It was a historic winners circle at Heartland Motorsports Park for the Menards NHRA Nationals. For the first time in their careers Brittany Force, in her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster, and her father, John Force, in his PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, won in their respective categories. Along with the wins, Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy had a quarterfinal finish.
It is the fourth time John Force Racing has had a Funny Car / Top Fuel double-up. Brittany first did it with Hight in Dallas 2017 and again in Houston 2019 before John Force and Austin Prock won together for John’s 150th in Seattle 2019. John and daughter Ashley Force-Hood, who married his now crew chief Danny Hood, doubled up at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona when she raced Top Alcohol in 2004.
“This is something I’ll never forget. This has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and there have been so many close calls where we thought, ‘Hey, this could be our day that we could double up,’ and just to get a race win is hard enough. Then you want to do it with your teammate, it’s almost impossible,” Brittany Force said. “So, you almost put it on the back burner; it’s too much to double up with your dad. You both run well all weekend long and you double up, it almost seems impossible. Today, we pulled off the impossible. It’s pretty cool that we’ll always share this. It’s a special racetrack for us and it’s pretty cool to have that with him.”
Starting race day from the No. 1 spot for the sixth time this season, Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team laid down a 3.774-second run at 328.86 mph to end Scott Palmer’s day, he ran a 3.892 at 299.06. Her first-round win put her in position for a bye in the quarterfinals where she managed a 3.747 pass at 329.02 to earn lane choice heading into the semifinals. Force would take the Monster Energy dragster to a 3.769-second pass at 326.24 mph to take out points leader and three-time champion Steve Torrence and his 3.814 at 317.87.
Entering into her third final round of the season, 26th of her career, Force would have lane choice over Clay Millican. Force would even her record against Millican to 9-9 with a 3.783-second pass at 324.75 mph. She would beat Millican on the starting line and never trail with his dragster going 3.830 at 288.58.
The victory is Force’s first of the season, 11th of her career and first at Heartland Motorsports Park. The last time Force picked up a win was in the fall race in Las Vegas 2019.
“It feels great. We came out strong, we’ve had a good season. We’ve had a bunch of No. 1 qualifiers, we just keep getting stuck on race day,” said Force who is now second in the points standings. “That’s hard for a driver, a crew chief, our entire team. That’s where you really want to excel, when you really want to do well. We have a closet full of No. 1 hats, but we don’t have those race day hats. I know it was right around the corner for us. Over the last few races, it’s been driver error, it’s been team error. Little things kept getting us. We knew eventually our luck was going to turn around.”
John Force and the PEAK Camaro kept up their consistency from qualifying with a first round win over Paul Lee. Force would go 3.975-seconds at 326.08 mph to better Lee’s 4.163 at 267.16. The win would set him up for a second-round match-up with teammate and president of John Force Racing, Robert Hight. The 16-time champion would handle his PEAK Chevy to a 3.959-second pass at 324.56 mph to better Hight’s 4.007 at 312.86.
In the semifinals, Force was matched with long-time rival Cruz Pedregon. Force would extend his winning record against Pedregon to 76-36 when he powered the PEAK Camaro to a 4.005-second run at 321.35 mph. Pedregon would go 4.063 at 303.91. The win gave Force lane choice over J.R. Todd in the finals. It would be Force’s fourth final round of the year and 260th of his career.
Lining up with 2018 Funny Car World Champion J.R. Todd in the final, Force would maneuver the PEAK Chevy to a 4.019-second pass at 321.04 mph that better’s Todd’s 4.453 at 199.29 after he smokes the tires mid-track.
This is Force’s 10th win at Heartland Park Topeka, 154th of his career and third this season. The last time Force won at this facility it was 2008 and his first victory after his devastating crash in Dallas 2007. The victory gave Force the points lead for the first time since October, 5, 2014, 135 races ago. Force has now led the points in 22 different seasons.
“I had a good day. Robert (Hight, second round) was probably my toughest race because it’s hard to beat Robert. I just had a car that was pretty fast. Got the win. What was special was I finally got that double up with Brittany. It means a lot for a family of racers. It was a great day with all the people I raced.
“I’m going after wins. I don’t talk about it because when you do you get lost why you came and you start focusing on that,” Force continued. “No, what you do is you drive your car. You love life and I fight. My race car keeps me alive and the cheer of the crowd. So, if it’s in the cards, we’ll win a championship. And if we don’t, I’ll be the first over there to congratulate who does. Because that is what it really is all about. The competition makes you better. Every time they beat me, they make me better.”
Coming into the No. 14 spot, Robert Hight and the Auto Club Chevy turned things around in a hurry powering to a 3.936-second pass at 323.58 mph for the first-round win over Bob Tasca III’s 3.970 at 322.04. In the second round, Hight found himself line up with team owner John Force where he would come up short with a 4.007 at 312.86 to Force’s 3.959.
“We had some things figured out in that first round. Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham turned this car around. Just wasn’t our race this weekend. Luckily, we get to redeem ourselves right away and head to Brainerd next weekend,” said Hight who leaves Heartland Park Topeka tied for fifth in points. “Leaving here lower in the points that we want but we’re in the Countdown and we have two races to make-up some points. I’m not worried, this Auto Club team always comes through.”
John Force was remarkable all weekend, posting a pair of solid qualifying runs on Saturday, and was arguably the most consistent heading to eliminations.
He now has 260 final round appearances, doing so in Topeka on Sunday thanks to round wins against Paul Lee, teammate Robert Hight and longtime rival Cruz Pedregon. To reach his fourth final round this season, Force was impressively consistent, running in the mid-3.90s both Saturday in qualifying and early on Sunday before knocking off Pedregon with a 4.005 at 321.35.
Todd left first in the final round and led at the 330-foot mark, but he started spinning the tires and finished with a 4.453 at 199.29. Force, meanwhile, had another consistent run as he became the first driver in the class to pick up three wins this season.
“Robert, was probably my toughest race because it’s hard to beat Robert. I just had a car that was pretty fast,” Force said. “J.R. Todd had the quickest car and I told him in the final year he was the baddest kid on the planet here in Topeka. The competition makes you better every time.”
Todd’s path to the final round, his second in a row and fourth this year, including victories against Ron Capps, who entered the weekend with the points lead, and Blake Alexander. He went 3.996 against Capps, posting a holeshot victory to get past the veteran. It also was Todd’s 39th career final round.
Despite falling in the finals, Todd made a major move in points, going from sixth to third. He’s just nine points back of Ron Capps, who entered the weekend in the lead but now trails Force by 29 points
Pro Stock: Dallas Glenn victorious
The standout Pro Stock rookie went a perfect .000 on the starting line, holding off Kyle Koretsky at the finish line to win the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.
The standout Pro Stock rookie went a perfect .000 on the starting line, holding off Koretsky at the finish line in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro with a run of 6.681-seconds at 205.01 mph to win the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park. Koretsky was a quicker 6.651 at 206.13, but was no match for Glenn’s perfect light. Glenn also became just the sixth Pro Stock driver in NHRA history to win the final round with a perfect reaction time.
“It’s hard to put this win into words,” Glenn said. “But it’s just like this is like dream come true. This season, it’s taught me a lot. I’ve had a lot of highs and I’ve had some lows where I’ve been struggling and we’ve gotten a little taste of everything this year.
“I felt like I did my job really well and the car is just working really good right now. I’m really excited for the Countdown coming up here and Indy next because we’ve got a really fast car for it.”
It had already been a banner rookie season for Glenn even before arriving in Topeka, but the young standout raised his game even more this weekend.
After qualifying fourth, Glenn reached his third final round on the strength of round wins against Deric Kramer, Matt Hartford and No. 1 qualifier Troy Coughlin Jr. He was lethal on the starting line, as usual, all weekend, posting an impressive .006 in the semifinals against Coughlin.
That set up the teammate versus teammate duel in the final round, pitting a pair of young rising stars in the Top Fuel class. Glenn unleashed a perfect reaction time and the celebration soon ensued as he moved to fourth in points.
“I know that he had lane choice and I was going in the right lane and my car was not as happy over there, and I know that Kyle has been really good (on the starting line),” Glenn said. “I knew that he’s got a really fast car and he was going to be really on it because I know how bad he really wants that number one. So I just kind of went in there and I rolled in a little bit quick and it almost cost me, but I just tried to hit it as best I could. And it was a little bit of a long tree which usually I hit them a little better.”
It was by no means a lost weekend for Koretsky. His second career final round and first in 2021 included victories against Rodger Brogdon, Greg Anderson and defending world champ Erica Enders. Both the win against Anderson and the victory against Enders came on holeshots, as Koretsky continues to make big strides in his second season.
He’s come as of late, too, moving to sixth in points after sitting ninth just four races ago.
Pro Stock returns to action at the U.S. Nationals in Indy for the final race of the regular season.
An interview with Top Fuel winner BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONSTER ENERGY/ FLAV-R-PAC CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (No. 1 qualifier):
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DOUBLE UP WITH YOUR DAD?
