JOHN FORCE WINS AAA INSURANCE MIDWEST NATIONALS
ST. LOUIS —- John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, continues to add to his expanding legacy. Today at the 2nd annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals Force defeated long-time rival Jack Beckman in a final for the ages taking the win light by .013 seconds or six feet to capture his 136th career Funny Car title. This was Force’s sixth final round in the last twelve races and his first win with crew chief Jimmy Prock.
“You have to start with Jimmy Prock but it is the brain trust. Jimmy gave me a good hot rod,” said Force, a three-time winner at Gateway Motorsports Park. “I was losing some races but Robert worked in that cockpit with me to get me comfortable. I have been guilty of getting overloaded and not focusing on my race car. Now I have people like Just Marketing, Octagon, and Rogers & Cowan working for me so I can focus on winning. You have to live this race car every day.”
Force moved into second place in the Mello Yello Funny Car point standings just six points behind points leader Matt Hagan. This is the highest Force and the Castrol GTX team has been in the point standings since Force won his 15th Funny Car championship in 2010.
Earlier this year Force won at Bristol’s Thunder Valley Raceway with Mike Neff as his crew chief but since that win on Father’s Day the 15-time Funny car champion has been shut out of the winner’s circle.
“It has been a little bit of a drought since we won in Bristol earlier this year. Robert said when we made the switch that these guys are great guys and they are unbelievable. He said when Jimmy Prock get hot he will get fast,” said Force. “The whole brain trust has been working together from Mike Neff to Ron Douglas, Dean Antonelli, John Medlen and Dan Hood to get these Funny Car running. We are working as a team and it is really cool.”
“I gave away two trophies for this win. I gave one to Jim McGrath, the president of AAA Missouri and one to Jimmy Prock. I want to thank AAA for their commitment to JFR. We have a long range deal with Traxxas for Courtney. We are not dead yet and I am not dead yet. We are going after wins and corporate America.”
In the final Force was racing Jack Beckman who has had the upper hand on Force for most of his career. Beckman has a commanding 21-8 record against Force. They are now 2-2 in final rounds. Force has never lost to Beckman at Gateway Motorsports Park, with a 2-0 record now.
“Beckman is a great racer. He taught my kids at Frank Hawley driving school. He has taught me some lessons too. At the end of the day our old hot rod went down the race track and we gave the fans a show. That is what it is all about,” said Force
This is the twenty-first season for Force to win at least two races in a season. He needed a pre-race pep talk from his wife Laurie today. The couple celebrated 32 years of marriage this weekend.
“I talked to my wife this morning and she said you need to get back to winning because winning fixes everything. She got my head right this morning,” said Force, a 222-time finalist. “I need to start winning races and I know how to do that. I don’t know if I will win another championship or another race but I will be in the fight with these young kids.”
Force started the day taking out rookie Chad Head in the first round before dispatching Ron Capps in the second round. In the semi-finals for the second race in a row he had to race teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight. For the second race in a row he also took out Hight. The 2009 Funny Car champion had nothing but word of support for his leader at the end of the day.
“I told John after the semi-finals that he needed to win this race. We are running well we just need to quit running into John in the semi-finals. We are making up ground every race on Hagan and now we are only 48 points out of first place,” said Hight. “We can get that under two rounds with a good qualifying effort in Reading. This AAA Insurance Mustang was great today we took out two tough competitors in (Jeff) Arend and (Tim) Wilkerson and lost to the guy that won the race. We are not hanging our heads. We’ll be in Reading ready to get after it.”
Courtney Force qualified in the No. 4 spot with lane choice going into race day, this was her ninth top five start of the 2013 season. Her Traxxas team accumulated a total of four bonus points throughout Friday and Saturday for the qualifying efforts.
Today, Force moved up one spot and around competitor Johnny Gray to seize the No. 7 position in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car point standings. She finished in the quarterfinals when she beat Tony Pedregon, later falling to Del Worsham in the second round.
“First round we faced Tony Pedregon and had a pretty stellar pass of a 4.056. We were the second-quickest of the session next to my dad, who one-upped us again. But we’re just excited we were able to get past Tony in round one. The fact that we won in the opening round and Johnny Gray lost in the opening round was big because we moved back up a spot in the points to No. 7,” said Force.
This was the first ever match-up between the youngest daughter of John Force and fellow Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon. The pair left the starting line at about the same time, but Force pulled away and turned on the win light. She posted a 4.056 second run at over 318 mph to his 4.143 at 296 mph and had lane choice going into the semi-finals.
Force went on to compete against No. 5 qualifier Del Worsham. Once again, both drivers were off the starting line together, but Force took an early lead shortly before striking the tires at about 200 feet out and had to back off the throttle. Worsham took the win with a 4.119 ET at 311.77 mph and Force sat out the rest of the day to watch her father walk away with a Wally.
“We got lane choice in the second round against Worsham. We were really trying to run it hard and put a good number on the board after we saw Robert go up there and run a 4.07, but it was a tough match-up. Del got down there with no problem and ran a 4.11, but we struggled a little. We spun the tires and I had to pedal it. We went over a spot on the track that didn’t have any rubber on it and I think that kind of killed the run for us in that left lane. Those things happen,” said Force.
With only three national events left, Force will go to Reading 135 points out of first place in the No. 7 position in points.
“We have a great race car and I think we proved that this weekend; that we can run low 4.0s in the heat and in the cool air. I’m excited that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Force.
Brittany Force and her Castrol EDGE team continued to make strides as they wrapped up the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals Sunday at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award contender qualified fifth for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national event. This was the fourth she has qualified in the top half of the field this season and second time since the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals. Force also ran the quickest elapsed time of her career at 3.79 seconds during the second qualifying session under the lights Friday night.
Going into round one of Sunday’s eliminations, Force would face fellow competitor Brandon Bernstein for a second time this season. Running a 3.825 ET at 317.34 mph, the 27-year-old from Yorba Linda, California would advance to the quarterfinals as Bernstein hazed the tires and lifted off the throttle. Second round for Force would prove to be tough as she prepared to compete against Al-Anabi Racing’s Khalid alBalooshi. With a reaction time of 0.090 seconds, the Castrol EDGE dragster was making a run for the win light, but unfortunately fell short of the victory has her tires went up in smoke
, forcing her to shut off the engine early.
Force walks away 13th in the championship points standings and with another round win under her belt. She believes her team is moving in the right direction and is proud of what they have accomplished thus far.
“Overall, we had a great weekend here in St. Louis,” Force said. “We had a good race car and I ran my best ET Friday night with a 3.79. We ended up qualifying No. 5 and even went into the second round, so I think overall it was a great weekend. We’re packing up and going home early, but this Castrol EDGE team is anxious to get to Reading and hopefully go some more rounds.”