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John Force Places Runner-Up At Route 66 Nationals

John Force Races To The Finals At The Route 66 Nationals (Photo: Gary Nastase | Auto Imagery)

JOLIET, Ill. – Coming into the sponsored race of Peak Auto at the Route 66 Raceway Nationals, John Force and John Force Racing had a little extra pep in their step hoping to bring home the Wally for the 157th time in his illustrious NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing career.

After four rounds of qualifying through Saturday, Force and the Peak Auto team qualified in the fourth position with a time of 3.930 seconds at 326.95 mph. Additionally, the Funny Car veteran gained three bonus points in session four on Saturday afternoon besting his teammate Austin Prock.

With the help of his qualifying run, Force faced newly turned Funny Car driver Buddy Hull of Jim Dunn Racing in the first round of competition late Sunday morning. Hull became the 152nd driver to compete against Force. While both drivers were extremely late leaving the starting line, Hull having a reaction time of 0.100 and Force 0.111, Force came blowing by Hull who smoked the tires shortly leaving the start/finish line.

The driver of the Peak Auto Funny Car won with a pass of 4.042 seconds at 317.49 mph and Hull slowed to a 5.526 seconds at 140.85 mph, good enough to move him onto the quarterfinals to face Alexis DeJoria. DeJoria eliminated J.R. Todd in E1 after Todd hazed the tires as well.

Similar to the first round, Force and DeJoria were late to the tree, but Force became the ultimate victor over DeJoria by an uncharacteristic time of 4.008 seconds at 319.37 mph. Despite not having another good reaction time of 0.113, Force ran low E.T. of the round and received lane choice over his next competitor of Daniel Wilkerson in the semifinals. Wilkerson earned wins over Cruz Pedregon in E1 and Force’s teammate, Austin Prock in the second round to advance.

Looking to keep the momentum going, Force knew his next opponent of Wilkerson would be a tough one to knock out of the race. While Wilkerson was quicker than Force with a reaction time of 0.083 to a 0.103, the Peak Auto driver chased him back down the track at the 400 feet to take the round win and advance into the finals to square off against Tony Stewart Racing’s Matt Hagan. Coincidentally, the finals would be a rematch of Pomona from earlier in the season where John eliminated Matt with a pass of 4.033 to 4.048.

In the finals, Force held the advantage with a win-loss record 29-22 over Hagan, while Hagan was 6-4 to Force in final round competition. At the Christmas tree, Force cut his quickest light of all day with a 0.025 reaction time to Hagan’s 0.047. Unfortunately, however, he dropped a cylinder early on in the run and the car pushed toward the centerline allowing Hagan to pull away, and score his second victory of the season.

John Force At The Route 66 Nationals (Photo: NHRA Media)

Meanwhile, Force earned his first runner-up of the season in a losing effort of 4.096 seconds at 311.05 mph when his car crossed the finish line at the end of the track.

“Yeah, it was disappointing,” Force said. “There was a lot to win, there always is. But you can’t win them all. Hagan’s a great racer, they do their job, we were in the hunt. We dropped some cylinders and it was over.”

“We’re going to go to Epping and go and try and win, that’s all you can do,” Force added. “We need to get the car back on track. We owe it to all of our sponsors.”

As for his other team drivers, Austin Prock made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Daniel Wilkerson and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force missed the show by not qualifying for the first time since Pomona of 2014. The DNQ became the fifth in Brittany’s career.

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