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.