PEAK Chevrolet driver John Force gunning for fifth U.S. Nationals victory

Weekend after weekend, race after race, John Force relays the message to his teams, sponsors and fans: “We’re rounding the corner, we’re getting there, and we’ll be ready for Indy.”
After last week’s test in Indianapolis, Force’s message has been altered slightly, and for the good: “We’ve rounded the corner. We had a good test session. Big picture – I said we’d be ready for Indy, and we’re ready for Indy. We’re ready to go racing.”
The 16-time champion and driver of the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car is chasing after his fifth victory in the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the biggest on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar.
The four-day event at Lucas Oil Raceway begins Friday with qualifying, followed by two days of qualifying Saturday and Sunday and elimination rounds Sunday.
Force – seventh in the championship points standings with one victory, one No. 1 qualifier and 17 elimination-round wins – has four of John Force Racing’s 12 victories in The Big Go. He triumphed for the first time in 1993, joining a winner’s list that included several of his heroes, including NHRA legends Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Tom McEwen and Don Garlits.
Force added victories in 1996, 1998 and 2002, and remains just one victory shy of Ed McCulloch for U.S. Nationals victories in a Funny Car. McCulloch’s son, Jason, was a co-crew chief on Force’s car in his only win this season at the NHRA Gatornationals.
“Indy’s the mothership,” said Force, who also has 11 No. 1 qualifiers at Indy, also a record. “You just want to be part of it. There’s an old saying in IndyCar, ‘You can win the championship, but you’ve got to win the Indy 500.’ In drag racing, you could win the championship, but if you ain’t won Indy, you ain’t won (nothing).
“We have multiple races there for big money, like the Traxxas Shootout, and we’ll be fighting for it. But overall, it’s the big race that you want to win. It’s huge, it’s a big event, and trust me, every race team is coming in with guns a blazing. We’re going after it.”
Force’s victory at this year’s Gatornationals ended a 16-year drought between wins at the event, considered by many to be one of drag racing’s majors, so to speak. Force would like to end a 15-year streak between U.S. Nationals victories this year, with a car that has continued to make strides under crew chief Mike Neff, himself a two-time U.S. Nationals winner as a driver.
“We had a good test session,” said Force, following his test last week. “We changed a lot of motor stuff and the clutch, have been over the last couple races. And it’s starting to show – we’re running some good numbers. We ran an .86, and that was shutting it off at about 700 feet.”
Force – whose Camaro will exhibit a special Chevrolet paint scheme in honor of the manufacturer’s title sponsorship for the race – has said frequently this season that he and his crew chiefs making changes to make all of his cars more reliable. With the Countdown to the Championship on the horizon, and a spot already clinched, Force is looking to end the regular season strong and start the playoffs stronger.
“I’m going into Indy looking to do some damage,” Force said.
Five qualifying sessions are scheduled for the U.S. Nationals (all times Eastern): Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. and Sunday at 12:45 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Fox Sports 1 will provide two hours of qualifying coverage (all times Eastern): Sunday at noon and 5 p.m. and two hours of live eliminations at 11 a.m. FOX will provide three hours of live eliminations at 1 p.m.
4-Second Reads:
  • John Force has competed in 37 races at Indianapolis, and has qualified for every U.S. Nationals since 2009. He qualified for his first race in 1980, and qualified for elimination-round competition in 33 of 37 races.
  • Force has four victories at Indianapolis – 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2002. Overall, he has eight finals appearances at Indianapolis.
  • Force is 49-29 in 78 elimination-round races at Indianapolis. His next round win, which would be his 50th, would give him 50 or more elimination-round wins at 14 different tracks. Force has a .628 winning percentage in elimination rounds at Indianapolis.
  • Force has qualified No. 1 at Indianapolis 11 times – 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Two of his No. 1s have resulted in victory (1993 and 1996).
  • Force is 23-10 in 33 first-round elimination matchups. His longest streak came between 1990 and 1998, when he won nine consecutive first rounds at Indianapolis.
  • Of the 33 races for which Force has qualified at Indianapolis, he has qualified in the top half of the bracket 31 times. His only qualifying efforts, for the races which he has qualified for, that came outside the top eight were in 1981 and 2015.
  • Force is currently seventh in Funny Car points standings. He has been as high as third in the standings earlier this season.
  • In 2017, Force has one victory, a 17-16 record in elimination rounds, and one No. 1.
  • In his career, Force has 148 victories and 1,280 elimination-round wins, both records. He has 155 No. 1 qualifying spots, of which 60 have resulted in victories, also both records.
  • Force’s most recent NHRA victory – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
  • Force’s most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
  • Force’s best time/speed at Indianapolis – 3.872 seconds (2016 Q1); 329.58 mph (2016 Q1)
  • Force’s best time/speed of career – 3.832 seconds (2017 Gainesville Q2); 337.16 mph (2017 Sonoma Q4)

John Force Racing PR/Photo Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery

Spread the love