FORCE BEATS BERNSTEIN TO WIN LUCAS OIL NATIONALS FOR 11TH TIME John Force, who five weeks ago was in jeopardy of failing to make the eight-car lineup for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, completed a spectacular turnaround Sunday by ...
FORCE BEATS BERNSTEIN TO WIN LUCAS OIL NATIONALS FOR 11TH TIME
John Force, who five weeks ago was in jeopardy of failing to make the eight-car lineup for the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship, completed a spectacular turnaround Sunday by winning for the third time in five weeks at the wheel of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang.
Force beat Kenny Bernstein in a battle of drag racing icons to win the 26th annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., and move all the way up to fourth place in the POWERade Funny Car standings.
In winning for the 11th time at BIR, Force nudged Bernstein, 4.794-4.801 seconds in a spectacular final round that recalled a bygone era in Funny Car racing. The last time the two raced was in 1989 and the last time they met in a final was at the 1988 Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.
The victory was the 125th of Force's career and it came in his 199th final round appearance. The No. 2 qualifier, he beat Gary Densham, Jeff Arend, teammate Robert Hight and finally Bernstein.
"It nosed over in the lights and I thought he got me," Force said. "I thought he had me. I was on the radio but I couldn't get anybody to answer. Bottom line, a win's a win. (Bernstein) is showing everybody that age isn't that big a factor in this game, which is good for me because I've got contracts with most of my sponsors that run for four or five more years. So I'm not going anywhere. I'm four years younger than him and that means that if he can continue stepping on the gas like he is, so can I.
"In the championship, we'll just have to see what happens now that we're in the Countdown," Force said, "but just to leave (Brainerd) with a win for Eric Medlen means everything to me and to this team."
Medlen, who succumbed last March to injuries suffered in a testing accident at Gainesville, Fla., won his first race for John Force Racing, Inc., and Castrol SYNTEC at Brainerd in 2004. He repeated in 2005 and still holds the track record at 4.730 seconds.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.786 seconds, 325.30 mph.
Race results: Beat Gary Densham, Jeff Arend, Robert Hight and Kenny Bernstein.
Notable: Won the Lucas Oil Nationals for the 11th time in 22 appearances,
the most victories he has earned in a single event. Quotable: "In the championship, we'll just have to see what happens, but just to leave here with a win for Eric Medlen means everything to me and to this team."
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: DNQed at 4.941 seconds, 278.69 mph.
Race results: Did not qualify.
Quotable: "It's very disappointing, but we'll be back next week at Reading and we'll be better. This year has been a learning experience for me and my whole team, but we're not discouraged. It's just very competitive."
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.796 seconds, 322.58 mph.
Race results: Beat Jim Head, Tim Wilkerson; lost to John Force.
Notable: Secured No. 1 seed for second consecutive year for the Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race and recorded the quickest time during eliminations at 4.756 seconds.
Quotable: "We've got a great race car and we're ready for the Countdown. I can't wait to get back on the racetrack at Reading and show what our Auto Club Ford can do."