KENT, Wash. – Any time that NHRA drag racing legend John Force wins a Funny Car event, it makes for a memorable victory celebration.
However, the party that followed Force’s win in Sunday’s Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways may go down in history as one of his most unforgettable ever.
Force stormed to his milestone and record-extending 150th Funny Car triumph during the final race of the three-week Western Swing, knocking off longtime rival Ron Capps in the final round with a winning pass of 3.971 seconds at 320.58 mph in his PEAK Chevrolet Camaro.
He quickly rushed to the winner’s circle, erupted out of his car and planted a kiss on Capps square on the lips before rolling into a classic, John Force monologue.
Afterward, Force chuckled about his spur-of-the-moment antics.
“Old Capps, I love him,” said Force of the second-winningest driver in Funny Car history. “I tried to hire him here years ago, and I hope I didn’t embarrass him just then. I’m the guy that kissed him. He did not kiss me, but I just … you know, sometimes I just love him. I know he was trying to beat me and giving it all he had. He’s the real deal, he’s a real great racer, and I guess luck was with me today and I got to win.
“I know if I kiss Ron Capps, I might get my picture in the paper.”
When the win light blinked on in Force’s lane during the all-important final round, the change in the air was instantaneous.
The stress, intensity and weight of the quest for Force’s milestone win was finally lifted.
It was apparent in the winner’s circle as the drag-racing legend moved to speak with FOX reporter Jamie Howe, with a level of jubilation that even exceeded Force’s typical enthusiasm.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that this (expletive) doesn’t matter,” said Force. “I’ve been so (expletive) up lately. I’m sorry; I’m sorry. but this is the best (feeling) right here. I’ve been screwed up for 25 races. I hate that monkey (on my back).
“Where is that monkey? I love that monkey now!”
Force had been riding a 25-race winless drought, going all the way back to his victory at Colorado’s Bandimere Speedway in July of 2018, and the questions were beginning to whisper out.
Would he ever get win No. 150, or would Force’s legendary career total hold at 149?
It was a question that even the iconic driver himself admitted he’s asked at times over the last year.
“It’s been 25 races (since my last win); Denver last year,” Force reminded reporters after his raucous celebration. “I give credit to a lot of crew chiefs over the years, though. I came here the first time with Steve Plueger, and you know he’s a great chassis builder and tuner. I came here with Austin Coil and then with Bernie Fedderly. I say those are the greatest crew chiefs in the world. They got most of those (150) wins, but so many other crew chiefs … (Brian) Corradi and Daniel Hood and Fabresi, they led the charge for this one and they’ve had to put up with me all year, not being happy with the way the car steered and how I sat in it.
“Then I got the monkey on my back, and I know I finally said it, after I’ve said for a long time that it doesn’t bother me, but it does drives you nuts. You go to bed every night thinking about it and asking yourself if you’re going to get another one,” Force added. “Then I asked myself, ‘where’s the monkey?’ That monkey taught me so much that the pressure is there, and it forces you to focus on your car if you want to do well … and John Force does.
“Sometimes you need that slap in the face, and that monkey (on my back) made me focus.”
That focus led to perfection on Sunday at once of Force’s best race tracks, as he triumphed for the ninth time at the picturesque Washington drag strip, located not far from the metropolis of Seattle.
“There’s certain tracks I’m really happy at,” noted Force. “I mean I love Indy (Lucas Oil Raceway), but Pomona is work and a job for me because there are so many family members there and that’s where our home base is for the team. But I always loved Seattle. This place has treated me so well over the years.”
As he basked in the moment, that monkey on Force’s back went flying off, a feeling he relished in at last.
“I’m glad it’s over, but I’m gonna keep racing and I can calm down now and not live with thinking that I’d never get it,” said Force of his 150th win. “One thing that I didn’t do is yell out, ‘Petty, I’m coming after 200!’ I never raced (Richard) Petty, so no, no more jokes about that. I’m just going to go race my car, and remind everyone that I’ve only got a few more years left. I want to enjoy it.
“I want to have fun, and when you can’t win, it’s just not fun,” he continued. “That’s when the budgets get crazy and the road gets tougher. But we keep coming out here and keep fighting for it each week.”
Though the quest for win No. 150 is finally over, Force’s legendary career still has some additional life in it, as he noted in one of his final comments before departing on Sunday night.
“I’ve got three years left on my contract, so you all are stuck with me,” Force smiled.