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Vintage John Force Takes Provisional No. 1 Qualifier at Charlotte NHRA 4-Wide Nationals

Ageless John Force recorded a career-best and the 10th-quickest elapsed time in NHRA Funny Car history to take the No. 1 provisional qualifying spot Friday in the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

One week before his 75th birthday, Force clocked an outstanding run of 3.820 seconds (at 330.96 mph) – also setting the track ET record – in the second session of the day, which was held under the lights in the chilly Carolina evening.

“They said they were going to lean on it because conditions are getting better,” Force said of co-crew chiefs Daniel Hood and Tim Fabrisi and assistant Chris Cunningham. “They leaned on it and said, ‘Hang on,’ and that’s what I did. And it wound up being even quicker than they thought it would be.

“I feel really good about it. We’ll come back tomorrow and see what we can do.”

Force gave fans an appetizer of things to come in Friday’s first round, held in the late afternoon, as he was second-quickest of the 15-car field with an ET of 3.893 seconds at 325.69 mph.

The winningest driver in NHRA history with 16 championships and 156 national event wins, Force is also the winningest Funny Car driver in 4-Wide competition at zMAX Dragway, with three victories in that event (plus a fourth in the traditional fall race there).

“I’ve been lucky my whole career, but I ain’t done yet,” a smiling Force said after climbing out of his PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.

But Force was also happy that he brought notoriety to, which for the first time ever is sponsoring a Top Fuel car in a race, namely driven by his daughter, Brittany.

John Force also carried on both his and Austin Prock’s Funny Cars as an associate sponsor.

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“Sometimes you’re in the staging lanes and wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’ And then you run like that, then you understand why,” Force said. “We’re very lucky to have sponsors like PEAK and Chevrolet and Auto Club and Monster and Cornwell Tools.

“You know you’re no spring chicken. And then you see a guy like Rick Hendrick, he’s done so much in NASCAR, and he gives you an opportunity. … For me to pull one out for him, for his company and, is great.

“They said the blower belt came off at the other end, shut the car off early. Maybe I could have been even a little bit quicker, but (the run) felt good. So I’m very blessed that I can still do this.

“I can tell it was fast. I can’t tell you how fast. I’d be lying if I said that. But it felt like it was going to be good. We just want to be consistent and get it down the track.”

Force, who earned the 156th win of his legendary career just three weeks ago in Phoenix, is still motivated to win even more races and potentially a 17th championship – or more.

“You know, you get a new sponsor and you want to perform. (Hendrick) was at his granddaughter’s graduation. He wasn’t able to get back here (tonight). But all of his people were here a little bit earlier. So, hey, we held our own as a three-car team, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Force closed his post-qualifying press conference in his own unique way, saying, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world. And the good Lord still likes me.”

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force is in the No. 12 provisional qualifying position. Driving the dragster, Brittany recorded an ET of 3.807 seconds at 314.02 mph in her first run of the day.

In the evening session, she lost traction, ending with a run of 8.690 seconds at just 70.22 mph.

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Lastly, Funny Car points leader Austin Prock struggled in his two rounds of qualifying, leaving him No. 14 on the provisional qualifying list after Friday’s two rounds.

In his first run in the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, Prock lost traction about a third of the way down the track and had to shut things down early, with an ET of 4.541 seconds at 180.77 mph.

Prock again lost traction in the second round, this time virtually right from his launch at the starting line and rolled to a run of 6.681 seconds at 128.03 mph.

There will be two more qualifying rounds on Saturday. The first round is slated to start at 12:45 p.m. ET while the second run is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.

This story was originally published on April 27, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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