May the Force be with you: Happy 67th birthday, John Force

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If you’re a John Force fan, May 4 should be a national holiday.

The winningest driver in NHRA history and a record 16-time Funny Car champion turns 67 today.

And John Harold Force, born this day in 1949 in Bell Gardens, California, is still going as strong as ever.

After six of the first 24 races of the 2016 season, Force is ranked fifth in the Funny Car standings, just 55 points behind youngest daughter Courtney Force, who is tied for the points lead with Tim Wilkerson.

And daughter Brittany Force, who has two wins this season, is leading the Top Fuel points – making it the first time in NHRA history that sisters have led the point standings in two different pro classes at the same time.

All four of Force’s daughters – Adria, Ashley, Brittany and Courtney – are obviously the apple of his eye. But they let NBC Sports in on a little secret: dear old dad is one of the hardest people to shop for when it comes to birthdays and holidays.

After all, what do you give a guy who has pretty much everything?

Here’s how Ashley describes a typical birthday for her father:

Ashley Force Hood

“My dad is impossible to buy a gift for. Every gift I give him, he gives back to me at the next holiday. Or I hear him giving my gifts out to co-workers: ‘Here Joan (JFR office manager) take these car wash coupons. Here Steve (VP of Sales), here’s some movie tickets.’ I also opened a closet one day at his house and found a bunch of gifts we’d given him over the years like a carnival hot dog maker, and slippers from Sharper Image.

“Every year he tells us not to get him anything and last year my mom actually didn’t get him anything, just like he wanted. He whined and complained for weeks that she didn’t get him anything and how crushed he was! She’ll never make THAT mistake again!

Adria Force Hight

“So this year they just got a kitten (his name is Champs!) and I’m getting dad a gift card for PetsMart … and some Claritin!”

Force’s oldest daughter, Adria, has buying gifts for her father down-pat: “German Chocolate cake, wine, homemade tacos and Tommy Bahama dress shirts he wishes we wouldn’t spend the money on, but he really loves!”

Courtney Force

Here’s what Courtney Force had to say:

“One birthday, we tried to surprise our dad and drove him all the way out to Temecula, California, and pulled up to all these hot air balloons and told him we were taking him on a hot air balloon ride. He freaked out, refused to go and made us turn around and go home. We learned he had a fear of heights, so we never made that mistake again!”

And Brittany had this to add:

Brittany Force

“Every year when we bring up birthday celebrations to my dad we get the same response, “Don’t throw me a party, don’t buy me any gifts because I hate pretending to like them. Don’t get me a card and write a beautiful message in it cuz I have guilt when I have to throw it away. Don’t get me no cake because I have to fit in to my firesuit next week! And you all know how much I HATE surprises so don’t do that either!”

“Every year it’s a battle trying to convince him that we all want to celebrate his birthday. One year we decided to give him what he truly wanted, nothing! We took the whole family to dinner, bought no presents, no cards, no cake and didn’t sing happy birthday. When we got home he complained for a good hour that we obviously forgot his birthday or that we were playing a mean joke on him. He asked us where we were hiding the gifts and was asking if we baked a German chocolate cake or a Devils Food Cake. Whoops!!! Our mistake or his?!?!”

John Force, who recently joined Twitter, also received a number of congratulatory tweets, including:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2