Story By: NHRA – BRAINERD, MN – John Force has put together an impressive 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and heading to one of the tracks where he’s had the most success, the legendary 16-time Funny Car world champion will look to keep heading in the right direction.
He will have plenty of momentum heading to Brainerd International Raceway for this weekend’s 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, a race he’s won an incredible 11 times, following his victory less than a week ago in Topeka. It gave Force the points lead for the first time since 2014 in the loaded Funny Car class and he’ll look to put on a show in Brainerd in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK Blue DEF Chevrolet Camaro SS. But he’s not concerned with points at the moment. Force simply wants to grab more wins and he’ll look to pick up his first victory in Brainerd since 2007.
“I don’t want to even look at the points. That will jump around and it is what it is,” said Force, who has three wins in 2021. “But I’m glad and I love racing. Our hearts are with the people, and to win, it doesn’t matter if nobody’s there. We’re going to Brainerd and we want a crowd (there). Let’s pack the stands everywhere we go. That’s what brings us to life as drivers. That’s what I want. We will entertain you, not just John Force Racing, but the racers do because our hearts are in it and when we see the crowd, we come alive.”
Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) were the winners of the 2019 event. This year’s race at Brainerd will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 3:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 22 on FOX. It is the 12th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA season and appears in its traditional spot as the penultimate race of the regular season. After the NHRA didn’t race at Brainerd in 2020 due to the pandemic, Force is excited to race in front of an enthusiastic fanbase at BIR, many who have watched the 154-time event winner dominate time and time again at the track.
There’s an abundance of drivers who will look to stop that, including 2019 winner Capps, who has six Brainerd wins, Topeka runner-up J.R. Todd, defending world champ Matt Hagan, Force’s teammate Robert Hight, Bob Tasca III, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson. But the stout competition always brings out the best in Force, who is looking forward to battling them throughout the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which start next month. Before that, though, Force wants to keep improving and that starts with continuing his hot streak this weekend.
“Let’s go race for a championship, let’s go pack the house and let’s have some fun,” Force said. “I’m going after winning. I love this sport. I live it, I breath it, it’s what I do, it’s who I am and at my age, I can’t believe I’m still in it. These young guys out here, I do what I can to keep up with them. (Crew chiefs) Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi and the PEAK team, they give me a great car. We’ve been great all season. I just have to get out there and not screw it up. That’s what I’m trying to do. Where we are in points, we need to keep it going. The Countdown is almost here, and it’s tough out there, but we’re hanging in there.”
Pruett will try for her second win of the 2021 season in Top Fuel, but she’ll face plenty of strong competition. Leading that charge is three-time defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence, who will try to win at Brainerd for the first time. Others to watch include Topeka winner Brittany Force, three-time champ Antron Brown, veteran Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashely and Shawn Langdon.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service will also make its first appearance in Brainerd, as fans will be able to watch the thrilling and unpredictable action of the 250-mph Pro Mod cars. Points leader Jose Gonzalez has won back-to-back races this season. The stop in Brainerd will also include the 2021 debut — as well as the first Brainerd appearance — for the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock class, bringing their popular and powerful 800-plus cubic-inch engines to Brainerd International Raceway.
After nitro qualifying on both Friday and Saturday, fans can enjoy the entertaining “Walking Tall” PT Cruiser Wheelstander drive by “NitroMike.”
As always, fans are granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans a chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 21 at 2:00 and 5:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 22.