Las Vegas: John Force Racing final report

FORCE WINS FOR 3RD TIME IN 2010 LAS VEGAS --- The winningest driver in NHRA history, John Force, made some more history at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway today. He defeated former teammate and two-time world champion Tony Pedregon in ...

FORCE WINS FOR 3RD TIME IN 2010

LAS VEGAS --- The winningest driver in NHRA history, John Force, made some more history at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway today. He defeated former teammate and two-time world champion Tony Pedregon in the final round for his first Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals title and 129th national event win of his career. En route to the win Force had to defeat son-in-law Robert Hight, Houston winner Matt Hagan, and daughter Ashley Force Hood to reach the final.

Force faced a formidable foe in Pedregon in the last race of the day. They had squared off 77 times before the final round match-up with Force holding a 53-24 record. Improving his head to head record versus Pedregon to 54-24 also meant that his career record shifted to 1053-403. His final round career record now stands at 129-77. Force has now won 23.5 per cent of all the races he has run since 1978 and 24.3 per cent of all the races he has started.

He had nothing but praise for Pedregon in the press room. This was only Force's second win at LVMS. His only other win here was the 2002 Las Vegas Nationals in which he also beat Tony Pedregon in the final round.

"We all want a championship in the end but what I work for right now is to be able to compete and show my kids that I can still do it. I want to show them how much I love it and what it really means to me. I want to stop here first and say something about a young kid Tony Pedregon struggling with no budget. He is struggling to race and I saw him burning up the run before. He put it back together and doing whatever it takes. He was very emotional at the other end when I got in the car with him and he said to me 'Force you know how I race. I may not have money and I may not have parts but I'll give you a race.' I said, 'That is why I love you Tony.' He was very emotional. I know he is struggling. He will get right. He'll get it together or someone will take that kid because he is way too good. That group put that car back together and put on a show for the fans. They didn't get the win but they were still right there. God bless that kid," said Force.

It has been an amazing start to Force's 33rd season. After a winless 2009 Force has roared out of the starting gate in 2010. He has reached four finals collected, three wins and been No.1 qualifier twice in six races. The boss is back and he is powered by the BOSS 500. While Force's times were not world beaters he was consistent in the heat thanks to a masterful job of tuning by Mike Neff, Austin, Coil and Bernie Fedderly. Force dedicated the win to Mike Neff and presented him with the Wally in the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals winners circle.

"I have been saying it all day. My Mustang knows how to run at night. It knows how to hunt in the evening. That old dog does not like the heat. We started in Pomona with (crew chief Mike) Neff and everywhere it ran good. In Houston the sun came out and we were history. We came right in here with the attitude start slow and make it go A to B. You noticed we were stumbling to get in the show," said Force. "We got here in but we really learned a lot. I dedicated the trophy from this race to Mike Neff. I wanted to give him that trophy because as Coil said a little puppy has gotten the two old dogs off the couch. Coil said this not me. Coil said Neff gave us a fresh start of energy and of fight. Coil and Bernie are the best. They needed a little something to give them some change. Change is what I have been working with. I have shaken up everything."

Force is off to his best start since 1999 and will have two weeks to enjoy a 120 point lead over second place Matt Hagan who he defeated in the second round. Starting from the No. 11 qualifying position Force battled hot conditions and reached the winners circle for just the third time in his career from the bottom half of the field. It was his second worst starting position to win from and is only eclipsed by his win from the No. 12 spot in Phoenix 1999.

In the press room Force talked about the drive and passion that keeps a 60 year old motivated to continue to race at speeds in excess of 300 mph in brutal conditions like the heat this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Force credited his three racing daughters and wife, Laurie, with being major motivating factors. He also reminded his team that even their current success was not going to put the team on cruise control.

"You dream of having boys and that didn't work out. Then you have these girls and they all want to race. All of a sudden it is like Courtney and Brittany never saw me win. Every time I won the trophies were taller than them. Ashley never saw me in my days when I was good. We'll never see that day again probably. I told my guys we keep our focus. We test tomorrow. No party tonight, not even a team dinner. We come out and test and get ready for St. Louis. If you want a shot at it that is how it was in the old days," said Force.

Force had to defeat two of his teammates to get to the win and in the semis it was daughter Ashley Force Hood who took the loss against her father. Force told the press that her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang had a broken mag cap wire and it dropped a cylinder at the hit of the throttle. Force powered past her with a 4.281 second pass to her labored 4.419 second pass.

Force Hood defeated veterans Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson in the first two rounds. Her Ron Douglas - Dean "Guido" Antonelli tuned Mustang was always near the top in performance throughout the day and it had a handle on the heat all weekend. Her No. 2 qualifying position was the best of the three JFR Mustangs.

After her second round win over Wilkerson Force Hood was excited at the top end about her prospects for the rest of the day.

"(Ron and Guido) were talking a lot before that run and that makes me a little nervous. They usually don't talk much and they are pretty confident. They were a little nervous. It is very tricky out there. We did a great job and we were very fortunate. I think Tim (Wilkerson) was right outside my window. I could feel him next to me," said Force Hood. "Megan McKernan The daughter of Auto Club CEO Tom McKernan gave me a thumbs up before the run and she has done that twice now so I'll need her back for the semis. I need that little bit of girl power. We are going to the semis in Vegas and I am happy."

Luck was not on Force Hood's side versus her father in the semis but she did move up in the Full Throttle point standings and is now solidly in third place only 38 points behind second place Matt Hagan.

2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight suffered the most from the heat and trouble with his previously dominant Auto Club Mustang. Throughout qualifying his team battled a variety of problems. Hight is looking forward to a full day of testing tomorrow at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then moving onto St. Louis for the AAA Missouri NHRA Midwest Nationals.

"We just have to get our stuff together. We put ourselves in this position. It wasn't just racing John in the first round. We should have done better. We still have some gremlins we are fighting. We could definitely use a test session. I hope we get her fixed tomorrow. It was awesome to see John win. We should have been racing him in the semis. I see what these guys are running out here and it is like this is not hard. We can run a lot better," said a disappointed Hight.

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Mike Neff