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John Force Racing Aims for the Peak in Chicago

With five races already in the record books, John Force Racing moves into the second quarter of the 20-race 2024 NHRA season at this weekend’s Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.

This is an especially big weekend for JFR, as PEAK is not only the presenting sponsor of the event, it has also been the primary sponsor of John Force’s Funny Car since 2015 and will also be the primary sponsor for this race on Brittany Force’s Top Fuel dragster.

The sponsorship of the father-daughter team sets up a possibility of a “double up” end result: having both PEAK cars in the winner’s circle after Sunday’s eliminations (or perhaps a “double up” between Brittany and teammate Austin Prock in the Cornwell Tools Funny Car).

Here’s the latest from John Force Racing heading into this weekend’s race:

John Force

The most successful driver in NHRA history with 16 Funny Car championships and 156 national event wins is especially looking forward to this weekend’s race.

First, Chicago is one of Force’s favorite towns. He calls the Windy City “our hometown” because it is also the home of Old World Industries and PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant, the primary sponsor of Force’s Funny Car (and will also sponsor Brittany Force’s dragster for this race).

Second, PEAK is once again the presenting sponsor for this weekend’s big race in suburban Joliet, IL. It’s one of the biggest events for parent company Old World Industries and its employees.

Third, Force is coming off a strong weekend in his last race three weeks ago, one that saw him set an all-time personal-best record of 3.820 seconds, the 10th-quickest ET in NHRA history. Force also reached the finals of the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte that weekend.

Force has three wins (2000, 2004 and 2006) at Route 66, tying him with Matt Hagan for most victories among Funny Car drivers there. Interestingly, each time Force has won at Chicago, he’s gone on to win the NHRA Funny Car championship in those respective seasons.

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Force’s eight total final-round showings are also tops among Funny Car drivers there, as well as his six No. 1 qualifying positions.

Force made history at Route 66: his 2000 victory over Jerry Toliver (June 4, 2000), which was his 86th tour victory, moving him past Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden and making him the most prolific winner in NHRA history. Force has since won 70 more races.

Force is hoping to “double up” with his daughter, Brittany. They have jointly won the same national event in the same weekend just once before: August 15, 2021, in Topeka, Kansas.

“This is a very important race for us,” Force said. “It’s our home office (PEAK is headquartered in north suburban Northbrook, IL.), but Route 66, where NHRA puts on that national event, is unbelievable. It’s fun to race there, the access to it is great, the stands wrap around so that the fans can see everything. It’s just a great place to be.

“I’m also excited to be representing PEAK and Blue Def. And with myself, a Funny Car world champion and Brittany, a Top Fuel world champion, if we were to double up wearing PEAK colors and at a PEAK race, that’ll be huge. We’d love to double up, so we’re going to be trying. And this is also a home race for my son-in-law (and crew chief), Danny Hood, who is from Chicago.

“I’ve always said Indy (U.S. Nationals) was our granddaddy of races and, of course, the world finals at Pomona. And this is major, just as big to me, because of all the things that we’re doing.

“We’ve got a big event at PEAK’s headquarters on Wednesday, we’re going to have media all over town, TV and radio appearances, and then we’re going out to the racetrack for photo shoots. So, all this is exciting. I love this race, the track and we’ve run good at it. We’re going in there with guns blazing.”

Indeed, Route 66 Raceway is high on Force’s list of favorite racetracks. The NHRA raced there from 1999 until 2019, then returned last year.

“I love the concept of Route 66, from the old days of the highway (Route 66) that went from Chicago and across the country, all the way to California,” Force said. “You never want to lose a race. But you especially don’t want to lose one that’s in a market that’s as huge as Chicago. We’re excited that we’re back in Chicago because that’s where my major sponsor is. That’s where we need to be.”

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John Force enters this weekend’s race fifth in the NHRA Funny Car standings.

Austin Prock

Austin Prock has had a dream season thus far. Since switching from driving a Top Fuel dragster to filling Robert Hight’s seat in the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car at the beginning of this season, Prock’s performance has been nothing short of outstanding.

He already has one win (Arizona), has finished runner-up two other times (Gainesville and Las Vegas), has been No. 1 qualifier in three of the first five races and has led the Funny Car point standings for the last two races.

Not bad for a guy who is considered a “rookie” in Funny Car.

However, Prock is anything but a rookie. Prior to switching to a Funny Car this year, he earned four wins and eight final round appearances in four seasons driving a Top Fuel dragster for JFR.

Prock, whose father Jimmy and brother Thomas are his crew chief and assistant crew chief, respectively, has a legacy at Route 66 that he hopes to extend. Hight was the No. 1 qualifier in three of the last four races at Route 66 (2017, 2019 and 2023) and last year set the current track records of 3.831 seconds and 335.07 mph.

Prock is seeking to become the fifth different JFR Funny Car driver to win at the Chicago track after John Force (2000, 2004 and 2006), Tony Pedregon (2002 and 2003), Mike Neff (2011) and Hight (2018).

Having grown up three hours east of Route 66 Raceway in Lansing, Mich., Prock is excited to have a number of friends and family members to cheer him on this weekend.’

“They’re all big races throughout the season, but this is always a good one for us,” Prock said. “Growing up in Lansing, it’s kind of like a home race in a sense to have some family members and friends out there, it’s always a good time and it’s a huge race for PEAK and quite a few of our partners.”

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Being the points leader heading into the second quarter of the season, Prock is aware of the challenge he faces to remain No. 1.

“There’s some very challenging tracks coming up,” Prock said. “New Hampshire is always a challenging track, you’ve got Bristol, of course, and Chicago as well. How do we keep our momentum going? I’m just excited to get back to the racetrack, sitting out of the seat for three weeks.

“Yeah, there are some tough tracks ahead, but we’ve also done well at some other hard tracks in the first part of the season already. This team and this car have been really successful at all those racetracks. So I’m looking forward to getting back doing what I love, driving this race car. It’s like riding a bike, it’ll all come back real quick, but we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep being really focused. So I’m looking forward to what should be a good weekend.”

The success Prock has enjoyed thus far has caused him to say several times that he has to keep pinching himself to make sure all the good he’s enjoyed this season has been real.

“This year has just been a blur,” Prock said. “It’s crazy that we’re already a quarter of the way through the season. It just seems like it’s flown by and it’s been a lot mentally to process and it just doesn’t seem like it’s really happened. So I’ve just got to keep doing the same job I’ve been doing.

“It’s been working so far, but we’ve got a long ways to go. I’m just head down, got to stay focused, can’t get too caught up in everything surrounding you and just go up there and do everything one moment at a time and try to be perfect every moment you do something.”

Brittany Force

After roaring to her second Top Fuel championship in 2022, followed by a challenging year in 2023, positive signs abound for Brittany Force thus far in 2024.

Thus far this season, the younger Force was No. 1 qualifier and reached the semifinals in her home race, the Winternationals, in Pomona, Calif.; qualified No. 2 in Arizona, and reached the semifinals in both 4-Wide races at Las Vegas and Charlotte.

“Our team struggled last year and we need to get our car back on track,” said Brittany, who comes into this weekend ranked ninth in the Top Fuel standings. “We were lost all last season. I already feel the improvement that’s come into this season, looking at what we did last year and all the testing we’ve done this year.

“We’re kind of combining the last few years and trying to create our tune-up that way, combining all the good from those last few years. But it’s something you can’t do overnight, it’s always a work in progress. But this extra testing is definitely getting us closer to the ultimate goal, to turning on the win lights and getting us back into the winner’s circle.”

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A two-time No. 1 qualifier at Chicago in Top Fuel (2016, 2017), Force has one final round appearance (2014) and reached the semifinals in last year’s race. She also set the Route 66 Top Fuel track speed record on May 20, 2023 (334.82 mph), but still is seeking her first Chicago win. Ironically, before he became Force’s crew chief, David Grubnic as a driver was No. 1 qualifier at Chicago in 2004 and finished runner-up to Del Worsham in 2011.

“Our team is very structured with how we move through the season,” Force said. “So we had a goal coming into the first quarter, the first five races, that we should have so many round wins.

“Well, the problem is we’re already behind, which is why we’ve been doing (so much) extra testing to get us moving forward quicker than what we’ve been doing this year.”

Brittany is excited to not only carry PEAK colors on her dragster this weekend, she also would love to double up and share the winner’s circle Sunday afternoon with her father.

“I look forward to coming to Chicago because it’s a unique setting,” Brittany Force said. “This year, with my dad running PEAK and me running PEAK, it gives us the opportunity for a double-up in all-PEAK colors, and gives us the opportunity to do something we’ve never been able to do.”

This story was originally published on May 14, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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