John Force, he of 16 Funny Car world championships, driver of the PEAK Coolant Chevy Camaro Funny Car, and wearer of 25-year-old leather jackets bearing his name, is knee-deep in a title race. Don't let him tell you otherwise: That's his favorite kind of race. He can win his 17th championship at the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona if he outduels the sea of other contenders at the final two races of the season, but it won't be easy.
Here are the three steps anyone can take to become a 17-time Funny Car world champion.
1. Win 16 Funny Car world championships
Luckily, John Force has already knocked this one off his to-do list.
2. Keep up with, or outperform, Robert Hight at the Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil [GET TICKETS HERE]
Force and Hight have a strange rivalry, in part because Force signs Hight's paychecks. That will not stop Hight, nor crew chief Jimmy Prock, from going all out to win the second title in three years for the Auto Club Chevy Camaro team. I feel reasonably confident in that assessment, given the recent history between the two competitors. Hight holds a 4-2 win-loss record against Force in 2019 (though Force has won the last two matchups), and those head-to-head battles could determine who wins the 2019 title.
3. Dominate at the Auto Club NHRA Finals [GET TICKETS HERE]
The last two Funny Car world champions reached the final round at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Correlation does not equal causation and both of those champions (Hight in 2017 and J.R. Todd in 2018) locked up their titles (relatively) early in the day. Force will likely not have that luxury if he’s going to win the 2019 title, regardless of his performance in Las Vegas.
That’s because he enters the penultimate event of the season in second. Todd also went to Vegas in second, but 63 points closer to the top than Force. The DHL Toyota Camry driver went to Pomona in first with the ability to seal the deal (which he did early in the day). Force will find that more challenging, but not impossible if he wins in Vegas and Hight stumbles.
Of course, the 16-time champion isn’t the only racer still in the hunt. Jack Beckman heads to Vegas in second place, four points ahead of Force with a great opportunity to win his second Funny Car world championship while Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III are in striking distance. No one in the Countdown to the Championship has been mathematically eliminated, meaning everything is on the line for racers at the 23rd stop on tour at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.