JOLIET, IL – When John Force rolled through the water box in the first round of the 18th annual Lucas Oil Rt. 66 NHRA Nationals he knew that he was racing for not just for all the Peak Anti-Freeze Chevrolet Camaro customers in attendance but also to help out his teammate and daughter Courtney Force. Force was racing Alexis DeJoria who was essentially tied with Courtney Force in the Mello Yello point standings. The 16-time champion was able to get the round win and advance to the second round at Route 66 Raceway.
“We were protecting Courtney in the points. I gave away lane choice because I rolled in deep. I did that so if it was neck and neck I would have a shot. That was the same thing I did to Cruz (Pedregon). I thought I beat him in the second round. I accomplished what I wanted in the first round by trying to protect Courtney’s position in the points because we are a team. We will go on from here,” said Force, who is No. 5 in the Mello Yello point standings.

In the second round Force ran up against one of his toughest competitors, Cruz Pedregon, who was also the No. 1 qualifier. Force and Pedregon had met 95 times before today’s match-up with Force holding the upper hand 65-30 in previous meetings. In front of a live ESPN TV audience Force left on Pedregon but was unable to hold off the hard charging two-time Funny Car champ losing by a few thousandths of a second at the finish line. It was not the outcome Force was looking for after a solid JFR qualifying effort but the winningest driver in NHRA history took away some other positives besides his third trip to the winner’s circle in 2015.
“I can’t give you a quick fix. Hospitality with Peak went great this weekend and we spent a lot of time with their customers. Our Peak Chevrolet Camaro is right there in points. A couple of our other Funny Car aren’t where we want them to be. It is our job to fix them and the brain trust of crew chiefs has started working on that,” said Force. “We have our work cut out for us. I am not going to get discouraged. That isn’t part of my make-up. We stay positive. I told my daughter (Brittany Force) earlier today you have to get knocked down and that will make you stronger if you really have true grit. My girls have that attitude and so does Robert Hight.”
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team had a tough draw in the first round racing No. 7 qualifier Del Worsham. It was a close race that was decided by three thousandths of a second at 316 mph. Worsham grabbed a starting line advantage and rode it all the way to the win light. Hight who had one of the most consistent Funny Cars on Friday before the rain came through on Saturday had already put this race behind him.
“That was a tough first round. No excuses. That was a close race and we were right there with Del. I have to congratulate Del on getting 500 round wins. That is a huge accomplishment. This Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car was really consistent in qualifying on Friday and the weather was completely different in the first round,” said Hight, a 34-time Funny Car national event winner. “That is what everyone has to deal with. We are moving in the right direction as far as performance and we will start seeing the results of our hard work soon.”
For Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team Sunday was shaping up to be moving day. The team moved into a tie for tenth place through an excellent qualifying effort that sent her into race day as the No. 5 qualifier. Unfortunately she was upset by Jack Beckman for the fourth time this season. Force’s Traxxas Funny Car left the starting line and was obviously laboring before it lost traction at about half-track. The Traxxas crew immediately dove into the car after the run to begin to diagnose the problem before the Western Swing in two weeks.
The toughest first round loss was registered by Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster team. After two days of stellar qualifying, which culminated with a No. 3 qualifying position the third year driver was primed to chase down her first career Top Fuel victory. Facing veteran Pat Dakin in the first round for the second consecutive race Force was eager to race down the Route 66 Raceway track. Just before Force’s Top Fuel dragster was ready to race a lengthy oil down stalled racing action and gave the clouds a chance to clear. Force’s team made a number of adjustments including changing the angle of the rear wing.
Unfortunately, for the first time in her professional career Force jumped the tree recording her first red-light and handing the victory to Dakin. After the race Force took responsibility for the starting line miscue.
“It sucks that red light happened on a run when we would have gotten the win light. I screwed the entire team and that blows. I have an awesome team behind me. They all pulled me aside and told me to keep my head up and we will get them the next race. I don’t know how to explain it. I was just too amped and so ready to go. I knew we were going to get the win and I was almost overly confident about it that I was too aggressive,” said Force. “I knew I red lit the second I hit the throttle. I am definitely disappointed with myself. You can’t focus on that and you have to put this race behind you. We have to move on and I wish we were going right to another race. We have a week off and I will get things turned around.”
Force was up front after the run in saying that the crew activity did not distract her or contribute to her early exit.
“We have Monster Energy on board and we have really been pushing it. My team is giving me a race car and I want to give them a driver. That has been my focus. They have been consistent and they gave me a bad ass race car all weekend long. I want to give a good effort back to them and I pushed it too hard. You have to learn from your mistakes.”