NHRA: John Force to drive Jeff Gordon tribute car

(Photos courtesy John Force Racing)
2 Comments

John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA drag racing history, will race a special Jeff Gordon tribute car in this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, the start of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff.

Beginning the quest for his 17th career Funny Car championship, Force will drive a one-of-a-kind Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car dedicated to Gordon and his legendary career in NASCAR.

“This special Chevy Funny Car is just a way for me, my family, my team, my sponsors, NHRA and the fans to say thank you for being a great champion and being such a great driver in NASCAR,” Force said of Gordon. “I put as many flames as could fit on my hot rod in Jeff’s honor.”

Force, who has a record 143 wins in his career, finished runner-up in last year’s Carolina Nationals (which was subsequently completed two weeks later at the Texas Motorplex after rain at Charlotte washed out eliminations).

John Force Jeff Gordon photo 2

With two wins thus far this season, Force enters the Countdown in fifth place. He’s only won once at zMAX Dragway: in the inaugural Four-Wide Nationals in 2010.

“Winning that first Four-Wide race was big,” Force said in a media release. “(Track owners) Bruton and Marcus Smith built this amazing race track and I wanted to get that first Four-Wide trophy.

“This is NASCAR country so we will see a lot of new fans and I love talking to them about all kinds of racing. … This will be exciting to get the Countdown started and I have a really good young team.

“I feel really good about these young guys. They make me feel young and energized because I see their excitement and their passion. … I am ready for the fight for this championship.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

0 Comments

Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.