NHRA legend John Force had a busy weekend at Long Beach

Photo: John Force Racing
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This year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach had seven series in action: the Verizon IndyCar Series, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Pirelli World Challenge, Formula Drift, Stadium SUPER Trucks presented by Traxxas and the final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

And it had an NHRA legend making the rounds too in John Force, visiting the event as daughter Courtney Force and her new husband Graham Rahal were both there – Rahal competing and Courtney there to support.

Here’s the team release:

John Force spent his last free weekend before a grueling stretch of NHRA national events kicks off at a race track meeting with sponsors, chatting up racing legends and spending time with hundreds of fans. The 16-time Funny Car champion was easy to spot in his ever present PEAK uniform shirt and white PEAK baseball hat as he cruised the paddock area on Saturday and Sunday.

“I wanted to come out to the Long Beach Grand Prix for a couple of reasons. It is almost a hometown race for me since we live just up the road in Yorba Linda plus this is a great chance to see a lot of my sponsors and get caught up with them,” he said. “When I am with my PEAK Chevrolet Funny Car I get pretty wound up, but at the Grand Prix I was able to relax a little bit and have some good talks with a lot of people like Jim Campbell from Chevrolet and Traxxas owners Mike and Keli Jenkins. Mike and Keli even got me in the winner’s circle since Traxxas won the off-road truck race.”

Force-with-Traxxas-truck

In addition to spending some time with sponsors Force spent a few minutes with some of the legends of IndyCar including Mario Andretti and Chip Ganassi. The 143-time Funny Car winner also got to congratulate fellow Auto Club of Southern California sponsored driver Helio Castroneves on winning the pole for Sunday’s event.

“When you see the stars of Indy Car like Helio, Mario and Chip Ganassi you have to stop and pay respect. I have so much respect for these guys. I want my son-in-law Grahaam Rahal to do well of course but it was great to see Helio get that pole position in a Chevy,” added Force.

Force also worked the media while he was at the track participating in a number of interviews talking about both his NHRA season as well as the differences between being a driver and a spectator.

“I have been to more IndyCar races in the past couple of years now that Courtney and Graham are together. I like to watch them but I am not a good spectator,” said Force.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”