“This is something I’ll never forget. This has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and there have been so many close calls where we thought, ‘Hey, this could be our day that we could double up,’ and just to get a race win is hard enough. Then you want to do it with your teammate, it’s almost impossible. So, you almost put it on the back burner; it’s too much to double up with your dad. You both run well all weekend long and you double up, it almost seems impossible. Today, we pulled off the impossible. It’s pretty cool that we’ll always share this. It’s a special racetrack for us and it’s pretty cool to have that with him.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
“It feels great. We came out strong, we’ve had a good season. We’ve had a bunch of No. 1 qualifiers; we just keep getting stuck on race day. That’s hard for a driver, a crew chief, our entire team. That’s where you really want to excel, when you really want to do well. We have a closet full of No. 1 hats, but we don’t have those race day hats. I know it was right around the corner for us. Over the last few races, it’s been driver error, it’s been team error. Little things kept getting us. We knew eventually our luck was going to turn around.”
WHEN HE LIT THE SCOREBOARD, YOU KNEW IT WAS ON YOU. TAKE ME TO THAT MOMENT.
“I don’t really see it that way. When I’m in that car, I knew he was in the lane in front of me but it’s no different from before when I sat behind him or any other run when there’s somebody in front of me my focus is not there. Yes, I could see the excitement. I could see what was going on. But in that moment, I was on the radio talking to (David) Grubnic about what our plan was, where they wanted me to point the car, what are we doing at the starting line.”
WAS THERE A POINT TODAY THAT FELT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER RACES?
“Definitely that run against Steve (Torrence) was a huge one for us. He’s the guy that we’re chasing down, and we knew that was going to be a tough one for us to get past. But we had a consistent race car all weekend long. The only run we didn’t make was Q2. Just solid passes down the racetrack. That Q3 run in the heat was big for us, to set us up for today. That’s where we’ve struggled.”
HOW GRATIFYING IS IT THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER ANY MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE DAY?
“It was starting to get a little old. No. 1 qualifiers is exciting, but the big excitement is on race day. For a while, I thought the No. 1 qualifiers were jinxing us. I didn’t want them anymore. Today we turned it around and we got the win.”
HOW MUCH IS IT A BOOST TO GET THE NO. 1 QUALIFIER ON THE LAST RUN?
“It’s all David Grubnic. Every run we make he never wants to play it safe. He always wants top push and he wants to see how far he can push this car, this team and see what we’re capable of. He’s afraid of backing down; that’s what it really is. He wants to push all the way and he excels.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE NOW THE TEAM IS HITTING ITS STRIDE AS YOU ARE GETTING READY FOR THE COUNTDOWN?
“I feel like we’ve been hitting our stride all year long. We stepped out for an entire season. Every single guy returned with me – top to bottom – this season and we’ve had a number of No. 1 qualifiers, we’ve run well, we just keep missing out on race day somehow. Sometimes it’s simple mistakes and sometimes it’s driver errors. Today we were pushing and we got the job done.”
YOU AND STEVE TORRENCE HAVE A BIG RIVALRY AND I KNOW HOW BIG THAT IS WHEN YOU BEAT HIM.
“Absolutely. That was a big round win for us that semifinal. We knew it was going to be tough; he’s been running good all weekend and he’s bene running good all year. We knew it was going to be a tough one but we got around him and then (Clay) Millican in the final.”
THIS PLACE IS SPECIAL TO YOUR FAMILY. TO GET THE JOB DONE MUST BE EXTRA SPECIAL.
“Absolutely. Also, I found out that my crew chief, David Grubnic, his first win as a driver was here. It’s a very special track. Courtney (Force) has done well here, my dad and now for us to double up is pretty outstanding.”
An interview with Funny Car winner JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK/BLUEDEF PLATINUM CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 6 qualifier):
NO EASY RUNS IN YOUR DAY.
“I had a good day. Robert (Hight, second round) was probably my toughest race because it’s hard to beat Robert. I just had a car that was pretty fast. Got the win. What was special was I finally got that double up with Brittany. It means a lot for a family of racers. It was a great day with all the people I raced.”
HOW COOL IS THAT TO LEAD IN POINTS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2014?
“I don’t even want to look at the points. They told me in the semis that I had taken the lead. That will jump around; it is what it is.”
WHAT’S GOT YOU FIRED UP AGAIN?
“I just do what I do. I want to race. I’ll be crying tonight (after doubling up with daughter Brittany). A statement was made to me, are you trying to fool somebody? Not really. I’ve got my own self confused. But if you really think about it, why does a quarterback fake a handoff? To fake you out.”
