John Force, entire organization to miss NHRA return this weekend

NHRA
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UPDATE: John Force Racing announced July 31 that it will miss the remainder of the 2020 season

The National Hot Rod Association returns to the track this weekend after a hiatus of more than four months because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but its biggest star and fan draw – 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, along with his entire organization – will not be racing.

The deadline for this weekend’s entry list was Monday afternoon. John Force Racing – including Force, the team patriarch and the winningest driver in NHRA history, as well as teammates Robert Hight, Brittany Force and Austin Prock – are not entered in the event this Saturday and Sunday at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.

NBC Sports reached out to John Force Racing, but neither Force nor the organization had any comment on the situation.

The NHRA issued a statement to NBC Sports: “The John Force Racing team is not registered for the E3 Spark Plus NHRA Nationals this weekend in Indianapolis. We look forward to their return in the future.”

JFR has two bases of operation: its West Coast headquarters in Yorba Linda, California, outside Los Angeles, as well as its Midwest branch in Brownsburg, Indiana, which coincidentally is less than 3 miles from Lucas Oil Raceway.

Still, the organization will be a total no-show there for this weekend’s race.

It is unclear whether JFR will return for next week’s second race weekend of the post-coronavirus hiatus period, which will also be held in Indianapolis, or if/when it may return this season.

Force, at 71 the oldest full-time racer in the NHRA professional ranks, is in an age group that is considered more at-risk for contacting COVID-19. NHRA also has published warnings for this weekend that includes the following:

“An unavoidable risk of exposure to and contacting COVID-19 exists anywhere people are or have been present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness, disability, and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable. Although the NHRA has instituted reasonable practices in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19, NHRA cannot guarantee that you will not succumb to the virus. By attending our event, you voluntarily assume all risks related to COVID-19.”

There are 18 Top Fuel dragsters entered for this weekend, as well as 18 Funny Cars, 22 Pro Stock cars and 16 Pro Stock Motorcycles.

In Top Fuel, in addition to second-ranked Brittany Force and fourth-ranked Austin Prock, 10th-ranked Shawn Reed is the only other driver in the top 10 in the class who is not entered this weekend.

In Funny Car, in addition to third-ranked John Force and defending champion and seventh-ranked Robert Hight, only ninth-ranked Bob Tasca III will not attend. Tasca has been sidelined by COVID-19 and will be replaced by Swedish driver Jonnie Lindberg.

In Pro Stock, all of its top 10 ranked drivers are entered, while Pro Stock Motorcycle will take part in its first race of the season.

This is a very pivotal weekend for NHRA and the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. It’s the first race back since late February when the season was suspended after just two races because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While fans will be allowed to attend the race, there will be stringent health protocols in place including temperatures to be taken of all team members and sanctioning body officials, as well as fans, the wearing of face masks and social distancing will be required.

Because of those social distancing restrictions, drivers are not expected to be able to interact with fans in pit areas around team haulers other than to hand out pre-signed hero cards. That unfettered access has long been one of the sport’s hallmarks and key selling points.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)