(Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

Season for John Force Racing on the line at Texas

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Even though there are still three races remaining in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, this could be one of the most crucial weekends ever for John Force Racing.

Heading into the AAA Texas FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, team patriarch and 16-time champion John Force is in sixth place in the Funny Car ranks, 138 points behind series leader Ron Capps.

Son-in-law and JFR president Robert Hight is in eighth place, 175 points behind Capps.

“The Texas Motorplex is the first super track,” Hight said. “Billy Meyer was a Funny Car racer so I think this track is built for Funny Car performance with the all-concrete race track. It might be a little warm but this track can handle a lot of horsepower. If the conditions hold up I think you could for sure see some track records and possibly national records.

“This championship will be in play every round of qualifying. … These next three races will be about focusing on the little things and just going out and not making mistakes.”

Rounding out the three-Funny Car operation at JFR is John Force’s youngest daughter, Courtney, who comes into this weekend in ninth place, 186 points behind Capps.

“We all have one goal with our team at John Force Racing and that is to have someone win that Funny Car championship,” Courtney Force said. “Right now I am not in the best position but I am sure going to give it all I have. I am still going for it because all our teams still have a shot.”

Admittedly, it’s been a struggle for all three drivers at times during the first three Countdown events.

While John Force won the playoff opener at Charlotte, he’s made early exits in the subsequent two races at St. Louis (second round) and lost in the first round at Reading (Pa.).

Hight reached the second round at Charlotte, the semifinals at St. Louis, but took a big hit when he lost in the first round at Reading.

Likewise, Courtney Force has lost in the first round in two of the first three races and reached the second round at St. Louis.

“This race will most likely be our last shot to stay in contention for the championship,” Courtney said. “We realize that and we are going to handle that pressure as best we can.

“If we want to make a difference in this Countdown we are going to need to perform this weekend. Unfortunately, since the Countdown started we have been struggling and we haven’t been doing as well as we would have liked. We haven’t been going rounds and it has really hurt us. We have shuffled down the point standings when all season long we were in a great position.

“This has been a pretty good track to me and my team (she’s a former winner at the Motorplex. “I definitely feel more confident going in.”

With a maximum of only 390 total points to be earned in the remaining three races, you can understand that every member of the JFR organization is focused on doing just one thing in Sunday’s final eliminations: win.

If not, there will only be 260 total points available between the last two races of the season – Las Vegas and the season-ending event at Pomona, California – and chances of a rebound for the title are virtually nil by that point.

“We have won in Dallas twice but we need to win this weekend,” Hight said. “There are three races left and I feel like we have a Funny Car that can win all three. It will be tough but we have been running really good numbers and my guys have been busting their butts since the U.S. Nationals.

“I think you have to just throw out Reading and focus on these last three races. There isn’t any extra pressure because we have always been focused on trying to win the championship again.”

Perhaps the driver with the best chance of still earning a championship for JFR is John Force’s other racing daughter, Brittany, who is currently ranked third in the Top Fuel standings, 118 points behind series leader and defending champion Antron Brown.

Brittany reached the second round at both Charlotte and St. Louis and the final round at Reading.

“Reading was huge for our team,” Brittany Force said. “Going to the final was a big step especially now that there are only three races left.

“Now it is all about the teams that are going to be at the top for the next few races. We didn’t get the win but we got to the final and we are going to build on that. That is what we need to keep doing, winning rounds. If we keep having success on Sunday then this championship is not out of our reach.”

While Brittany continued to discuss her own championship hopes, what she said applies to her other three teammates heading into these final three races, as well.

“I think doing well in Dallas and Las Vegas will be a big factor for the championship,” Brittany Force said. “Our goal is to have a chance to win the championship when we get to the Auto Club Finals in Pomona.

“We are going to do everything we can to be in a position where we can win. We go into every race thinking we can win and it starts with the first round of qualifying. This has been an amazing season and these last couple of races will be even more exciting with the championship on the line.”

Coming Thursday afternoon: Column on John Force’s return to the racetrack that changed — and almost claimed — his life.

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An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”