John Force Continues Hot Streak

John Force set the early pace in the NHRA Funny Car class Friday in Joliet, Ill. (Rhonda Hogue McCole Photo)
John Force set the early pace in the NHRA Funny Car class Friday in Joliet, Ill. (Rhonda Hogue McCole Photo)

JOLIET, Ill. – John Force kept his recent hot streak going Friday at Route 66 Raceway by powering to the qualifying lead in Funny Car at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Scotty Pollacheck (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

Force, who won at Bristol, Tenn. two weeks ago and was the top qualifier and finished runner-up at Epping, N.H. last weekend, was the quickest in the 8,000-horsepower category during a rain-shortened day of qualifying at the state-of-the-art dragstrip just south of Chicago. NHRA officials were forced to cancel one of the day’s two scheduled qualifying sessions due to early afternoon rain showers.

Still riding the momentum from his success at the past two events, Force covered the distance in 4.035 seconds at 314.02 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to lead the qualifying order.

“Anytime you come to Chicago you usually have killer conditions and after old [rookie Chad] Head went out there and ran 4.05 we knew it was there,” said Force, a three-time winner at this track who has moved from 10th to fifth place in the series standings in the last two weeks . “Anytime you run good you’re excited and I ain’t had a car that runs like this for a while. Mike Neff [crew chief] and the crew did a great job.”

If the performance holds through Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions (4:15 and 7:15 p.m.) it will be the 143rd No. 1 qualifying position of the 15-time champ’s legendary career. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.

Force says with the right conditions Route 66 Raceway’s first three-second run in the Funny Car category might be possible. Matt Hagan holds the track record at 4.022 seconds.

“Now, tomorrow, we’ll push it because we made a good run tonight,” Force said. “Then, you might see a three.”

Series leader Hagan was second with a 4.040 at 317.19 in his Magneti Marelli/Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger and defending world champ Jack Beckman qualified third in his Valvoline/MTS Charger with a 4.043 at 313.15.

Hometown favorite Schumacher, from nearby Long Grove, Ill., led Top Fuel qualifying with a performance of 3.772 at 325.45 in his U.S. Army dragster, edging out Doug Kalitta for the top spot by virtue of his faster speed. Kalitta qualified second with an identical time at a slower speed of 322.34 in his Mac Tools dragster.