TOPEKA, Kan. – John Force ended a 19-race No. 1 qualifying slump by racing to a track record performance in Funny Car Saturday at the 25th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Force, a 15-time NHRA world champion, claimed the 141st No. 1 qualifying position of his career and his 11th at Heartland Park Topeka by clocking a track record time of 4.043 seconds at 313.22 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He will meet former teammate Tony Pedregon in the opening round of racing.
“I’d like to take credit, but credit goes to the people,” said Force, who has won nine of his NHRA-record 134 victories at Heartland Park Topeka. “It starts with [crew chief] Mike Neff. We’ve been struggling without a doubt. My dad always taught me that when you’re struggling, don’t change midstream and forget which way you’re going; that’s going backwards. The guys believe in me, and I believe in them. They’ve turned my car around.”
Force’s daughter Courtney was second in her Traxxas Mustang with a 4.050 at 315.56 and will race Dale Creasy Jr. in the opening round. Friday top qualifier Robert Hight dropped to third, but improved on his time from yesterday, posting a 4.050 at 315.12 in his Auto Club Mustang. His first round opponent is Canadian Jeff Arend.
“We’re one, two and three and this means a lot that John Force still knows what he’s doing, because I do,” said Force, who earned his last No. 1 qualifying position in Chicago last June. “I surround myself with good people.”
One intriguing first round match includes the current Funny Car points leader, Cruz Pedregon in the Snap-on Tools Toyota, facing the defending world champion and last year’s event winner here, Jack Beckman, who drives the MTS/Valvoline Dodge Charger.
In Top Fuel, Langdon earned his third No. 1 of the season and ninth of his career with a performance of 3.767 at 322.50 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. He said team manager and tuning wizard Alan Johnson predicted the car would be very quick in the third session.