John Force riding high after Pomona; seeks first Phoenix win since 2005

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John Force popped out of the roof hatch of his Castrol Ford Mustang at Pomona two weeks ago, after taking down rival Matt Hagan in the finals to the NHRA season opener.

The emotion that followed was vintage Force, fueled by the fact he had denied Hagan the chance to sweep all three John Force Racing Funny Cars in the elimination rounds.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, it’s a runaway freight train, and you’re just hanging on, and you just scream what you feel,” Force told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week.

“When you see your daughter (Courtney) get spanked first round, and then you see Robert Hight get beat, and then he’s gonna take you out? No-no. Different ballgame.”

The 16-time champion, Force has more than 100 final round victories. But this one at Pomona, no doubt, ranks near the top of the all-time list because of what it means as Force continues to search for sponsorship to replace Castrol and Ford at year’s end.

It also came after Hagan beat him in the final round season finale, also at Pomona, last November. So all Force did this year was go out, set a national ET record (3.965 seconds) and national speed record (324.12) at the 1,000-foot distance.

“Without a doubt it’s one of the best weekends we’ve ever had,” Force said. “My crew chief Jimmy Prock was on a roll. He works with the braintrust, that’s what makes our team win. We know how to work with each other and we know how to trust each other. And me, I was on my game.”

Heading into Phoenix this weekend, it’s a slightly different world than it has been for years on the NHRA circuit.

The track formerly known as Firebird Raceway is now Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and it’s been completely resurfaced. Force is the all-time winningest driver in Phoenix with eight wins, although none since 2005.

“My guys will be watching the weather,” Force explained, since ambient temperatures this week have already hovered in the 80-plus degree range.

“I probably won more races at Phoenix than anyone. I match raced before going on the NHRA circuit, I was coming up and I was 24 years old. Over all those years of racing, Phoenix, I got a handle on it so when we got to the nationals, we knew the track.

“What’s different this year is all the data we have in the computer, all I know about the dips, and that gives me that edge over the kid who’s coming up who doesn’t know the race track. They’ve spent a ton of money rebuilding the race track. Not only the lighting, the bathrooms, but they rebuilt the surface of the race track and that is big. That’s gonna be either a real aggressive race track or it could have problems. We don’t know until we run on it.”

Much of my 30-minute chat with Force this week was spent on his crusade for safety and pursuit of sponsorship, and he provided an interesting look at all that that entails. The team has agreed to a major associate deal with PEAK Antifreeze, announced at Pomona. More on the safety and business of racing side with JFR will follow in separate posts.

As for this week, it’s a chance for the 64-year-old to start two-for-two in his quest for a 17th championship.

“You the hear the jokes, and they’re always respectful, like, ‘Oh, ‘ol John Force can still win at his age, when he oughta be at Marie Callender’s, getting the discount for being older.’

“And you bounce back and say, ‘Hey, you’re right, I ain’t arguing.’ But in this firesuit, I’m 24. I’m a kid. I become Superman when you give me a hot rod like that.”

IMSA at Mid-Ohio Sunday: How to watch, schedules, TV, stream info

IMSA Mid-Ohio schedule
IMSA
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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to a sprint as the circuit enters the stretch run of the 2020 season with a packed weekend schedule at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The Acura Sports Car Challenge will be a two-hour, 40-minute race around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course in Lexington, Ohio, for the DPi, GTLM and GTD classes.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar teams will practice Friday and Saturday. Qualifying will take place at 8 a.m. Sunday before a 2 p.m. green flag (same-day delay 11 p.m. ET, NBCSN; streaming on NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold) for the headlining race of a busy weekend.

There will be eight other races at Mid-Ohio across four series: the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup.

The GTLM class of IMSA’s top series will be short two entries with Porsche pulling out because of positive COVID-19 tests at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend.

This will mark the seventh race of the season. After Mid-Ohio, there are three events left for the premier DPi and four for the GT division, including two of the year’s longest (the 10-hour Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring season finale).

Here are the details for IMSA this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (all times are ET):


IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Mid-Ohio

WHEN: Sunday, 2 p.m.

TV:  11 p.m. (same-day delay), NBCSN (streaming link); 2 p.m. NBC Sports App (streaming link) / TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold

STREAM: NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold (live flag to flag starting at 2 p.m.)

RADIO: IMSA Radio will have live radio coverage throughout the weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, as well as SiriusXM

RACE DISTANCE: Two hours and 40 minutes around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course in Lexington, Ohio.

FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 81 degrees with a 1% chance of rain at the green flag.

ENTRY LIST: Click here for which WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams are racing at Mid-Ohio


IMSA Mid-Ohio weekend schedule

Friday

6:10-7:10 p.m. — WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Saturday

10:55 a.m.-12:10 p.m. — WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Sunday

8-9:05 a.m. — WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

2 p.m. — WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura Sports Car Challenge