BRISTOL, Tenn. — Looking to turn around his 2013 season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, 15-time Funny Car world champion John Force is hoping for the ultimate Father’s Day present at legendary Bristol Dragway.
Force is currently 10th in points and has yet to make a finals appearance through nine races in what has already been a highly-competitive 2013 Funny Car season.
A three-time winner at the storied track, Force will get an opportunity to make it four at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 14-16 at Bristol Dragway. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
With his two daughters also competing at the event, Brittany in Top Fuel and Courtney in Funny Car, the Father’s Day weekend in Bristol will be extra-special for the legendary Force.
But Force is also hoping the track that has provided numerous special moments in his career has room for one more.
After spending the last two seasons behind the wheel driving the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, which included a four-win, third-place finish in 2012, Mike Neff returned solely to his crew chief role for Force’s 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in 2013.
The duo had hoped to recreate the magic of 2010 when Forced raced to an incredible six wins and 11 finals appearances en route to his 15th Funny Car championship. It hasn’t happened thus far, however, as Force has only advanced past the second round once in 2013.
But with a talented crew headed by Neff, Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Topeka last month and has shown signs of improvement, is confident that things will turn around soon.
“We’ve been struggling,” Force admitted. “You know you can’t just go back to how it was. We’re not running the car we ran in 2010 (when he and Neff collaborated on his 15th championship). The technology changes and, at the end of the day, you’ve gotta change with it. We’ll figure it out and get ourselves back in the hunt.”
It won’t be easy in a loaded Funny Car field that has already boasted five different event winners and 10 different finalists through nine events.
But that list doesn’t include Force, who has won an NHRA-best 134 events and is an inductee in both the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America and International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
“Nobody’s gonna cut you any slack because you’re in the Hall of Fame – and I wouldn’t want them to. But I still believe I can win and as long as that’s true, I’m gonna stay out here. I love it,” Force said. “I love driving my hot rod, being out here with my girls and with Robert (son-in-law Robert Hight).”
Despite his struggles, Force has still enjoyed a 2013 season that included Brittany’s debut in Top Fuel, becoming the first Force to race in the Top Fuel ranks, and Courtney’s strong start in her Traxxas Ford Mustang.
Courtney won the season-opening race in Pomona and currently is seventh in points, while Brittany has earned three round wins in what has already been a successful rookie season in her Castrol Edge Top Fuel dragster.
“I always have enjoyed racing at Bristol on Father’s Day,” Force said. “I am lucky I get to be with some of my kids at the race track. I have even been able to spend time with my grandkids. When they were growing up I missed a lot of Father’s Days and now I am thankful I get to spend time with them. It has been awesome these past years. One thing I love is seeing all the families riding in the back of the Ford trucks during opening ceremonies and all the families in the grandstands. Bristol Dragway goes the extra mile to make it a fun weekend for the families.”
He says of all his victories at Thunder Valley, the one he cherishes most happened back in 1999, during a unique NHRA all-star event held at the track when he “beat the dragsters.”
“My favorite memory from Bristol Dragway is when I won the Top Fuel versus Funny Car race,” Force said. “I beat Bob Vandergriff Jr. in the final and it was a big payday. The biggest in the history of the sport. I didn’t get to share that win with my kids though. I just love being at Bristol when you hear the roar of the hot rods bouncing off the mountains. It is a great place to race.”
All of the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be competing for a victory on Father’s Day weekend at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, including seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher, who has won five times at Bristol Dragway and broke a 32-race winless drought with his win at the storied track last year. Challenging Schumacher will be a number of championship contenders, including points leader Shawn Langdon, who became the first driver in the class to pick up three wins this season. Other standouts include defending world champ Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Vandergriff and veteran driver Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, the most recent event winner and current points leader Matt Hagan, a cattle rancher from nearby Christiansburg, Va., will be looking for his third event win in 2013 and his first-ever victory in Bristol. But it won’t be easy against a host of top competitors, including the three John Force Racing Ford Mustangs, Johnny Gray, who has three wins in his 2013 retirement tour, Cruz Pedregon, defending event winner Capps, Robert Hight, Del Worsham and defending world champ Jack Beckman, among others.
