NHRA: John Force will have Rick Hendrick influence this weekend at Charlotte

1 Comment

In a sense, John Force will spend this weekend as “teammates” with Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne.

No, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ hasn’t suddenly switched to NASCAR racing.

But while the Sprint Cup guys are up the road this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Force will also be sporting Hendrick colors at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in the heart of NASCAR country.

In addition to his regular full-time sponsorship with Peak Anti-Freeze, Lucas Oil, Chevrolet and others, Force will be sponsored for this race at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina, by Hendrick’s City Chevrolet.

Hendrick City Chevrolet on  FC

Hendrick began building his massive auto dealership and NASCAR racing team with City Chevrolet more than 30 years ago.

Force, his teammates and their overall entourage will also drive specially marked Chevrolet vehicles around Charlotte that are provided by City Chevrolet.

“Racing in Charlotte is a big deal for us,” Force said in a media release. “That is NASCAR country and Bruton and Marcus Smith have built us the Bellagio of race tracks. We do a ton of sponsor work and media interviews so it is great to partner with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick City Chevrolet for Chevys to get around town.”

Rick Hendrick was a drag racer early in his racing career before he moved to the NASCAR world. Force, meanwhile, is looking for his second win in the 4-Wide Nationals, having done so in 2010.

“We’ll be racing four-wide so we will have about 40,000 horsepower of power on the track,” Force said. “It will be awesome for the fans to see and I hope that come by our pits to say hello.”

Force is coming off a whirlwind weekend at the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He spent the weekend not only watching son-in-law Graham Rahal race, but also spent time with a number of luminaries including Mario Andretti and Chip Ganassi.

MORE: NHRA Legend John Force Had A Busy Weekend At Long Beach

But ever the 24/7 workaholic, Force couldn’t resist talking business with a number of people, including representatives from Peak, Chevrolet, Traxxas, Monster Energy and others.

“We spent the weekend at the Grand Prix taking care of people,” Force told NBCSports.com. “It’s kind of fun, you’re working but you’re not working. You don’t have to drive a race car that day but I got excited because Graham Rahal was running in the race, Roger Penske was there, there were people from Chevrolet.

“But mainly, I got time to spend with people and get caught up on things, do your job and show them you (care). It’s still hard times. We’ve got a fight ahead of us.”

Even though it was an IndyCar race, Force went to Long Beach wearing his team uniform shirt, along with daughters Brittany and Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight.

“I don’t often get this opportunity,” Force said. “It’s just a great way to get caught up. Plus, it was a good way for us to get exposure. All of us are working it – and why not?”

When asked why he would wear his uniform shirt at a IndyCar race, Force once again showed why he’s one of the greatest authors of one-liners in all of sports.

“If I go there with just a regular shirt on, I’ll be honest: nobody knows me,” he quipped. “But if I go there with my uniform shirt and Peak cap on (people flock around him). I go on the beach in Hawaii and I still wear my Peak cap.”

John Force Racing comes into this weekend’s race at Charlotte among the strongest and most competitive teams overall thus far this season.

Brittany Force leads the Top Fuel point standings, while affiliated driver Steve Torrence is in fourth in the Top Fuel ranks. Brittany Force and Torrence have both won a race thus far in the first five NHRA national events.

Hight, meanwhile, leads the Funny Car ranks, while John Force is right behind him in second place and Courtney Force is in sixth place.

“We’re going into four-wide racing at Bruton Smith’s Bellagio and it’s going to be awesome,” Force said. “We’re going in with heart, knowing we’re finally a contender. … We’re back in business. We’re going there to win the 4-Wide.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):

Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans