John Force has been racing at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park since the late 1970s. The winningest driver in NHRA history started out match racing and raced to the final round at the NHRA SummerNationals the first time he attended the storied race in 1979. The upstart driver was defeated by racing legend Raymond Beadle in the final. Over the next nearly four decades Force raced to ten final rounds and picked up four SummerNationals wins.
The NHRA SummerNationals is regarded as one of the NHRA’s “Majors” joining the historic Gatornationals, the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals, and either the Winternationals or Auto Club Finals – depending on who you ask- at Auto Club Raceway as one of the premiere events on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. This year’s 47th annual SummerNationals race will feature Force battling one of the toughest Funny Car fields in recent memory.
This season Force has raced to a runner-up finish at the Arizona Nationals at the beginning on the season and 16-time champion also have three semifinals finishes to his credit including the most recent NHRA New England Nationals last weekend n Epping, New Hampshire.
Two races ago Force unveiled the brand new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car a complete redesign for NHRA competition. Force has already experienced highs and lows with the new body when you consider in Epping he posted a career best time of 3.886 seconds at a career fastest speed of 329.75 mph during the second session of qualifying on Friday. Two weeks prior to that historic run during the second session in Topeka Force brushed the wall with his brand new “company car” and was forced to send it back to the Brownsburg, Indiana shop for major repairs.
“My guys had the body back in Brownsburg by Sunday and when I got there on Monday they were already over halfway done fixing it. I have to thank Aerodyne Composites and all the JFR employees in the fab shop and paint shop. I spent nearly two weeks in Brownsburg and we fixed a lot of things and it showed when we got the car to Epping. It was a team effort and I could not be prouder of my guys,” said Force after his Friday night run.
Force continued a hot streak in Epping racing to his fourth consecutive semifinal round at the New England Nationals before being edged out at the finish line by eventual winner Ron Capps.
“Capps is a tough competitor but he is also a friend. He is a good straight-up, hard-nosed racer. I really respect him. I go after him with all I’ve got. He is that good and I have to keep working to keep up with him. He makes me better,” commented Force from his pits.
While Force has had much success at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park recent years have been tough on the 4-time SummerNationals winner. The last time Force raced in a final round at the historic track was 2004 when he was edged out by long-time friend and competitor Gary Densham. Force’s last win in New Jersey was 1999 when he outran Cruz Pedregon for the title. The past two seasons rival Matt Hagan has ousted Force in the first round.
“I have a lot of history at Englishtown. I used to match race there with Vinnie Napp and I won a lot there in the 90s. I love going to that track and seeing all the fans and all the history. I have a great hot rod right now and we are running with the competition. I set career best numbers in Epping and I am ready to get back to the track in Englishtown. I have been on the road for almost two months and that is what I love about my job,” said Force.