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NHRA family plan: John, Brittany Force eye titles

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You might say there’s a bit of a power battle going on in the Force family.

In one corner, it’s Brute Force – otherwise known as 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force.

And in the other corner, it’s Brit Force – otherwise known as Top Fuel driver Brittany Force.

Thus far, daughter has a slight edge performance-wise over father, as each battles to win the championship in their respective Nitro class this season.

Following this past weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals outside St. Louis, Brittany Force made a big jump upward in the Top Fuel rankings in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

With two races down and four to go to win the title, Brittany Force is No. 4 in Top Fuel, and just four points out of third place.

She bounced back Sunday, reaching the semi-finals, after being ousted in the first round of the opening Countdown race two weeks ago at Charlotte.

“The entire Monster Energy team (came) together this this weekend in St Louis,” Brittany Force said in a team media release. “We struggled last weekend just to get the car down the track but this weekend we went down the track every single run.

“We made it to the semi-finals and that is a pretty good weekend for us.”

Next up for Force is this weekend’s event at Maple Grove Raceway, in Reading, Pa., where she finished runner-up in last year’s race there.

“We are going to get after it in Reading,” Force said.

The younger Force has made up some substantial ground in the last two races of the 18-race regular season and the first two races of the six-race Countdown.

In that period, she has one runner-up finish and two additional semi-final showings, allowing her to climb from ninth place in the standings to her present position in fourth.

While Brittany is still 163 points behind Top Fuel leader Antron Brown, things can take a dramatic change in any of the four remaining races. If, for example, Force wins her first career national event, she could significantly close the gap on Brown rather quickly.

Then there’s Brittany’s father, John. He left Gateway still ranked fifth in the Funny Car standings, having lost in the quarter-finals to defending series champion Matt Hagan.

The elder Force is seeking to extend his record 16 Funny Car championships to 17, especially after the way he came so close last season before coming up short to Hagan in the season-ending race at Pomona, Calif.

“If you look at the leaps and jumps in performance we have made in making these cars faster we are right there,” John Force said. “When other teams run in the threes (seconds), we are right there in the threes with them.

“We aren’t on their pace yet but it isn’t just one team you look out there – there are four or five teams running in the threes and we are right in the mix. We have four races left and we need those Chevrolet engineers to keep working with us.”

John Force has two wins thus far in 2015. A third win, especially at a place like Maple Grove, would go a long way towards closing the 149-point deficit between Force and Funny Car points leader Del Worsham.

“The Funny Cars are running together like Pro Stock. A lot of it is made up on the starting line. I am working on my own reaction times. I am just working on getting better. The key is we have four races and there are a lot of rounds still out there. We’ll see what happens.”


TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown, 2320; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2243; 3. Larry Dixon, 2161; 4. Brittany Force, 2157; 5. JR Todd, 2149; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2139; 7. Richie Crampton, 2133; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2126; 9. Steve Torrence, 2127; 9. Dave Connolly, 2127.


FUNNY CAR: 1. Del Worsham, 2327; 2. Matt Hagan, 2237; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr, 2211; 4. Jack Beckman, 2208; 5. John Force, 2178; 6. Ron Capps, 2177; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2123; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2116; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2107; 10. Robert Hight, 2099.


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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.