TALK BIG PICTURE.
“I’m going after wins. I don’t talk about it because when you do you get lost why you came and you start focusing on that. No, what you do is you drive your car. You love life and I fight. My race car keeps me alive and the cheer of the crowd. So, if it’s in the cards, we’ll win a championship. And if we don’t, I’ll be the first over there to congratulate who does. Because that is what it really is all about. The competition makes you better. Every time they beat me, they make me better.”
YOU WON HERE IN 2008 AFTER THAT BIG ACCIDENT. HOW DOES THIS COMPARE?
“Just because they told me I was finished. I was looking at my daughters coming up, dad, you can’t be finished. I wanted to be around to teach them. Now, they’re teaching me. Love it here. Glad to be here. Let’s pack the stands everywhere we go. That is what brings us alive.”
IN THIS SEASON, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?
“I want to thank all my sponsors for giving me a chance. All the people who make this possible. People ask me every week, what do I really want? I want to see Indy packed again from the hood of my car on race day. Because that’s what we live for the crowds. It ain’t just winning because if you win and nobody’s there it doesn’t matter.”
THIS PLACE IS AWFUL SPECIAL TO YOU. (HEARTLAND MOTORSPORTS PARK OWNER) CHRIS PAYNE CAME IN AND BROUGHT US ALL BACK.
“That’s what it’s all about because without the fans we don’t exist. Without the tracks, we don’t exist. I just want to personally thank Chris Payne for putting all this together and giving us a great facility. What’s awesome is our crowds are starting to come back and I’m exciting about that. I want to thank my team, Daniel Hood who runs my car, and all of my teams. I love what we do. I got to double up with Brittany, so that’s really special. They keep asking me, what do you want most in life – another win, another championship? No, I want to see crowds. You people keep me alive. I want to see Indy packed this year because it’s not just to make me and my drivers feel good, it’s to make all the teams – we will work for you, we will entertain you. Let’s fill ‘em at Brainerd, let’s fill ‘em at Indy. That’s what I want.”
An interview with Pro Stock winner DALLAS GLENN, KB RACING, RAD TORQUE SYSTEMS CAMARO SS (No. 6 qualifier):
WALK US THROUGH YOUR RACE DAY.
“I feel like I just raced teammates all day with the exception of Troy (Coughlin). The car was excellent all day. It wasn’t the two greatest runs in the semis and final, but as long as it was good enough to get the win light that’s all that matters. I felt like I did my job really well and the car is just working well right now. I’m really excited for the Countdown coming up here because we have a really fast car.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW TO KEEP YOUR MINDSET, YOUR FOCUS?
“When we went into Q3 and stuck that other motor in and they told me I went to No. 1, I went back and saw that it really wasn’t that good of a run. That got me excited because I know there’s a lot left in it and I’m going to come and surprise them. And I think that’s what we did. All the KB cars are running really good right now and I think it’s a good time to start getting your stride.”
WHAT HAS THIS SEASON BEEN LIKE FOR YOU WITH TWO WINS IN THREE FINALS?
“It’s hard to put into words. I got to experience it with Jason (Line) and KB for years. I’m still working the same as I did last year. This is like a dream come true. This season has taught me a lot. I’ve had some highs and I’ve had some lows where I’ve been struggling. We’ve gotten a little taste of everything this year.”
DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD TO PULL OFF SOMETHING GOOD IN THE FINAL ROUND?
“I knew that Kyle had lane choice and I was going to the right lane and my car was not as happy over there, and I didn’t make a really good run in the semis. I knew that Kyle was really good and had a fast car and he was going to be really on it because I know how bad he wants that first win.”
Unofficial NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top 10 Points Standings
TOP FUEL – 1. Steve Torrence, 1,090; 2. Brittany Force, FLAV-R-PAC/Monster Energy dragster, 748; 3. Antron Brown, 736; 4. Leah Pruett, 611; 5. Shawn Langdon, 587; 6. Mike Salinas, 571; 7. Justin Ashley, 523; 8. Billy Torrence, 510; 9. Clay Millican, 482/502; 10. Doug Kalitta, 471.
FUNNY CAR – 1. John Force, PEAK/Blue Def PLATINUM Chevy Camaro SS, 816; 2. Ron Capps, 787; 3. J.R. Todd, 778; 4. Bob Tasca III, 766; 5. Tie, Robert Hight, Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS, and Matt Hagan, 748 each; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 691; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 610; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 574; 10. Blake Alexander, 417.