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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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Supercross’ return Sunday in Salt Lake: Start time, TV, info for watching

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Nearly three months after the postponement of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monster Energy Supercross is returning to action.

Sunday’s Round 11 is the first of seven remaining 2020 events to be completed. All are being held at Rice-Eccles Stadium, on the campus of the University of Utah, with no fans in attendance.

Here’s what you need to know …

BROADCAST/STREAMING SCHEDULE

Television coverage will begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, then will move to NBC from 4-6 p.m. ET.

The event also will be streamed on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports App, and NBC Sports Gold’s Supercross Pass, which also will stream live qualifying for the event starting at 1:30 p.m. ET.

COVID-19 IMPACT

Earlier this month, Feld Entertainment senior director of two-wheel operations Dave Prater confirmed that protocols for the final seven races will include COVID-19 testing for everyone on-site at Rice-Eccles Stadium. A negative result will be required to enter the stadium’s perimeter; only one test will be necessary as long as the person remains in Utah throughout the seven-race stretch.

Additional protocols include temperature checks (administered when someone enters the stadium perimeter), face masks, increased sanitation efforts and social distancing.

TRACK MAP

Prater also noted there is a different track map for each of the seven remaining rounds. “You might not see as different a track as you would from Indy to Salt Lake, but it will be a different track,” he said. “The lanes will be the same but with different obstacles.”

Click here to see the map for Sunday’s event.

FORMAT

A standard event format will be used for the seven remaining rounds, except for the season finale on June 21, which will include an East/West Showdown in the 250SX class.

  • 450SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
  • 250SX Class – 40 Riders based on current point standings and 2020 top 100 number or combined season qualifying results
  • Two qualifying sessions will be held for gate pick
  • 250SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
  • 450SX Class – Two Heat Races and a Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)
  • 250SX Class Main Event
  • 450SX Class Main Event

WEATHER

Riders will face a heat wave in Salt Lake City. Weather Underground forecasts temperatures near 90 degrees at race time under partly cloudy skies.

WHEN WE LAST LEFT YOU

On March 7 at Daytona International Speedway, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac earned his fourth career Daytona Supercross win in the 450SX class. Tomac erased a nine-second deficit, took the lead from Honda rival Ken Roczen with two minutes to go before the white flag lap and went on to victory.

In the 250SX East class, 18-year-old Garrett Marchbanks became just the fourth rider to claim their first career 250 class win at Daytona. Marchbanks held on after absorbing late-race pressure from reigning 250SX East champion Chase Sexton.

Extended Highlights – Daytona 450SX

Extended Highlights – Daytona 250SX

Tomac – who has become a father for the first time during the shutdown – currently holds the 450SX class championship lead by three points over Roczen. Reigning champion Cooper Webb is in third place, 29 points back.

In the 250SX East class, Sexton leads the way by 10 points over Shane McElrath, followed by R.J. Hampshire, 18 points back.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

After Sunday’s opener, here are the details for the remaining six rounds:

  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).