John Force, 72, wins for first time in two years after skipping much of NHRA’s 2020 season

NHRA John Force won
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

CONCORD, N.C. — John Force won yet again at age 72, topping the Funny Car field Sunday in the NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals for his record 152nd event victory.

Force beat J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria in the final with a 3.916-second run at 328.78 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro.

“Timing is everything,” Force said. “I won the inaugural (four-wide race) here (in 2010), and this makes me so proud. Don’t take the job you love for granted.

“I wanted to win for (track owner) Bruton (Smith), (crew chief) Daniel (Hood), but these kids are tough out here. Some days, things go right, and our car was ready and prepared, and I halfway did my job. I’m excited and I get to send this (Wally trophy) to Bruton, a guy I really love.”

Force had qualified first for the 161st time. The 16-time NHRA champion won for the first time since 2019 outside Seattle. His John Force Racing team sat out most of the 2020 season after the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the schedule and sponsorships.

“I had it for 40-something years, and I took it for granted,” Force said in March before the season opener. “When it was gone, I’m sitting over there, and nobody cares to talk to me and then you get sick looking at all the championships and trophies. I needed to get back in the car.”

Other divisional winners Sunday at Concord were Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel, Dallas Glenn in Pro Stock and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Torrence powered his way to his fourth four-wide win in a row at zMAX Dragway with a 3.716 at 329.10. First-time winner Glenn had a 6.540 pass at 209.88 in a Camaro, and Johnson a 6.729 at 198.03 on a Suzuki.

Force dedicated his trophy to Smith, the executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports and founder of zMAX Dragway, who later was delivered the winning prize by his son Marcus.

“I love Bruton and I ran my big mouth this weekend. I told him, ‘I can do this, I’m going to win this race for you,’ “ Force said in a track release. “I love this guy and everything he’s done for this sport. … This just makes me so proud.

“You never tell Bruton Smith you’re doing to do something and then you don’t do it. I tried to backpedal. These kids out here are so competitive and you never know how good you’ll be, but I’m excited I get to send this (trophy) home to somebody I love, a guy who built our sport.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.