The chase for his latest milestone is over for John Force.
The legendary 16-time world champion won his 150th career national event when he took home the title at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals Sunday in Seattle.
Force clocked a 3.971-second elapsed time at 320.58 mph to edge Ron Capps’ 4.018-second lap at 309.91 mph at Pacific Raceways.
Force’s historic victory march Sunday consisted of wins over Jim Campbell, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman and Capps.
This was Force’s first win of the season and his first trip to victory lane since the Mile-High Nationals in Denver in July of 2018.
“Well, it has been 25 races since Denver last year,” Force said. “I give credit to a lot of crew chiefs over the years. I came here the first time with (the late) Steve Plueger and a he was a great chassis builder and tuner. I came here with Austin Coil and then with Bernie Fedderly, the greatest crew chiefs in the world. But, (crew chief) (Brian) Corradi and Daniel Hood and (Tim) Fabrisi they led the charge. The have had to put up with me all year, not happy with the way the car steered, how I sat in it, not happy with so many things. And then I got the monkey on my back and it drives you nuts. You go to bed every night and (but) the monkey taught me so much, that you need to focus on your car if you want to do good.”
Force, who pilots his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil / Lighting Chevrolet Camaro SS, said up until recently he wasn’t focusing on understanding his Funny Car.
“I run around and sell sponsors and I’m just doing stuff all the time and I don’t even know my car,” he said. “Corradi and (Austin) Coil said. ‘You’ve got to get to know your car. You’ve got to live it. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to study the drivers. I said I do all that, but I wasn’t. So, sometimes you need a slap in the face and that was the monkey that made me focus. To live my car and I’ve been living it here, probably in the last four or five races. If you notice, it has been popping up fast and we found something real critical.
Robert (Hight) has stood by me through everything. He just amazes me. When a lot of people said it is over for John Force. Give me a good race car, I can race. I may not be as young as these kids and a hot shot on that tree. But I’m excited. (Austin Prock) wins right behind me and I went to the stands and I screwed up their parade, but I owed it to get to the fans. I never made it to Topeka (Kan.), I went over the fence and my leg went out, so I went over the fence this time and they were dragging me over and I just wanted to get there to tell them I love them and then I about tipped over.”
Force made his NHRA nitro Funny Car debut in 1977 and didn’t get his first national event win until 1987 when he beat Ed “The Ace” McCulloch in the finals in Montreal.
“I’m excited for me to get rid of the pain, and I’m glad it is over,” said Force about his 150th win. “I’m going to race, but I can calm down now and not live with that thinking I would never get it. No more jokes, I’m going to come race my car. I’ve only got a few years left and I want to enjoy, and I want to have fun. I’ve been trained to win and when you can’t win, it is just not fun. The budgets get crazy, the road gets tougher, but you guys are still writing stories.”
Force improved his record to 62-41 against Capps in elimination rounds and to 12-8 in final rounds.
“Capps, I love him,” Force said. “I tried to hire him years ago, and I hope I didn’t embarrass him. I’m the guy who kissed him, he didn’t kiss me. Sometimes I just love him. He wanted to beat me. He was giving it all he had. I just grabbed and kissed him because he’s the real deal. He’s a real great racer. Today luck was with me and I got the win.”
This was Force’s ninth career win at Pacific Raceways. He also has wins at the track in 1991, 1993-94, 1996, 2000, 2003-2004, and 2014.
“I crashed here so many times and I’ve won so many races here and there are certain tracks I’m really happy at,” Force said. “I love Indy, Pomona, it is job for me because I have so many family (members) there, but I’ve always loved Seattle. I love Vegas, but I don’t party in Vegas. I had to stop drinking with my head injuries and I have not had a drop, it has been over a year. I’m feeling pretty good and I’m starting to come around. I’ve had some problems and I have to wear special glasses because my eyes are bad, but I have no complaints. I’m 70 years old and I’m going to do it because I love the fans and God will tell me when it is time. You’ll know when your old body says, ‘your done, you’re done.’ But I need to build new stars. I need to build. I need to build Brittany. Robert is already there. Brittany’s a champion, but she has so much to learn and I have to build (Austin) Prock and all day long he was killing them. He’s young and he’s strong. I don’t have that strength anymore. No matter how hard you try, you don’t have that fire. I get it in my head, but it is hard to make your legs do what they want to do like these young kids. But I’m giving it all I got, and I got a win, 150.”
Force’s has at least one national event win in 32 of the last 33 seasons. During his career – 150 wins – Force has beat 41 different final round opponents, most often besting Cruz Pedregon (16 times), former teammate and current FOX Sports analyst Tony Pedregon (13 times) and Capps (11 times).
Pro Stock star Warren Johnson is second on the NHRA all-time career victory list with 97 national event wins. Force made his first appearance in an NHRA national event final round when he lost Kenny Bernstein in Baton Rouge, La.
“I remember going to nine finals and I lost, and I didn’t want to put that in my head, it is too crowded, too many beer cans in there,” Force said. “Failure is part of it and that’s what I told Brittany.”
Force is now second in the season points standings – 186 points behind leader Hight.
“I can give this a run,” said Force about winning another world championship. “Robert is a killer on the lights, and they all are. Everybody can beat me, that ain’t no secret. I have to fudge and cheat and go deep and all that stuff, but sometimes it is only a little, but it might be enough when they are running side-by-side, so I can do that and that’s what I have to do. I don’t want to screw with anybody. I do what I do, I make up my mind and sometimes I go a completely different direction and sometimes I just screw up like not having brakes and stuff the last couple of races. They found out it wasn’t a brake problem, the clutch was driving me. I’m in the hunt. All I ever wanted to do was be in the hunt.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019