As NHRA’s Countdown begins, PEAK driver
John Force shifts focus toward 17th title
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 12) – The first 18 races of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is the chance to try new car setups, working through different scenarios and evaluating different parts in an effort to put yourself and your team in position to win a championship.
And as the six-race playoffs stretch, known as the Countdown to the Championship, begins this weekend, John Force shifts his focus toward a 17th Funny Car crown. The 16-time titlist and driver of the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS will continue his assault for 17 in 2017, the first race – the NHRA Carolina Nationals – on Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
Force, the defending Carolina Nationals race winner, is a two-time victor at the North Carolina track, which has kicked off the Countdown each season since 2007. Since the Countdown was implemented, Force has won two titles – in 2010 and 2013. His previous 14 championships came by accumulating the most points over the course of an entire season.
“Our cars have turned the corner, and I’m excited to go to Charlotte to start the Countdown,” said Force, who won the NHRA Gatornationals earlier this season. “It’s a great race track; we’ve had good luck there. Bruton Smith does his best to give us the best and the fans the best. We’re coming in there with guns blazing, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Force’s only victory in the traditional race at Charlotte – teams competed in the special Four-Wide Nationals in the spring – came last September, when he defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. in the finals and jumped from eighth to third in the points standings. Moving up five positions illustrates the importance of opening the Countdown to the Championship with a victory. But Force’s mindset goes beyond that.
“Very simple – win five races, win six races, you win the championship,” said Force, seventh in points entering this year’s playoffs. “It’s important to win them all.”
The NHRA Carolina Nationals begins with two rounds of qualifying Friday, at 3:30 and 6 p.m. Eastern (live television coverage begins at 6 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1). Two more qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. Eastern on Saturday (television coverage at 2 a.m. Sunday on FS1). Final elimination rounds start at noon Eastern on Sunday (live coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m.).
John Force has competed in 17 races at zMAX Dragway, and has qualified for 16 races, all consecutively since 2009.
Force has two victories at Charlotte – one each in the NHRA Carolina Nationals (2016) and Four-Wide Nationals (2010).
Force is 22-14 in 36 elimination-round races at Charlotte, including an 11-7 mark in fall races. Force has a .611 winning percentage in elimination rounds at Charlotte, and 611 in fall races.
Force has qualified No. 1 at Charlotte once – for the 2011 Four-Wide Nationals.
Force is 12-4 in 16 first-round elimination matchups. He has won his last eight first-round matchups overall, and last five first-round matchups in fall races.
Of the 16 races for which Force has qualified at Charlotte, he has qualified in the top half of the bracket 12 times. He has qualified No. 3 for each of the last three races at Charlotte.
Force enters the Countdown to the Championship seventh in Funny Car points standings.
In 2017, Force has one victory, a 17-17 record in elimination rounds, and one No. 1.
In his career, Force has 148 victories and 1,280 elimination-round wins, both records. He has 155 No. 1 qualifying spots, of which 60 have resulted in victories, also both records.
Most recent NHRA victory – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Best time/speed at Charlotte – 3.881 seconds (2017 #1 Q2); 331.04 mph (2017 #1 Q2)
Best career time/speed – 3.832 seconds (2017 Gainesville Q2); 337.16 mph (2017 Sonoma Q4)