PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet driver
John Force seeking 10th victory at Topeka
Photo credit: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 16) – Sixteen-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion John Force heads into Sunday’s Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka seeking another victory at the track and a boost in the points standings.
Driving the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro, Force already has nine victories at Heartland Park and a 10th would go a long way toward his goal of winning a record 17th championship. Currently, Force is third in Funny Car points.
“I’m excited to get back into town,” Force said. “We’re going there for Weld Racing, a company that’s out of Kansas City. I’m also working with Menards this weekend with PEAK. It’s a good race track.
“We’re trying to get these cars consistent. My crew chiefs and I have been going through a lot of change, but we’re getting closer. We’ll see what happens.”
Force etched his name into the Traxxas Shootout in March with a victory in the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. While he’s won his last five first-round appearances, including Gainesville, he’s been stopped short of reaching another final.
He made the semifinals in Las Vegas, and at Atlanta, he was the No. 5 qualifier and nearly defeated Ron Capps in the second round, losing by a few inches. Capps went on to win the event.
One of the biggest aspects will be the weather. Topeka has been a location in which cars tend to set time and speed records, with the fastest Funny Car speed ever recorded there last year. Two Friday night qualifying session could be opportunities to reset that mark. But most importantly, it’s the chance to put the car in Sunday’s field.
“We’ll watch the weather, but only God can predict the weather, not us – not even the weather man,” Force said. “We’ve got to get our mindset that we’re going to race, not to watch weather. You have to address it, depending on how many runs you think you’ll get. Do you put it in the show or do you put on a show. We’ll see where that takes us.”
Two qualifying sessions are slated for Friday (5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern) and Saturday (3 and 6 p.m.), with final eliminations scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
Fox Sports 1 will provide one hour of qualifying coverage on Friday (11 p.m. Eastern) and Saturday (3 p.m.) and three hours of live finals coverage starting at 3 p.m.
John Force has competed in 33 races at Heartland Park Topeka, and the Menards NHRA Kansas Nationals every year since 1989, the first time the event was held.
Force has advanced to the final round of the NHRA Kansas Nationals 12 times, and has won six of those (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2008). His most recent final round appearance came in 2015, when he lost to Jack Beckman. Overall, Force has nine victories (other wins came in 1993, 1994, 1996 #1) in 15 final rounds at the track.
Force is 58-22 in elimination rounds in the NHRA Kansas Nationals and 73-24 in 97 elimination rounds at Heartland Park Topeka; that is the second most at any track. A semifinal round appearance will give him 100 elimination rounds at the track; he has only competed in 100 elimination rounds at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Force has qualified No. 1 seven times for the NHRA Kansas Nationals (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2013). Of those seven times, he’s won three of those races. Overall, he’s qualified No. 1 on 11 occasions.
Force is 24-5 in first-round matchups in the NHRA Kansas Nationals. He won every first-round matchup at the track between 1989 and 2006, a string of 18 straight. Overall at the track, Force is 28-5 in first-round matchups.
Force is currently third in Funny Car points standings, where he has remained for four consecutive races.
In his career, Force has 148 victories and 1,274 elimination round wins, both records. He has 155 No. 1 qualifying spots, of which 60 have resulted in victories, also both records.
Force’s most recent NHRA victory – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Force’s most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville.
Force’s best time/speed at Topeka – 3.951 seconds (2016 E1); 328.70 mph (2016 E1)
Force’s best time/speed of career – 3.832 seconds (2017 Gainesville); 335.15 mph (2017 Pomona 1)
Force will participate in a meet and greet and autograph session from 5-7 p.m. Central on Thursday, May 18, at Menards, 6401 SW 17th Street, Topeka, KS 66615.