BRISTOL, Tenn. – John Force ended a 31-event winless drought by racing to a special Father’s Day victory Sunday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) also were winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Force earned his fourth victory at Bristol Dragway and the 135th title of his legendary career when he defeated arch-rival Cruz Pedregon in the final round. Force outran daughter Courtney Force, points leader Matt Hagan and rising star Blake Alexander to advance to the final round.
“I really thought Courtney was going to take me out first round,” Force said. “Her car has been flyin’ all year. It’s all in the teamwork. We haven’t won the championship, we haven’t won the Countdown, but we have a race car. That’s what I’m excited about. It’s a great day.”
In the final, Force powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a winning performance of 4.148 seconds at 305.29 mph to take the victory as Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry shut off as it approached the finish line, ultimately coasting across in 4.335 at 224.02.
“If you can’t compete you are just mentally out of it,” said Force, 64, the seventh different Funny Car winner of the season. He celebrated the win with his wife Laurie and daughters Courtney and Brittany. He said he received a phone call from daughter Ashley to congratulate him and wish him a happy Father’s Day while he was in winner’s circle.
“This is great to come back here and win,” Force continued. “So many fans wanted me to win on Father’s Day. It’s just a great day for the Force family and to do it on Father’s Day is just awesome.”
Pedregon moved up to second in the points standings with the runner-up finish, 16 behind leader Hagan. Force improved to ninth in the standings with the victory.
In Top Fuel, Torrence claimed his first win of the season and fourth of his career by defeating event top qualifier Spencer Massey in the final round. Torrence covered the distance in 3.871 at 320.13 in his Capco Contractors dragster to finish in front of Massey’s Schumacher Electric dragster, which trailed with a 3.894 at 317.19.
The victory was the first for Torrence with his new crew chief, veteran tuner Lee Beard. Prior to the Atlanta race in May, Torrence hired Beard to replace his previous tuner, Richard Hogan.
“Today’s been unbelievable,” Torrence said. “I didn’t expect the car to turn around nearly as quickly as it did. My guys worked their tails off with 14- and 15-hour days to get the car setup like we wanted it. I am happy with the way the car is running and it’s real consistent right now. I am happy with the decision we made (to hire crew chief Lee Beard) and it is paying off now.”