In Pro Stock, red-hot points leader Mike Edwards, a four-time defending event winner in Bristol, will try to keep his streak going at this event. Edwards enters the race with three event victories and eight No. 1 qualifying positions this season at the controls of his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Local favorite Allen Johnson, the defending Pro Stock world champ who drives the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, is hoping this is the year he wins a race at Thunder Valley in front of his family and friends after losing the 2012 finals to Edwards in what ended up being the closest race of the NHRA season. Along with Jeg Coughlin, who is currently second in points, others to watch in Pro Stock include Erica Enders-Stevens, Shane Gray, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Vincent Nobile.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is an exclusive pit pass, allowing spectators to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their sophisticated hot rods between rounds. Fans can also meet many of the drivers in the pits and get autographs.
Fans also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway. On Saturday evening following qualifying, a special Fan Fest will be held in Nitro Alley, where more than 25 of the top NHRA Mello Yello Series stars will be available to meet fans in one of the largest autograph sessions on the circuit.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, June 14 with the first session at 5:30 p.m., followed by another session under the lights at 7:30 p.m. When 8,000-horsepower nitro machines blast off from the starting line with their header pipes full of flames during night qualifying, the scene provides one of the most sensory-filled experiences for any race motorsports fan. A spectacular fireworks show is planned to finish off Friday’s night racing.
The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 15 at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, June 16.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will be showcased during the event, featuring exciting side-by-side racing action at more than 250 mph.
To purchase tickets for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this Father’s Day weekend, please call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679 or visit www.thundervalleytix.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
FORD NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS PRESENTED BY TRI-CITIES AREA FORD DEALERS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 13th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, the 10th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. From Interstate 81 North, take Hwy. 11E. Take the Virginia Exit 3 and Hwy. 11E will take you directly to the dragway. From the I-81 South, take Tennessee exit 69 and go south on Hwy 394 directly to the dragway.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 14-16
FRIDAY, June 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 15 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m.; First round of eliminations at 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 16 - Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon.
Saturday, June 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of coverage starting at 1 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of coverage starting at 11 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, June 14, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Saturday, June 15, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Sunday, June 16, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Mike Edwards, 4, PS; John Force, 3, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC.
Top Fuel - 3.796 seconds by Shawn Langdon, June ’12; 324.98 mph by Spencer Massey, June ’12.
Funny Car - 4.047 seconds by Robert Hight, June ’11; 316.45 mph by Hight, June ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.633 seconds by Mike Edwards, May ’09; 207.94 mph by Greg Anderson, May ’09.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679. Tickets also available at thundervalleytix.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 746; 2. Tony Schumacher, 742; 3. Antron Brown, 626; 4. Spencer Massey, 615; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 544; 6. Doug Kalitta, 510; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 445; 8. Morgan Lucas, 441; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 415; 10. Clay Millican, 396.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 689; 2. Johnny Gray, 645; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 639; 4. Ron Capps, 544; 5. Jack Beckman, 543; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 534; 7. Courtney Force, 522; 8. Robert Hight, 483; 9. Del Worsham, 476; 10. John Force, 437.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 853; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 701; 3. Allen Johnson, 698; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 586; 5. Jason Line, 582; 6. Vincent Nobile, 538; 7. Shane Gray, 517; 8. Greg Anderson, 455; 9.
V. Gaines, 435; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 388.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 417; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 266; 3. Hector Arana, 265; 4. Michael Ray, 260; 5. John Hall, 243; 6. Eddie Krawiec, 226; 7. Matt Smith, 212; 8. Steve Johnson, 200; 9. Jim Underdahl, 194; 10. Shawn Gann, 187.