MOHNTON, Pa. – official series release — NHRA photo —
John Force has put together a solid start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship and has had another strong regular season in Funny Car.
But if the 16-time Funny Car world champion wants another world title, he knows he has to be great and that hasn’t happened quite yet during the first two races of the NHRA’s six-race playoff series.
Performing at an elite level is what is necessary to stay competitive and win in the loaded Funny Car class these days, and Force has four more chances to reach that level during the Countdown to the Championship, including at this weekend’s 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, located just south of Reading, Pa.
“No one is out of this championship yet,” said Force, who is currently fifth in the Funny Car points standings. “A good race in Reading gets you right back into the middle of this Countdown. Momentum is great but really you just need consistency. The weather will be cool and we need to run quick and we can do that. (Crew chief) Jon Schaffer is giving me a good race car and I am working on getting better on the tree.”
For Force, it’s a chance to take another step in the playoffs after advancing to the semifinals in Charlotte and the second round last weekend in St. Louis. Both were solid performances, but with Del Worsham winning both events to jump into the points lead, Force knows he has work to do in his 10,000-horsepower Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro. The good news is Force has a strong track record at Maple Grove Raceway. He has posted an NHRA-best seven wins at the facility, including his most recent one in 2013 when he went on to win the world championship.
“Maple Grove is a great place to race and especially in the Countdown,” Force said. “This weekend will be important because we need to make some moves. We are right there with the competition but I need to get my Peak Chevrolet Camaro in the winner’s circle. The key will be getting off to a fast start on Friday with all three of these John Force Racing Chevys and that Monster Energy dragster.”
Force, who trails Worsham by 149 points, fell to reigning world champion and St. Louis runner-up Matt Hagan last weekend despite running a strong 4.014. But he needed a three-second run at that juncture, something that has happened on numerous occasions this year for Force, including in qualifying in St. Louis. That means the 143-time winner remains close to where he wants to be and he hopes to make another step this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.
“If you look at the leaps and jumps in performance we have made in making these cars faster, we are right there,” Force said. “When other teams run in the threes, we are right there in the threes with them. We aren’t on their pace yet, but it isn’t just one team. You look out there and there are four or five teams running in the threes, and we are right in the mix. We have four races left, and we need those Chevrolet engineers to keep working with us.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications