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John Force Wins First #2Fast2Tasty Challenge of 2024

Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery photo

In an age-defying performance at the wheel of his PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS, John Force beat Daniel Wilkerson and Blake Alexander Saturday, the latter on a final round hole shot, to win the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, a prelude to Sunday’s 11th New England Nationals at New England Dragway.

“I love racing these kids,” Force said of the win. “They make me get out of bed every day and get mental. GHX and Off-Road Campers, AAA, Frank Tiegs (Flav-R-Pac), Rick Hendrick (HendrickCars.com) and Tom Hurvis (founder of Old World Industries and PEAK), I love those people and all that they’ve done (and) I want to tell all you guys this old man still looks like he’s got a life. It ain’t over yet.”

It was Force’s second win in the unique “race within a race”, and first of 2024, which made its series debut a year ago. In essence, the 2Fast2Tasty Challenge is a do-over for the semifinalists from the most recent tour event with cash and Countdown bonus points to the winner.

In his previous five appearances in the Challenge, Force had only won once (Indianapolis 2023). He was runner-up earlier this year at Phoenix, as he was last year at Bristol, Tenn.

Driving a car prepared by son-in-law Daniel Hood and a PEAK crew led by Chris Cunningham and Tim Fabrisi, Force first dispatched Wilkerson, just as he did two weeks earlier at the Gerber Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK in Chicago. The sport’s all-time biggest winner negotiated a 127-degree racetrack in 4.133 seconds at 281.36 miles per hour while Wilkerson slowed to 6.676 at less than 100 mph after his car lost traction.  

In the final, the Hall of Famer used all of the experience gleaned in a 48-year pro career to make a slower 4.048 second elapsed time the winner against Alexander’s quicker 3.994. Force’s .023 reaction time gave him a .056 of a second starting line advantage that Alexander could not overcome. The final margin was a scant .002 of a second for the PEAK Camaro.

“I know Jim Head (owner and tuner of Alexander’s car),” Force said. “He’s tricky. He’ll go down any kind of racetrack. Alexander can drive and they can all leave on me. Don’t believe (the numbers). I rolled in deep because I tried to get a few inches on him and evidently it helped me get (the win). Jim Head ran good (as) he always does (and) I really like his driver; he’s got a big future out here. But, at the end of the day, we got the win and I get to eat Mission tortillas tonight. Mission Foods. I drove a truck a 100 years ago, back in L.A., and I hauled their stuff when people didn’t hardly know who they were.”

Force, winner of a record 156 NHRA tour events and 16 series championships, will try to double-up Sunday when he starts from the No. 2 qualifying position in the New England Nationals event he won in 2015 and 2021 and in which he has been runner-up on two other occasions.

This story was originally published on June 2, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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