FORCE HOPES FOR REPEAT SUCCESS IN TOPEKA: It had been almost 10 months since his last visit to winner’s circle. That’s a long time for anyone to wait, but for 14-time world champion, John Force, a man that has the most world championships, most round wins (1,021 currently) and most event wins (126) in NHRA history, the wait was almost unbearable.
“I didn’t know if I could win again,” Force said. “I believed it, but we just couldn’t get that magic to win a race.”
That all came to an end when Force drove past runner-up Tim Wilkerson at the 20th annual O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Heartland Park Topeka just one year ago and grabbed his first win since Brainerd 2007.
The win not only gave Force the confidence needed to continue to stay competitive in arguably one of the most talent-stacked categories in NHRA history, but it shot the former champ from fifth to a strong third in the point standings, a position that helped keep the NHRA legend within the top 10 point standings at the mid-point of the regular season of the 2008 Countdown to the Championship, ultimately leading to a Countdown to 1 playoff appearance later that year.
“Just give me a race car and I’ll pray this thing to the winner’s circle,” said Force.
Force will have his chance to do so as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing series returns to Heartland Park Topeka this week for the 21st annual O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals, the halfway point of the regular season in the NHRA Full Throttle Series Countdown to the Championship. For Force, who is currently ninth in the Funny Car point standings, a win in Topeka could propel the driver further up in the point standings and give the NHRA legend a 10th win at the track, the most of any other driver at Heartland Park Topeka.
Force will more than likely have to face some tough competitors along the way, which include red hot Del Worsham, who’s coming off of back-to-back wins in St. Louis and Bristol, current points leader Ron Capps, who has three wins in four final round appearances, and the rest of the highly competitive Funny Car class.
NHRA DRIVERS VISIT COCA-COLA 600: NHRA Top Fuel pilot Brandon Bernstein, Funny Car drivers Jack Beckman and Del Worsham, Pro Stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line and Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Eddie Krawiec attended last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, as special guests of NHRA’s series sponsor, Full Throttle and The Coca-Cola Company.
The drivers made a guest appearance on the Coca-Cola Stage at Speed Street and participated in an autograph session and fan meet-and-greet on Saturday as part of Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s Speed Street in downtown Charlotte. In addition, the group participated in the pre-race drivers meeting prior to the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 and followed that with a visit to the Lowe’s Motor Speedway Media Center.
The six drivers were promoting the upcoming NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at zMAX Dragway, across the street from Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT ANNOUNCES FAN APPRECIATION DISCOUNT FOR NORWALK: In an effort to thank its loyal fans, Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk announced plans to have a Fan Appreciation Discount for Friday qualifying during the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 25-28. The Summit Racing Equipment Fan Appreciation Discount allows race fans to buy Friday reserved-seat tickets, normally $42, for just $25 when purchased before June 15.
The Friday ticket entitles spectators to a full day of exciting NHRA Drag Racing including two rounds of qualifying for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, along with a spectacular fireworks show and up-close pit access to race teams. To purchase these special discount tickets, fans can log on to www.SummitMotorsportsPark.com and enter the promo code Summit09b.
O’REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS, HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA, MAY 29–31: Heading to the heartland of America, the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series makes its ninth stop on the 2009 tour. Defending event winners include Hillary Will (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); and Ron Krisher (Pro Stock).
UNITED ASSOCIATION ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS, ROUTE 66 RACEWAY, JUNE 4–7: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing returns to the Windy City for the 10th stop in the 2009 season. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tony Pedregon (Funny Car); Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock); and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
UNITED ASSOCIATION NHRA SUPERNATIONALS, OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK, JUNE 11–14: A historic event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, all four categories will head to New Jersey for the 40th annual visit to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
HE SAID, SHE SAID
IN AWE OF SUCCESS: Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards, who has two wins in three final round appearances so far this season, on competing in the Pro Stock class: “I don’t know if people realize how hard it is to do well in this class. I respect Greg (Anderson) and Jason (Line) and those are the guys you want to beat because they’ve been up there so long, just like Warren and Kurt (Johnson) too. To beat those guys…I never dreamed I would be as competitive in this class and run like this. It’s an awesome feeling.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
2: That’s the number of active drivers in Top Fuel that have more than one win at Heartland Park Topeka. Brandon Bernstein (2007, 2004) and Cory McClenathan (1998, 1994) are the only active Top Fuel drivers with more than one win. Below is the list of drivers that could join them by earning their second win at Heartland Park Topeka this weekend.
- Larry Dixon (2003)
- Doug Kalitta (1993)
DID YOU KNOW…
…that Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson’s son, Daniel Wilkerson, will make his NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series debut at this weekend’s O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Heartland Park Topeka. Wilkerson will be driving a second Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang and will join the ranks of such second-generation drivers as Ashley Force Hood, Brandon Bernstein, Larry Dixon and Tony and Cruz Pedregon.