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NHRA: John Force begins quest for next 150 wins in this weekend’s U.S. Nationals

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Nearly a month ago in Seattle, John Force earned the 150th win of his legendary drag racing career. Much like the 200 NASCAR Cup wins earned by legendary Richard Petty, it’s unlikely anyone will ever break Force’s wins mark.

Except, of course, Force himself. And that’s what he intends on doing this weekend in the biggest race of the season, the NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.

Force is going for his fifth career U.S. Nationals win this weekend, having won previously in 1993, 1996, 1998 and most recently 17 years ago in 2002. He’s also qualified No. 1 a record 11 times.

Ironically, he’s been around longer than the race they call the “Big Go” – Force turned 70 in May, while the U.S. Nationals turn 65 years old this weekend (the event runs from August 28-Sept. 2).

“That’s the granddaddy,” Force, a grandfather himself, said of the U.S. Nationals. “That’s where everybody wants to go. Everybody wants to win. I’ve won it a few times, and my daughter, Ashley, won it twice in her Funny Car.

“Indy is always exciting. Extra qualifying run, extra day to be in my Chevy hot rod. No complaints about that. It’s always a good show. It’s the Big Go, the world’s biggest drag race, (and) everyone wants to win it. (Plus), it’s the last chance to claim a spot in the Countdown. It’s intense all the way to the end.

“We’ll see if we can do it again with the Chevrolet Performance car. Indy is always exciting, extra qualifying run, extra day to be in my Chevy Camaro hot rod. No complaints about that. It’s always a good show. It’s the Big Go, the world’s biggest drag race, and everyone wants to win it. It’s intense all the way to the end.”

Given he comes into Indianapolis – the 18th and final race of the regular season – sitting in third-place in the NHRA Funny Car standings, Force is looking to not only earn his sixth win in Indy, but also to kick off the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs on the right foot.

After taking just over a year to earn win No. 150, there’s no disputing what Force wants next: championship No. 17, which would extend his own NHRA record, as well as make him the oldest major class champion in NHRA history.

And the U.S. Nationals couldn’t come at a better time for him and his title hopes. In the first 17 races of 2019, Force has one win, another runner-up finish and has reached the semifinals eight times.

One added incentive not just for Force but for all pro class competitors is that there will be 50 percent more points available than in other national events. In other words, for every point a drag racer earns at other tracks, he/she will earn 1.5 points per every run they make this weekend.

Force is even debuting a brand new race car for the event.

“Indy is special to me because we do a specialty car with Chevrolet Performance,” Force said. “It’s become a bit of a tradition.

“It would be exciting to win, get their specialty scheme in the winner’s circle, but I’d love to win it with any of my teams, Robert Hight with Auto Club, Brittany with Advance (Auto Parts) and Austin Prock with Montana Brand. We’re all Chevy so no matter who wins, it’s a win for Chevy at the biggest race of the season, their race.”

Robert Hight is Force’s son-in-law and also president of John Force Racing. He’s been having a spectacular season to date, with five wins and one other runner-up finish. He just needs to qualify and will have clinched the No. 1 spot heading into the Countdown. That would be the first time in Hight’s career has entered the playoffs No. 1 as he seeks his third career Funny Car championship.

“Robert has a huge lead and I don’t think anybody can catch him,” Force said. “But there’s points-and-a-half at Indy, so I’m not conceding anything. I’ve won it a few times. (Crew chiefs) Brian Corradi and Danny Hood and (car chief) Tim Fabrisi have given me a good hot rod so we’ll see if we can win it again.

“I may not be as young as these kids and I may not be a hot shot on the ‘tree anymore. But if you give me a good race car, I can still win and right now I’ve got a race car as good as anyone’s.

“I’ve finally got that monkey off my back (150th win) and I’m ready for the Countdown,” he said. “I’m in the hunt and that’s all I ever wanted to be.”

NOTES: The first of five pro class qualifying sessions is Friday at 7:15 p.m. ET. Two more sessions are on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions are Sunday, Sept. 1 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2.

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IMSA: Hailie Deegan to honor Lyn St. James in Ford debut

Ford Performance
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When Hailie Deegan makes her IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge debut this Friday, she’ll do so in a paint scheme honoring a former racer who helped pave the way for women in motorsports.

St. James’ 1985 IMSA GTO Ford Mustang. Photo: Ford Performance.

Last week, Ford Performance unveiled the paint scheme of the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that Deegan and co-driver Chase Briscoe will drive in the four-hour race at the Daytona International Speedway this Friday.

The red, white and blue paint scheme is a throwback to the Roush Racing Mustang IMSA GTO car that was driven by Lyn St. James in her breakout season in 1985.

In that season, St. James captured three victories, including the first IMSA GT victory by a woman driving solo. Over the course of her career St. James won six IMSA sports car victories with Ford, including two class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

She also competed in IndyCar, with seven starts in the Indianapolis 500.

“I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of this Mustang,” said Deegan. “My anticipation and excitement level was already sky high, making my debut for Ford in my first ever road race in IMSA, but now we add this cool throwback scheme honoring the only woman to win a major IMSA race solo and it is just that much cooler.

“I have a ton of respect and admiration for what Lyn St. James did to pave the road for racers like me. It will be really cool to drive a car inspired by her 1985 IMSA GTO Ford Mustang.”

St. James served as an advisor for Ford Motor Company between 1981-96 and, has been a major ambassador for women in sports, particularly auto racing.

“I’m delighted that Ford is doing this throwback scheme,” said St. James.  “The whole goal of every race driver is to win races, and going into that 1985 season I was on the cusp of winning, and to get my first three IMSA wins that year really meant so much to me because they say that once you win once, the others follow, and that was true for me.

“I am certain Hailie and Chase felt the same way after winning their first stock car races.  You just want to win more.  Sports car racing may be different than what they normally do, but the mindset is the same.  I am excited to see them race and get to the winner’s circle.

The first round of the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season at Daytona International Speedway starts at 1:00 pm ET on Friday, January 24, and will stream live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

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