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John Force breaks his 17-year Indy drought, puts Chevy back into Indy winner's circle

John Force won his record-tying fifth Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Funny car title, breaking a 17-year drought at the sport’s biggest event. It was Chevrolet's first Funny Car win at their title event since 2005.
02 Sep 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
John Force

John Force won his record-tying fifth Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Funny car title, breaking a 17-year drought at the sport’s biggest event by defeating Jack Beckman in the final round, 3.919 to 3.940, for career win No. 151.

An emotional Force, who turned 70 in May – making him the oldest Pro win in event history -- said he’s feeling his age, and wondering if he should have retired years ago, but was uplifted by finally winning Indy again.

“After I had my accident [in 2007], the doctors told me, ‘You’re done; you ain’t gonna race. You’re going to be lucky to walk,’ but I’ve never allowed anyone to ever tell me anything, and I fought to get back. Then I started hearing, ‘You’re 70, this thing is over,’ but it’s really how bad you want it. You do it because you love it and when you don’t do good you do the best you can. There are a lot of guys out here with more talent than me that don’t have the budget or the right crew chief. I just happen to be one of the lucky ones.

“We won in Seattle, then had a clutch problem in Brainerd and lost in the first round, then come into Indy all of the sudden this car is running like a car should and I’m driving like you should drive it,” he said. "I know that one day I'll have to retire, but I said it would sure be good to win another championship and it would sure be nice to win Indy one more time."

Force was appearing in his ninth final in 40 trips to “the Big Go,” but he hadn’t won since 2002. He won four times in 10 years, between 1993 and 2002, but hadn’t reached the Indy winner’s circle since then. He lost his two most recent Indy finals, in 2010 against his daughter, Ashley, and in 2014 against Alexis DeJoria.

Force reached the final with some of the day’s best runs from the Peak Chevrolet Performance Accessories Chevrolet Camaro SS. His 3.851 in a first-round destruction of Jonnie Lindberg was low e.t. of the meet, bettering Beckman’s No. 1-qualifying 3.861. He followed with a 3.913 victory over his teammate, points leader Robert Hight, then a 3.940 to best tire-smoking Matt Hagan in the semifinals.

Force's fifth Indy win ties him with Ed McCulloch, who won five times between 1971 and 1990, as the event's winningest Funny Car driver.

Beckman finally had a new opponent in the Indy final round, even if it was from the same team. Beckman beat JFR’s Hight to cap a dominating Labor Day weekend in 2015 and also was runner-up in 2008 and 2013, both times to Hight.

After qualifying No. 1, Beckman’s Dean Antonelli- and John Medlen-tuned Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and beating blower-backfiring Justin Schriefer in round one, Beckman and team had to claw their way to the final round without benefit of lane choice.

From the less-favored right lane, they beat Bob Tasca III in round two with a 3.922, then ended two-time defending event champ J.R. Todd’s reign of Indy terror at 10 rounds after Todd’s DHL Toyota broke traction at midtrack. Beckman’s run was far from perfect as his mount slowed at the top end and clicked on the win light with a 4.06 at just 250 mph.