CONCORD, N.C. — HHP/Harold Hinson Photo — Three days shy of his 73rd birthday, John Force proved he’s as sharp as ever behind the wheel of an NHRA Funny Car. Force completed a clean sweep in Sunday’s exhilarating Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, grabbing his 155th career win in addition to a new track speed record.
Force – who also earned No. 1 qualifier honors – became the first NHRA driver to eclipse the 335-mile-per-hour mark at zMAX Dragway during the first round of eliminations. Force’s 3.914-second, 328.66-mph run in the final, though, was the one which spurred the 16-time World Champion to his second consecutive four-wide win at zMAX.
“We came out here (for the final) and I wasn’t even sure if the motor could run (after the semifinal round),” Force said. “I almost apologized to Robert (Hight, Force’s teammate and competitor in the final). I wanted to say, ‘That wasn’t supposed to happen.’
“I’ve wanted a win so badly this year. As tired as I am and as much as I’ve been beaten up, you can get back on top. This gave me confidence.”
Mike Salinas powered his Top Fuel car to victory on Sunday with a 3.708-second, 330.47-mph pass which topped the finals and gave Salinas his fifth career victory.
“My guys are amazing,” Salinas said. “I want to thank them for everything they do. It’s just amazing to win again. It’s so hard to believe. We’ve worked so hard to get here. We’re racing against the best people in the world. It’s so hard to win that I feel bad for the guys who didn’t win today. I know how hard you have to strive.”
Steve Johnson lost No. 1 qualifier status at the end of Saturday’s Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, but no one could stop Johnson from scoring the win on Sunday. A 6.740-second, 200.65-mph pass in the final enabled Johnson – who also set a new dragway Pro Stock Motorcycle elapsed-time record – to join Force as back-to-back winners of the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
“I don’t even know where to start,” said Johnson, who took over the class points lead with his win on Sunday. “I just love our sport so much. We’ve been chasing this for 30 years and now, we’ve won two in a row. This is such a special place (to win).
“I absolutely feel like we can contend for the title. I mean, that’s what I want. I spend every day on this. I sleep at the (race) shop. Our sponsors, our team, all of these people, they make this happen. Contending for this championship is why we’re here.”
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