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

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

Leave a comment

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

Leave a comment

Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter