NHRA: John Force has one last chance to earn 150th career win in season finale

Photos courtesy NHRA
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When Sunday’s season-ending Auto Club Finals concludes, John Force will have gone through his fifth season since his record-extending 16th NHRA Funny Car championship in 2013.

Nor will the 69-year-old greatest driver in NHRA history finish runner-up in the standings, like he did for the last time in 2014.

But if you think the Yorba Linda, California resident lays down and merely goes through the motions in Sunday’s final rounds of eliminations, you’re sadly mistaken.

Force knows what his role is: to play spoiler and to help teammates Robert Hight and Courtney Force, to do well.

Force’s only win thus far in 2018 came at Denver near mid-season. Winners of that event were, from left, Leah Pritchett, Greg Anderson, Force and Hector Arana Jr.

Force comes into Sunday’s finals in ninth place in the Funny Car standings, 276 points behind series leader JR Todd.

Hight, who is John Force Racing president, is the defending Funny Car champion and the team’s only hope of winning either a Funny Car or Top Fuel championship in 2018.

“My job now is to take out as many as I can and help Robert get the championship for John Force Racing, Auto Club, PEAK, Advance Auto, Chevrolet and the rest of our sponsors,” John Force said.

That’s unlike 2017, when Hight won the Funny Car crown and Brittany Force, John’s daughter, earned her first career NHRA Funny Car championship.

Because a maximum of 191 points are available to be earned by any driver in Sunday’s eliminations, John Force mathematically could finish as high as third or fourth place – especially if he wins the season finale.

What’s more, a Force win could steal some thunder from either Todd’s or Hight’s championship celebration, as it would mark something Force has chased much of this season: his 150th career Funny Car win.

“I live for winning,” Force said. “I’m up against all these young guns, but so far I’m holding my own.”

Force has just one win thus far in 2018, capturing the Dodge Mile-High Nationals to kick off the annual West Coast Swing during the middle part of the season.

That win marked 31 consecutive seasons that Force has won at least one NHRA national tour event.

Plus, heading to Pomona, is an ace in the hole for Force. He’s had more success at the suburban Los Angeles facility than anyone else in NHRA history.

He’s made 75 career starts at Pomona, which he’s considered his home track since 1984. During that 34-year span, Force has won 16 national events – including eight triumphs in the season-ending Finals – and 128 round wins overall.

Force is long overdue to win at Pomona: he hasn’t reached the winner’s circle since the 2010 season finale. Conversely, though, he’s finished runner-up three times in the last five years.

“We’ve got a pretty good hot rod right now,” Force said. “It’s not the quickest but it’ll go down through there and, early in the year, it wouldn’t do that but we battled back.

“These kids, my crew, led by Jon Schaffer, Ronnie Thompson and Joe Veyette, they’ve worked hard to get it right.”

Qualifying begins Friday at 1:30 p.m. PT and 3:45 p.m. PT. Two more runs will be at 12:30 p.m. PT and 3:30 p.m. PT Saturday, and Sunday’s 16-car eliminations begin at 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET).

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Sports imitates art with Tyler Bereman’s Red Bull Imagination course

Red Bull Imagination Bereman
Chris Tedesco / Red Bull Content Pool
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This past weekend riders took on the Red Bull Imagination, a one-of-a-kind event conceived by Tyler Bereman – an event that blended art, imagination, and sports.

In its third year, Red Bull Imagination opened to the public for the first-time, inviting fans to experience a more personal and creative side of the riders up close and personal.

As the event elevates its stature, the course gets tougher. The jumps get higher and the competition stouter. This year’s course took inspiration from a skatepark, honoring other adrenaline-laced pastimes and competitions.

“There’s a ton of inspiration from other action sports,” Bereman told Red Bull writer Eric Shirk as he geared up for the event.

MORE: Trystan Hart wins Red Bull Tennessee Knockout 

Bereman was the leading force in the creation of this event and the winner of its inaugural running. In 2022, Bereman had to settle for second with Axell Hodges claiming victory on the largest freeride course created uniquely for the Red Bull Imagination.

Unlike other courses, Bereman gave designer Jason Baker the liberty to create obstacles and jumps as he went. And this was one of the components that helped the course imitate art.

Baker’s background in track design comes from Supercross. In that sport, he had to follow strict guidelines and build the course to a specific length and distance. From the building of the course through the final event, Bereman’s philosophy was to give every person involved, from creators to riders, fans and beyond, the chance to express themselves.

He wanted the sport to bridge the valley between racing and art.

Tyler Bereman uses one of Red Bull Imagination’s unique jumps. Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool

Hodges scored a 98 on the course and edged Bereman by two points. Both riders used the vast variety of jumps to spend a maximum amount of time airborne. Hodges’s first run included nearly every available obstacle including a 180-foot jump before backflipping over the main road.

The riders were able to secure high point totals on their first runs. Then, the wind picked up ahead of Round 2. Christian Dresser and Guillem Navas were able to improve their scores on the second run by creating new lines on the course and displaying tricks that did not need the amount of hangtime as earlier runs. They were the only riders to improve from run one to run two.

With first and second secured with their early runs, Hodge and Bereman teamed up to use their time jointly to race parallel lines and create tandem hits. The two competitors met at the center of the course atop the Fasthouse feature and revved their engines in an embrace.

Julien Vanstippen rounded out the podium with a final score of 92; his run included a landing of a 130-foot super flip.