EPPING, N.H. — When 15-time NHRA world champ John Force lined up for his semifinal round last weekend at Bristol Dragway, the opponent in the other lane reminded him of a young, hungry John Force from decades ago.
Force says when he looks at second-year Funny Car driver Blake Alexander, he can see that burning desire that produces world champions.
Force won the semi match en route to an NHRA-record 135th NHRA Funny Car victory, but he says the kid earned his respect in the close, side-by-side race. Alexander, from Wirtz, Va., drives the Auto Service Plus Dodge Charger and before falling to Force in the semis, the rising star defeated defending world champ Jack Beckman in the first round of eliminations and held off Bob Tasca III in the second round.
“You look over in that other lane and you see that young kid over there,” said Force, who drives the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “He is doing what he loves to do. I am still loving it and I hope he loves it as much as I do now.”
Force says he sees great things ahead in the sport for the 24-year-old driver.
“Alexander is me 30 years ago, maybe forty years ago, except he is way cuter,” Force said with a grin. “This is a great sport and I really love it. The kid out there he got out of the car and I know how bad he wants to win. I was a bridesmaid a hundred times it seemed. He has forty years ahead of him. He will be there, trust me. That is what our sport is all about. That kid has a big future. He is young and is loving it.”
Force and Alexander may get to go head-to-head once again when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series arrives at New England Dragway for the inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, June 20-23.
The event, which has already drawn a huge fan response, is the 11th event of the 24-race season and will feature competition in all four professional categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle. The race will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Alexander, who earned his first final round appearance and runner-up finish earlier this season during the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., has shown that he has what it takes to grab a win. He was part of last season’s talented rookie class that included Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria and Khalid alBalooshi.
John Force, who raced for many years and advanced to nine final rounds before getting his first win, expects the very mature and focused Alexander to score a victory sooner, rather than later.
“He is very respectful and at the top end he said, ‘good job,’ and that is the guy that will beat you,” Force said. “He isn’t crying about something that went wrong or that he got cheated or his lane was bad. All he said was good job because he was already thinking about how he was going to win the next one. That is what makes champions. It was Austin Coil that helped build that character in me. That is what I am trying to teach my kids. The losing is the part that guts you inside. It makes you want it.”