John Force erased his own doubts and those of other National Hot Rod Association enthusiasts who figured he might not win another race.
Force, the 69-year-old NHRA icon and owner of John Force Racing, won his 149th funny car title and collected his 249th career crown when he defeated Ron Capps in the July 22 funny car finals of the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison.
It was the first victory since March 19, 2017 for the NHRA’s all-time wins leader, but his eighth triumph at Bandimere as he became the track’s all-time victory leader.
Force was in two accidents and had three motor explosions early this season and even failed to qualify for an April race in Houston.
However, he looked like the John Force of old at Bandimere as he defeated Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon and Courtney Force, his 30-year-old daughter and top-qualifier, to reach the finals.
The 16-time NHRA champion was quick at the start of the race against Capps and had a winning elapsed time of 3.831 at 316.45 mph to collect another Wally trophy.
“You all know my story with all the crashes and everything that happened,” said Force. “I was probably my lowest. I was fighting to get back and I never let on to anybody, but I looked like a mess.”
Track owner John Bandimere helped Force when he was down.
“John called me and said, `we got to talk’ and sent me some stuff to read and he took me down this road, and I said I don’t know if I will get back and win a race. He said you can and when get to Denver, you’ll be fixed, He didn’t say I would win just that I’d be fixed and go out and show me who John Force is.
“And I found myself. I had fire in me because I got tired of hearing myself snivel. I knew I needed to find myself and I did.”
Force had inspiration from Kirstie Ennis, a Marine aerial gunner who was injured in an Afghanistan helicopter crash in 2012. She eventually had her left leg amputated. Ennis, in town for Building Homes for Heroes, was introduced to John Force by Courtney Force and Ennis was with the Force team during the three days of racing.
“Look at this beautiful woman that fights every day and I’m whining about me so I need to shut up,” said John Force. “Coming in here, I asked her if she needed help getting up the stairs. She said, number one John, I can outrun you and number two, I’ll carry you up the stairs.”
In other finals, Leah Pritchett became the first top qualifier to win at Bandimere since 2009 when she won her second top fuel finals of the season with a .0002-second victory over Doug Kalitta.
Pritchett set the track record for top speed at 327.19 mph in her Mopar Dodge 1320 during qualifying. She notched elimination wins over Terry Totten, Scott Palmer and Clay Millican and gave credit to her team.
“This was a testament in taking it to the next level and I say that on behalf of the team,” she said. “I have an attitude of gratitude as high as this mountain because they chipped away at it and didn’t let themselves get down early this year when we were in a slump. They didn’t let me get down on myself either.”
Greg Anderson’s quick start provided him with a narrow win over Summit Racing teammate Jason Line in the pro stock final. It was his 91st pro stock career win, his third at Bandimere and he improved his record against Line to 21-17.
“I sure hope this starts a winning streak,” said Anderson. “We’ve had some great cars this season but just made mistakes on Sunday. We just haven’t been giving our best effort on Sundays.”
Hector Arana Jr. won for the first time since 2015 and collected his 12th career pro stock motorcycle victory by beating Jerry Savoie, who red-lighted. Arana also turned on the red light but .002 seconds later, and his 7.170 pass earned the win.
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