Sweet 16: Force Clinches Funny Car Title

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John Force captured his 16th NHRA Funny Car crown on Sunday in Las Vegas. (NHRA Photo)
John Force captured his 16th NHRA Funny Car crown on Sunday in Las Vegas. (NHRA Photo)
John Force captured his 16th NHRA Funny Car crown on Sunday in Las Vegas. (NHRA Photo)

LAS VEGAS – John Force outran his daughter Courtney in the final round and claimed an NHRA-record 16th world championship in Funny Car on Sunday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also were winners at the fifth of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Smith claimed his second career world championship with the victory as well.

In winning his third straight race, John Force went 4.062 seconds at 310.63 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to drive away from his daughter’s Traxxas Mustang, which finished in 4.085 at 319.22. It was Force’s fourth victory this season and 138th in his career.

“I’d like to scream and say, ‘Gee, it was me,’ but the truth is (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and the team he’s got around him is unbelievable,” Force said. “It’s a team effort and if there’s anything that I’ve ever done right in my life, it’s been the team effort. That’s what I’m really proud of, holding together when it looked like we were falling apart.”

Force beat Gary Densham, Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria to reach the final round. The win, his fourth in Las Vegas, also wrapped up an all-around memorable weekend for Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier, broke the track E.T. record and claimed yet another world championship in his storied career.

“We’ve been having a lot of fun and I’m going to be around a while because I truly love it,” Force said. “Sometimes luck just gets on your side and we’ve been fortunate these past three races.”

In winning the Pro Stock Motorcycle race, Smith joined Force on the world champion’s podium to celebrate his second career title. He powered his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell to a final round run of 6.991 at 192.08 to beat Jerry Savoie, who went 7.050 at 190.19 on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki. Smith, who has won the last three races, claimed his fourth win this season and 17th in his career en route to clinching the championship crown. His father, Rickie, also won the world championship in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series this season.

“This team has been awesome,” Smith said. “What else can you ask for? With me winning the championship and dad winning the Pro Mod championship it’s been great. I don’t want to sound too confident, but we’ve almost been unstoppable. We’ve been to 10 finals since Epping and have six wins. Those are amazing number for our team.”

Smith, who qualified fourth, went 6.979 at 192.17 to start eliminations with a win against Andrew Hines, and followed it up with round wins against LE Tonglet and Shawn Gann to reach the final round. Smith, who won for the first time in Las Vegas, also won the world championship in 2007.

“It’s pretty elite company to do that,” Smith said of his second championship title. “We pulled this off and it’s just great.”

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