At a track where he has won four times in five final round appearances, John Force has nothing left to prove to the sport. He is racing this weekend at the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals to prove to himself he can still stay in the fight. The 16-time Funny Car champion and 148-time Funny Car national event winner could walk away from the sport tomorrow and head right into every Hall of Fame imaginable. However, he still has a lot of racing left in his tank as shown by his past two race weekends where he, along with the rest of his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil team, have battled to semifinal and runner-up finishes under tough conditions.
“Look, I let this race car do the running for me,” said Force. “We have had a tough year, one of the toughest of my career. We have never blown up this mush stuff but we have figured a lot out. I am listening to my guys and to Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock and Brian Corradi. We are going to keep fighting and keep getting better. I have my heart back after Richmond.”
Last weekend in Richmond at the Virginia NHRA Nationals Force raced to his 250th personal final round and was narrowly defeated by his daughter Courtney Force who has led the points most of the season and collected her fourth Funny Car win at the expense of her father. In 1995 Force brought Courtney to that race and she celebrated her birthday in his winner’s circle. In 2018, the roles were reversed.
“You look at this team we have built,” described Force. “Courtney is flying with Corradi and Hood on that Advance Auto Parts team. Robert and Jimmy are doing great with the Auto Club Chevrolet. Brittany has shown she is a real champion coming back and winning Houston and doing so well. I have been struggling but that is turning around. Seeing Courtney in the winner’s circle in Richmond was emotional for me. That is a great track and we are glad to be back in Virginia. The Franklin family packed them in. They will pack them in at Bristol too.”
Force last stood in the winner’s circle at Bristol Dragway in 2013 when he outran long-time rival Cruz Pedregon in the final. This year those two veterans have shown they both still have fight left in them. Pedregon beat Force in the Charlotte Four-Wide race earlier this season and last weekend it was Force trailering Pedregon in the second round to advance. Force’s final round victims at Bristol Dragway included Pedregon (2013 and 2007), Tim Wilkerson (2010) and retired driver Whit Bazemore (2004).
Qualifying for the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will begin at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. for Funny Car and Top Fuel on Friday followed by sessions on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Eliminations will begin on Sunday at noon.
JFR PR/Photo Credit Auto Imagery