Photo: Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery, for John Force Racing.

John Force can make NHRA history Sunday: 750th start; 150th win

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Sunday has the potential to be one of the greatest days in John Force’s storied drag racing career.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion and winningest driver in NHRA history is on the precipice of a most unique double achievement.

The first thing is already assured Sunday morning: Force will start the 750th NHRA race of his 42-year career in the sanctioning body in the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

Which leads to what Force hopes is the second achievement, four rounds of eliminations later, to capture not only his second win in a row this season, but more importantly, the 150th national event win of his four-plus decade career.

Think of it: 150 wins in 750 starts. That means Force has reached the NHRA winner’s circle in every fifth race he’s competed in.

To further put that in perspective, here’s how his PR team put it in a release Saturday morning:

“Force has raced with seven different presidents having occupied the White House, under five different NHRA presidents. He has won championships under the Winston, Powerade, Full Throttle and Mello Yello banners and he’s raced with a dozen different crew chiefs including Larry Frazier, Steve Plueger, Henry Velasco, Austin Coil, Mike Neff, Dean Antonelli, Jimmy Prock, Ronnie Thompson and Jon Schaffer.

“During his career, the series has grown from nine races to 24 and the course has shrunk by 320 feet (from 1,320 feet to 1,000 feet). He won races at tracks no longer part of the Mello Yello series, many of them unfamiliar to an entire generation of racers and race fans, like those at Baton Rouge, La., Montreal, Canada, Columbus, Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., Ontario, Calif., and Irvine, Calif.”

Here’s how Force is approaching the potentially monumental day:

“I don’t feel any different, except that I’ve aged 750 races. The real truth is when it’s time (to get out of the car), I’ll make that decision myself. It won’t be because anybody told me to. It’ll be because it’s time and it ain’t time yet. I’m having too much fun. I’ve got a good race car.

“You can be down, you can be tired, you can have something that depresses you, something that went wrong with you, a loss of someone that you cared about and all of sudden, you get in that race car and it all goes away.

“Because now you’ve gotta protect yourself. You gotta win, No. 1, but you’ve gotta protect yourself out there because these cars will bite you and I‘m proof of that this year. So when I get into it, my mental thing, I find the fire in my blood and I go after it.  I want to win. I’ve been wanting to win since I was a kid and I had a lot of practice at losing in the old days and I ain’t giving it up because now I’m winning.”

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Sprint Car driver Greg Hodnett killed in Pennsylvania race crash

Photo: World of Outlaws
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YORK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) — Sprint Car driver Greg Hodnett died after a crash Thursday night at BAPS Motor Speedway.

The 49-year-old Hodnett, from Spring Grove, Pa., was the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year in 1993 and went on to win 20 World of Outlaws races. He won the opening night this year at the Knoxville Nationals.

“Greg represented the true gentleman competitor in the pit area,” World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter said.

A statement was posted on Hodnett’s racing website, saying: “Please keep (wife) Sherry, the entire Hodnett family, and the Heffner racing team in your thoughts and prayers.

“Greg was a professional in every sense of the word, and will be desperately missed!”

Several NASCAR drivers took to Twitter to express their condolences: