John Force reaches out to higher powers to help turn season around

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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It’s been a rough season so far for NHRA Funny Car legend John Force.

Through the first 13 races of the 24-race NHRA season, Force still has yet to win a race (it’s been more than a year; his last win came at New Hampshire in June 2015).

In addition, thus far in 2016 he’s lost five times in the first round of eliminations, lost four times in the quarterfinals, lost three times in the semifinals and lost in the only time he made it to the final round.

2016_John_Force

But Force isn’t giving up.

“I’m not where I want to be,” Force told NBCSports.com. “Man, right now, I have to win for PEAK, PPG and Chevrolet (his primary sponsors). It’s not a good time for me to lose.

“I’ve gotta get my stuff together and I’m going to. I’ll fix it and nobody knows this game better than me. I’ve been doing it a long time.”

Following another first round loss Sunday in the final eliminations of the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois, Force finds himself ninth in the Mellow Yello NHRA Funny Car point standings, 699 points behind series leader Ron Capps.

That’s a margin of roughly just under five race wins worth of points. That’s a mighty hard pill to swallow for a guy who has won 16 NHRA Funny Car championships and 143 national event wins.

While Force will still likely make the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff – where he has a chance to make a big comeback and potentially still win the championship – things have been so rough that Force has taken to ask a higher power for help.

“I sat down at the Topeka race (May 20-22),” Force said. “My wife was there and my kids. Before the first round I said (with a dramatic pause), ‘Lord, I need a little help today. I’m trying to make this Traxxas Shootout (a special exhibition race worth $100,000 to the winner) and I’m running out of time.

“I know you’ve got starvation in the world, you’ve got wars, you’ve got the needy, but I need a little help. You need to stop what you’re doing and take a look at me.’

“My wife, who is very Catholic, says, ‘You’ve got to be (kidding) me. I listened to your whole prayer and you offered nothing to Him, just save me. That’s terrible.’

“Then my wife looked at me and said, God’s truth, ‘You should be struck by lightning for even asking that.’”

Well, apparently God was listening, but to Force’s wife, not Force himself. As Force went to make his next run a few moments later, he quipped: “At half track, I was on fire,” he said of a wreck that he was involved in.

Force is still praying for a season turnaround. He’s even reached out to the spirits of several drag racers that have passed away, also asking for their help.

Those included late uncle Gene Beaver (who got Force into drag racing), former Top Fuel champion Gary Ormsby, legendary engine builder Keith Black and Funny Car team owner Joe Pisano. All four passed away in 1991 and each had a profound impact upon Force and his career.

Given his past success at Route 66, Force was hoping to once again leave there with a win – certainly not be a first-round knockout.

Still, Force will keep praying.

“There’s just certain things that you’re supposed to talk to the Lord about what can I do for you because you take care of me every day,” he said.

“I pray for everything: ‘Can you fix this, can you fix that?’

“It’s just the nature of a guy like me that lives in fear all the time (of bad luck or lack of success).”

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.