Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – ENNIS, TX – Even after 16 world championships and picking up his 150th (and 151st) win this season, John Force remains as motivated as ever to accomplish more in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
With another championship in sight heading to this weekend’s 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, Force is hopeful for another Dallas triumph.
He has seven in his legendary career, but another victory at the facility, this time to start the second half of six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship would be welcome. Force is currently third in points, 79 points behind John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight, and a win in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil / BlueDEF Chevy Camaro SS might be necessary to keep those title hopes alive.
“Racing is what I love to do,” Force said. “I’m trying to fight the old man (in me) every day. You know, I started hearing, ‘you’re 70, this thing is over,’ and it’s really true what they say, it’s how bad you want it. When I get in that car, I’m alive again. It’s like my heart starts working and everything is good. So, don’t let anybody tell you that you’re too old. Get up and stay alive and keep moving. Someday I’ve got to go out that door, but before I do, I’d like to win at the Motorplex and maybe win another championship.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including live final eliminations coverage 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 20. It is the fourth of six playoff races and 22nd of 24 races during a 2019 NHRA season that has seen Force come on strong after some early bumps.
Working with crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, Force has become a model of consistency lately, winning his historic 150th race in Seattle and following with a victory at Indy. He opened the playoffs with a final-round appearance and qualified No. 1 in St. Louis before an early exit, and Force remains driven to succeed. Hight and Jack Beckman, who beat Force in the Reading final, are ahead of him, but the iconic veteran knows he as a car capable of winning.
“I put a complete new operation together with Brian Corradi and Dan Hood and it was a learning curve,” Force said. “I’m excited and we’re ready to go. We just found some things in the car we had to fixed, and it came around fast. I’m excited to be in the Countdown and we’ve got a fast car and a great team. We’ve got a shot at the title, but there’s a lot of good competition. If I have a car that can go down the track every run, we’ve got a chance.”
That’s all Force can ask for, but trying to track down Hight will be tough, especially after he won in Charlotte. He’s also championship-tested, as is a dynamic group of standouts in Funny Car, including Ron Capps, who sits just 11 points back of Force, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hagan, defending world champ J.R. Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr. and St. Louis winner Shawn Langdon. Force has worked hard to stay a contender in the loaded class, but he admits the work isn’t done yet.
“I’m not where I want to be in points,” Force said. “I’m in third and I was in second. I lost a few points so I’ve got to do a better job. Have to do a better job on the tree and I’ll be working on that this week.”
Top Fuel points leader Torrence will look to make it back-to-back wins in Dallas and during the 2019 playoffs, as the Texas won Monday in Charlotte. Standing in his way are the likes of Doug Kalitta, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett and Antron Brown.
Pro Stock’s Jason Line opened the playoffs with a win, but Erica Enders has taken over the points lead. She’ll look to keep it against standouts like Bo Butner, Alex Laughlin and Matt Hartford.
Eddie Krawiec has three wins in the past six years in Pro Stock Motorcycle at the track, but he’s seeking his first win of 2019. He’ll try and get it against teammate and points leader Andrew Hines, as well as playoff winners Karen Stoffer and Jerry Savoie, and defending world champ Matt Smith.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals will also feature thrilling competition in SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown, which makes its final stop of 2019, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which showcases the future stars of the sport. For the first time, the Summit Racing Equipment Mid-West Pro Mod Series (MWPMS) will stage an unprecedented 16-car, eighth-mile exhibition race presented by Atomizer Racing Injectors. This exciting field will compete throughout the weekend including a final round of eliminations on Sunday in front of the NHRA raceday crowd. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can also watch the spectacular “Lone Star Lightning” Jet Dragster driven by Tammy Gatlin and “The War Dance” jet car driven by Ralph Snyder. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock Motorcycle School and Nitro School to learn how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Texas Motorplex will also host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their victories.
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.