Force Still Flying As NHRA Hits New England

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Castrol will end its sponsorship of John Force Racing after the 2014 season. (NHRA photo)
John Force was the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier Friday night at New England Dragway. (NHRA photo)

EPPING, N.H. — A week after breaking a 31-race winless streak, John Force thrilled New England fans and powered to the No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car on Friday at the Inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series event, the 11th of 24 in the 2013 season.

Force, a 15-time Funny Car world champion, powered his 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a run of 4.051 seconds at 313.44 mph to move to the top of the Funny Car qualifying field. If it holds, it would be Force’s second No. 1 qualifier in 2013 and 142nd of his career, the most in NHRA history.

“We got around them there at Bristol (Dragway) on Father’s Day, and you didn’t really know what was going to happen here because we’ve got no data for this racetrack,” said Force, who has 135 career victories. “They can tell us how good the concrete is, and my clutch guy, Lanny Miglizzi, said it’s awesome. To come out here and run that kind of number, it was wonderful. We’re going to give these fans a show.”

Matt Hagan was right behind Force in his Magnetti/Marelli Mopar Dodge Charger, running 4.057 at 317.49. Courtney Force and Ron Capps both ran 4.083, as Force went 313.37 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang to claim third. Capps’ NAPA Dodge Charger ran 309.91 and is fourth overall.

John Force was also impressed with the strong fan turnout at the NHRA’s debut at New England Dragway.

“This is a great market, and we’re going to give these fans what they bought tickets for,” Force said. “This was a big crowd for a Friday night and it was pretty exciting. It’s just really great to be a part of the first NHRA race in this part of the country. I know all the drivers are excited, and the fans, they want those autographs. It goes on and on. It’s pretty cool.”

Kalitta raced to the top spot in his 8,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster, running 3.795 at 323.97, making the only Top Fuel run in the 3.70s on Friday. If it holds, Kalitta will claim his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and 35th of his career.