The winningest driver in Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park history is eager to get back to a track where he has seen more win lights than stoplights. While John Force, driver of the PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car, may only have one NHRA Funny Car win at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 148-time winner has picked up so many specialty wins at the August mega-event, Night Under Fire, that he feels right at home at the track outside of Cleveland.
“When I think of coming to Norwalk I think of two things,” said John Force. “The Bader family and huge crowds. They packed them in here for so many years for the Night Under Fire that the Baders finally got an NHRA national event about ten years ago and it has been awesome ever since.”
While Force was dominating the match race circuit going back to his early days and then throughout the 1990s and 2000s, his first win at an NHRA national event in Norwalk eluded him for seven races. He raced to the final in 2010 where he narrowly lost to Tim Wilkerson. Four years later Force got his revenge on Wilkerson with a first round win and then took out Chad Head, Cruz Pedregon and finally Ron Capps to secure his victory in 2014 and, at the time, own wins at every NHRA facility except Epping, N.H.
“Getting that win at Norwalk in 2014 was great,” said Force. “I have seen how much the Bader family gives to the sport of drag racing and I wanted to win at their track. They have a grandstand named after me and I wanted to get that win. I think I gave Bill Bader my Wally I was so happy. This track is amazing and we love to race here. They treat our fans right and we love to put on a good show.”
So far this season Force has been putting on his own Night Under Fire type show with explosions and fires that have kept the 16-time champion focused on his team and also on safety. As recently as the Chicago race just three weeks ago, Force was involved in a tough wall scrape that had him bruised but not defeated. The next day after, the encounter with the Route 66 Dragway guardwall, Force raced to a semifinal finish and into the Top Ten in the NHRA Mello Yello points standings. The next week, Force raced to the final round in Richmond, Va., where he lost a nail biter to his youngest daughter, and the points leader, Courtney Force. Force moved up to the No. 8 position in the Mello Yello points standings and held onto that spot through last weeks’ race in Bristol.
“We have had our struggles this year for sure. I never gave up on my team or myself,” explained Force. “I have been on fire from here to Australia but never like this. We had some problems and we have fixed them. I have the fire in my belly for sure and I am not going to give up. I am a fighter and will keep fighting.”
Force has two runner-up finishes and two additional semifinal finishes this season. Consistency is starting to show up for his PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Chevrolet at just the right time with seven more races left in the NHRA regular season.
“The main goal every season is to make the Countdown and you have to be in the Top Ten,” added Force. “We are No. 8 now but we definitely want to move up. The young guys have been working hard for three weeks straight and we are just about done with June. It would be great to get another win in Norwalk.”
On Force’s PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevy Camaro, he’ll be adding the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) logo to his wings for the weekend. The university, partnered with PEAK, recognized Force for his lifelong accomplishments and contributions to drag racing with an honorary doctorate earlier this year in January.
Qualifying for the 12th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will begin with two session at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Friday and two more sessions of qualifying on Saturday at 1:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
JFR PR/Photo Credit Auto Imagery