TOPEKA, Kan. – John Force raced to a track record performance to move into the Funny Car qualifying lead Friday in a rain-shortened day of racing at the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. Teams were only able to get one of two scheduled qualifying sessions in before evening rain showers moved into the area.
Force, the 16-time and defending Funny Car world champion, powered his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.021 second run at 318.84 mph, setting both ends of the track record. If the time holds through Saturday’s two sessions (1:30 and 4 p.m.), it will be his third No. 1 of the season and 149th of his career.
“We’ve struggled this year since Phoenix,” said Force, who has nine wins and 11 No. 1 qualifying positions at Topeka. “(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and the team have been working really hard. We had a good race track and good conditions, and we got down there. I have a good hot rod right now. We’ll see if we can do it again.”
Force set the previous track record here last year at 4.043 seconds. His run today was significantly quicker than second place Courtney Force, who posted a 4.078 at 316.23 in her Traxxas Mustang. Force said Prock is just like Babe Ruth.
“He has always swung for the fence,” Force said. “That’s what he does. Jimmy Prock makes a lot of power like all of our cars do. We’re either fast or we’re almost not in. He said he actually backed it up, and it ran faster. We have to learn that strategy with this power curve. They’re like a woman – and we love ‘em – if they don’t want to dance, ain’t nothin’ you can do about it. Today, it danced.”
Red-hot Robert Hight, the series points leader who is riding a six-race final round streak into this event, qualified fourth in his Auto Club Mustang with a 4.091 at 312.86.