points out of fourth place.

“They told me all I had to do was win this race and I had a shot at (Ron) Capps then I found out at the top end that wasn’t the case. I want a recount,” joked Force.

NHRA Drag Racing

In a classic final round John Force pulled up beside his youngest daughter for the fifth time in a final round. The pair of Force’s had split the previous four races and today it was the elder Force to took the rubber-match win.

“I never like defeating my daughter but we got two wins in the Countdown but we were just a little bit late. It is pretty exciting to see the stands that packed. We have sold out crowds and our TV with FOX is really hopping. I have young kids running this PEAK Chevrolet led by (crew chief) Jon Schaffer. We are building a young group for the future,” said Force. “All the sponsors have been really good to me like PEAK, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Traxxas and Auto Club. I am just glad we gave the fans a good show. Courtney left on me. I rolled deep on her and she still got the jump on me. I am excited to be in the hunt with these kids.”

Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro took a starting line advantage but the now four-time Toyota Nationals winner quickly caught up to her and at the stripe. It was John with a winning time of 3.884 seconds at 327.19 mph against Courtney’s 3.906 second run at 325.85 mph. That was Courtney Force’s lone run on race day outside the 3.8 second range and it was Force’s only 3.8 second run of the day.

“I think we had a great race day with our Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro.  Honestly we turned this car around when it counted for race day and to have three consistent 3.88 passes is pretty unbelievable.  So I am really proud of my guys,” said Force from the Traxxas pit area. “And to go into the final and run a 3.90 and a really close race with dad, you know we gave it all we got.  He was able to get around me for the win and it was definitely a fun race and a close one.   Having an all Force and all Chevy final was great and definitely what we need to do.  I hope to continue doing it in Pomona and all of next season.  So just happy with where we were at today and I think we definitely made some moves in the points.”

NHRA Drag Racing

This was the second time that John Force has taken the event win away from Courtney Force at the Toyota Nationals. In 2013 John clinched his 16th Funny Car championship with a final round win over Courtney.

John Force, the all-time Funny Car winner, now has 98 more Funny Car wins than Ron Capps who sits in the No. 2 spot and more impressively Force now has 50 more wins than Hall of Fame Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson who is No. 2 on the all-time NHRA win list.

Force’s winning day started when the PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car team took out John Bojec in the first round. It was the first time John Force raced Bojec, who was Force’s 139th different opponent for the 16-time champion. Force picked up his 1,257th career round win running 3.906 in front of Bojec’s 5.116 second run. Force will have lane choice over Chad Head in the second round.

“We are going after them (the Funny Car leaders).  These good old Chevrolets are running good with PEAK, Auto Club, Monster and Traxxas,” said Force, from the top end.

The winningest driver in NHRA history raced to the semifinals for the seventh time at the Toyota Nationals with a win over Head. Force’s PEAK Camaro wasted no time in getting to the finish line first with a strong 3.917 second run at 325.92 mph. Force will face Matt Hagan in the semifinals giving up lane choice for the first time on race day.

John Force continues to work to make himself a better driver. The 67 year-old former truck driver from Yorba Linda, California, defeated four drivers today whose average age was 36, three decades younger than Force.

“I am learning what I can do at my age. The real truth is I am learning and studying that there is a whole future out there. I am doing the things I need to do to make myself better. I have learned some real tricks,” explained Force in the pressroom.

“When I saw Cruz (who had an enormous wheel stand in the first round) I was screaming, ‘That’s Jungle Jim!’ It freaked me out because that was how Jungle drove all the time. He was fearless. That is where drag racing came from. We are special and I really believe that when it comes to motorsports. What we all do in drag racing from Super Comp to Top Fuel we do it for the passion and the love,” said Force.

Runner-up Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car began the day with a win-light from a competition bye after Alexis DeJoria opted not to compete in the first round. DeJoria was involved in a top end incident that saw her Patron Toyota Funny Car sustain serious damage after it collided with the wall during the fourth round of qualifying. Force’s first round run scored the two-time Toyota Nationals finalist a 3.888 second elapsed time, quickest of the session, and a second round match-up with No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman.

