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EPPING, N.H. – An early-season win and No. 1 qualifier told legendary Funny Car driver John Force he had a car capable of competing for his 17th career world championship. But recent mishaps heading into this weekend’s fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway also let him know everything isn’t quite locked in yet.
Force hasn’t advanced out of the second round in the past four races, something the former Epping winner wants to rectify this weekend in his 10,000-horsepower PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS. A victory at Gainesville put him second in points and though he’s only dropped to third, Force is eager to get back to his winning ways in a car that has plenty of potential.
“We know the road to the championship,” said Force, who has 148 career victories. “We’ve been there before. Our sponsors believe in us because we know how to produce. We turned the corner, we believe, in the parts that we need to win. We need some time to run these cars to figure them out. We’re fast. The point is we don’t have consistency. If we find that we’ll be okay.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 4. It is the ninth of 24 events in 2017 and Force and the rest of the Funny Car standouts have been unsuccessful in slowing down Capps, the reigning world champion who has won four straight races and knocked off Force twice in that span.
Starting a stretch of four consecutive race weekends in Epping, Force would like to start a hot streak of his own, or at least have his John Force Racing team do so. Funny Car stars Courtney Force and Robert Hight have also shown glimpses of greatness this year, but only John Force has won on a team that includes Top Fuel standout Brittany Force. It’s not a question of performance, but John Force knows things will come around.
“We’re trying to get these cars consistent,” Force said. “My crew chiefs and I have been going through a lot of change, but we’re getting closer. We have fast Funny Cars, and the dragster, for all the work we have been doing with that, is starting to come around. We’re not where we want to be with my car, but we’re working on it.”
Putting it all together in Epping would be an ideal scenario for Force, who won the race at New England Dragway in 2015 after falling to Courtney in the final round at the event’s inaugural event in 2013. With talented crew chief Mike Neff now calling the shots for John Force’s team after an early-season move that sent standout Jimmy Prock to Hight’s team, Force knows the key is delivering strong performances at each of the next four races starting in Epping.
“The guys are on top of it,” Force said. "The aerodynamics are great and this car is really good. The motor is showing power but we have to get some more improvements for our motor program. We are right there. We’re not where we want to be, but now we’re going to start getting this act together.”
Defending back-to-back world champ Brown will look for another Epping Top Fuel victory after winning in Topeka two weeks ago. He’ll have to get by the likes of points leader Leah Pritchett, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and two-time 2017 winner Steve Torrence.
Anderson won for a second straight year in Pro Stock in 2016 and trails points leader Bo Butner, who has two wins this season. Rookie Tanner Gray also picked up his second win in Topeka.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Hanna Motorsports jet cars. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 3, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 4.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.