May the Force be with him: Stats as John Force turns 68

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Cool story here from John Force Racing as its fearless leader turns 68 years old today.

The release is below:

John Force celebrates his 68th birthday today. In honor of this birthday, here are some statistics and milestones related to Force and the No. 68.

  • Force’s 68th race (event appearance) came September 14, 1986, at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
  • The 68th race in which Force qualified for and raced came July 26, 1987, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colo. Force made the final but dropped the matchup against Kenny Bernstein.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round victory came June 7, 1987, at Sanair Super Speedway in St.-Pie, Quebec, Canada. The victory was a result of a bye run. More exciting for Force later in the day, he earned his first career Funny Car victory, topping Ed McCulloch (whose son Jason is now a co-crew chief on Force’s PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS).
  • Force’s 68th final round came October 30, 1994, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., against Cruz Pedregon, whom he defeated. Force has competed in 248 finals, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th victory came May 17, 1998, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. He defeated Jim Epler. Force has 148 victories, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th No. 1 came in the 1996 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He ended up winning the race later that weekend against Al Hofmann. Force has earned the No. 1 qualifying position 155 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the low elapsed time for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 26, 1998, in Richmond, Va. He ran 4.887 seconds on the quarter-mile. He has set the low ET for an event 151 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the top event speed for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 16, 2000, at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. He turned in a speed of 319.98 mph. Force has set the top speed for an event 133 times in his career.
  • Force’s 68th different opponent was Paula Martin, whom he faced and defeated August 18, 1991, in the first round at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.
  • The 68th different opponent Force defeated was Gary Clapshaw, in a first-round matchup August 2, 1992, at Sonoma Raceway in California.
  • Force’s 68th matchup against 2016 and reigning NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps came in a semifinals victory at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., on June 23, 2013.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round matchup against a JFR teammate came November 14, 2004, against Eric Medlen at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
  • Force’s 68th elimination victory over a teammate came February 14, 2010, in a quarterfinals matchup against Robert Hight at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Force went on to win the race, besting Capps in the finals.
  • If Force makes it to this weekend’s finals in the NHRA Southern Nationals, it means he will have 68 elimination round victories at Atlanta Dragway. A 69th round win at the track this weekend would give him his 149th victory.
  • Force currently has 68 elimination round victories against his most common opponent, Cruz Pedregon. He has faced Pedregon 101 times during his career

And some bonus stats:

  • Force has raced on his birthday three times – 1997 in Dallas, Texas; 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia; and 2008 in Madison, Ill. His best finish was the 1997 race, when he reached the finals but lost to Randy Anderson.
  • Despite not winning either the 1997 or 2008 races on his birthday, he did establish major milestones for himself and in the NHRA ranks. He scored his 500th round victory in 1997 against Ray Higley in the second round, and his 1,000th round victory in 2008 against Ron Capps in the first round.
  • If Force wins at Atlanta, he will extend his record as the oldest driver to win an NHRA Funny Car race. He reset the mark earlier this year at Gainesville, at 67 years, 10 months, 15 days.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”