The quarterfinal match-up with Jack Beckman was a statement race for Courtney Force who posted the quickest run of the session with a strong 3.886 second pass at 321.73 mph in front of a tire smoking Beckman. The win evened Force’s career record against Beckman to 7-7. The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS picked up another win in the right lane and will take lane choice into the semifinals against the point leader Ron Capps.

“I am really proud of my Traxxas team. My crew chiefs have given me a great race car for race day. That is when it matters,” said Force. “We only had one good run in qualifying and it got us in the show. They are really proving we have a great race car to run in the 3.80s twice like that. To take out Beckman is huge. We are trying to move up in the points too. We’ll see if we can keep going rounds but I am really proud of this Traxxas team.”

Unfortunately Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro team came up on the wrong side of a spectacular first round race. Racing against two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon Hight took a starting line advantage but then overpowered the track and pedaled his Funny Car to try and catch back up to Pedregon. While Hight was trying to get out in front Pedregon was experiencing one of the most amazing wheel stands in recent history. Pedregon got the win 4.244 to 6.649 seconds.

“I was focused on pedaling my Auto Club Camaro while Cruz was doing that wheel stand. The only thing I was thinking about was I hoped he crossed the center line. I am really glad he is safe and that is a tribute to all our safety equipment. That was a tough round for us and we are going to focus on going to Pomona to win the last race of the season,” explained Hight from the JFR pits.

Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team opened up the Toyota Nationals racing in the last pair of Top Fuel dragster against Tripp Tatum. This was the second time Force has raced Tatum and she kept her record perfect outrunning him 3.772 seconds to 4.005 seconds.

“That was a good run and a good start for this Monster Energy team. We are going to go out there and do it again in the second round,” said Brittany Force, after her first round win.

In the second round Brittany Force left beside her opponent and was pulling away for the win at the 60 ft timer. Just before the 1/8 mile marker Force’s Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster hazed the tires. Force pedaled her 10,000 hp dragster but she could not catch up to the dragster in the lane beside her.

“You know the next race is the final race of the season and to be able to end on a good note is what we want to do.  We want to end strong.  I am proud of the success that we have had in our 2016 season.   We had some wins and some killer runs and we want to end at Pomona with a win and take it home,” summed up Force.

Final round results from Sunday’s 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, twenty-third race in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

FUNNY CAR – John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.884, 327.19 mph def. Courtney Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 3.906, 325.85 mph.

TOP FUEL – Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Texas, Capco dragster, 3.734, 323.81 def. JR Todd, Indianapolis, Ind., Sealmaster dragster, 3.762, 321.96 mph.

PRO STOCK – Shane Gray, Denver, NC, Valvoline Nova Services Chevrolet Camaro, 6.719, 204.76 def. Drew Skillman, Bargersville, Ind., Chevrolet Camaro, 19.793, 27.72 mph.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE –Jerry Savoie, Cut Off, La., White Alligator Racing Suzuki, 6.915, 194.13 mph def. Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., Harley-Davidson V-Rod, 7.015, 190.00 mph.

COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STANDINGS

Funny Car – 1. Ron Capps, 2546; 2. Matt Hagan, 2460; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr, 2433; 4. Jack Beckman, 2395; 5. John Force, PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2387; 6. Del Worsham, 2373; 7. Courtney Force, Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2334; 8. Robert Hight, Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2313; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2262; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2184

Top Fuel – 1. Antron Brown, 2581; 2. Steve Torrence, 2424; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2413; 4. Brittany Force, Monster Energy dragster, 2366; 5. Shawn Langdon, 2365; 6. JR Todd, 2352; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2334; 8. Tony Schumacher, 2332; 9. Clay Millican, 2232; 10. Richie Crampton, 2227.

Pro Stock – 1. Jason Line, 2532; 2. Greg Anderson, 2513; 3. Shane Gray, 2438; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2394; 5. Drew Skillman, 2371; 6. Bo Butner, 2369; 7. Chris McGaha, 2275; 8. Allen Johnson, 2245; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr, 2177; 10. Erica Enders Stevens, 2167

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2509; 1. Andrew Hines, 2509; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2506; 4. Angelle Sampey, 2399; 5. Chip Ellis, 2359; 6. LE Tonglet, 2340; 7. Cory Reed, 2281; 8. Matt Smith, 2277; 9. Hector Arana, 2245; 10. Hector Arana Jr, 2236

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.