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Funny Car’s Force Is Still A Force At 72

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 17 2021

John Force collected another NHRA Funny Car win Sunday at the Four-Wide Nationals in North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Twelve days after John Force celebrated his 72nd birthday, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion showed at zMAX Dragway that he’s still a formidable opponent.

In a final-round quad comprised of Force, J.R. Todd, Alexis DeJoria and Cruz Pedregon, the California driver produced an elapsed time of 3.916 seconds, 328.78 mph, to claim his 152nd career victory. It was Force’s first victory since the U.S. Nationals in September 2019. Force elected not to compete in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

“You don’t realize how much you love something, it’s a wakeup call, you take things for granted,” Force said Sunday after his victory in the NGK NTK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. 

“Don’t ever take somebody for granted. Don’t take the job that you love for granted or the people.”   

Force owned the four-wide weekend in Funny Car. He was the No. 1 qualifier with an E.T. of 3.902 seconds, recorded low E.T. at 3.897 seconds and owned the top speed at 330.55 mph. It was a successful weekend that Force dedicated to zMAX Dragway builder Bruton Smith.

Funny Car driver John Force gifted Marcus Smith his “Wally” after Sunday’s victory. Smith is the son of the late Bruton Smith, founder of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and builder of the four-lane zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

“This grandstand back here is named the John Force Grandstand for a reason,” said SMI Chairman Marcus Smith. “My dad, when he built the four-wide dragstrip here, zMAX, he said we’ve got to name this main grandstand after John Force because he’s the one that’s going to fill it. 

“If my dad were here, he would tell you he loves you (Force) and he can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done to build drag racing. You talk about love a lot and it shows in how you interact with the race fans. How you interact with your family, with your friends. None of this happens without your amazing spirit, competition and dedication.”  

  The elder Smith and Force developed a close friendship after zMAX Dragway opened in 2008. After securing the No. 1 qualifying position on Saturday, Force wrote a special note to Smith on his cap and delivered it to the media center, requesting that it be delivered to Smith. Then on Sunday morning prior to the beginning of eliminations Force told Smith he would win for him.

“Then I thought, ‘Well I can’t do that,’ but I’m sure going to try,” Force recounted. “When I got him low E.T., I thought at least I got him that. Then I go and win the race. You never tell Bruton you’re going to do something and then not do it.” 

  Force arrived in the media center Sunday evening for his post-race press conference with his Wally trophy, but before he left he presented it to the younger Smith and requested he take it to his father.

“I’m excited I get to send this (trophy) home to somebody I really love,” the energetic Force said. 

“Bruton said he wanted to meet with me when he built Bristol. I just saw the fire in his belly, where he was going. He always had a dream. He always had a vision.” 

Force leaves zMAX third in the standings, 31 points behind leader Bob Tasca III and 14 points in arrears to the second place Todd, who was Sunday’s runner-up. 

The next NHRA Camping World Series event is May 21-23 at Houston Raceway Park. 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 17 2021
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