Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – KENT, WA – John Force won’t have a chance to sweep the Western Swing at this weekend’s CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways. But the legendary Funny Car driver can do the next best thing and that is help his John Force Racing team win all three races on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ annual trek out West.
Force won the opening race of the Western Swing in his 10,000-horsepower PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS at Denver, while teammate Robert Hight picked up the victory last weekend in Sonoma. Throw in Courtney Force winning four times and currently leading the points in Funny Car, and John Force is hopeful his team can continue to stay hot in Seattle to close out the Western Swing.
“We’ve had a lot of success racing at Pacific Raceways, been going there for a long time and it’s been good to us,” Force said. “The whole Western Swing has been good to John Force Racing, hopefully that will continue. If one our teams can’t sweep the Swing by themselves, Robert with Auto Club, Courtney with Advance Auto Parts, Brittany with Monster and PEAK (in Top Fuel) and me with PEAK, well then the next best thing is to sweep it as a team. We’ve done it before.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car) and Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and the FOX national broadcast network, including live final eliminations on FOX starting at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 16th of 24 events during the 2018 NHRA season and after a difficult start to the year, things seem to be rounding into form at the perfect time for the iconic 16-time Funny Car world champion.
After a flurry of early-season maladies, including explosions and crashes, Force has been strong over the past seven events, advancing to two final rounds and three semifinals. His 149th career victory came in Denver, leaving the most successful driver in NHRA history a win away from another impressive milestone. It wouldn’t be shocking for it to take place at Pacific Raceways, either, as Force has eight wins at the scenic facility, including his most recent in 2014.
“Right now, my goal is to keep my team together and just keep getting better,” said Force, who is currently eighth in Funny Car points. “These crew chiefs, Jon Schaffer, Ronnie Thompson, Joe Veyette, these guys are really teaching these kids how not to make mistakes with the cars. I just gotta get a little bit better myself.”
The veteran has made considerable strides throughout the summer, but Force knows he can’t let up in the loaded class. JFR will have to deal with the likes of 2016 event winner Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, who has three wins in 2018, two-time season winner J.R. Todd, Jack Beckman and three-time event winner Tim Wilkerson in Seattle, but Force is also only 56 points out of sixth place.
With the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship approach, Force knows he must continue to raise his game if he wants to have a chance for a 17th world championship.
“I’m still learning about this PEAK Coolant and Motor Coil Chevy Camaro and what it does, because it reacts crazy when it gets fast,” said Force, who has 251 final round appearances. “But I’m excited about it. I told these guys, ‘give me a car that’ll go down the race track and I’ll give you some wins,’ so we’ll just show up at Seattle and see what we can do.”
Top Fuel’s Antron Brown is still seeking his first win of 2018. The three-time world champion is chasing points leader Steve Torrence, who has five wins this year, and must also deal with the likes of Denver winner Leah Pritchett, Clay Milican, Brittany Force and Tony Schumacher.
In Pro Stock, Drew Skillman is also aiming for his first victory in 2018 after winning four times a year ago. To do so, he’ll have to get past talented drivers like points leader Greg Anderson, Sonoma winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Tanner Gray, Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile and Chris McGaha.
The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Those in attendance will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals include Pat Austin and more.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.