Finally, mercifully, the pressure is off for John Force as the 16-time Mello Yello Funny Car world champion collected his milestone 150th career victory, defeating longtime rival Ron Capps in the final at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals. The victory for Force became even sweeter moments later when his young protégé, Austin Prock, scored his first career win in Top Fuel.
The anticipation of Force’s 150th victory has been building for more than a year, since he won No. 149 last year in Denver, where he also beat Capps. The two left almost as one with a slight edge to Capps before Force’s Peak Auto Lighting Chevy roared ahead to a 3.97 to 4.01 victory over the defending event champ.
“Well it's been 25 races, since Denver last year," said a relieved Force. "[Crew chief Brian] Corradi and Daniel Hood and for [Tim] Fabrisi have had to put up with me all year, not happy with the way the car steered, how I sat in it, not happy with so many things. And then I got the monkey on my back and it drives you nuts. You go to bed every night and [but] the monkey taught me so much, that you need to focus on your car if you want to do good. I'm just doing stuff all the time and I don't even know my car. And you know Corradi and Coil said. ‘You've got to get to know your car. You've got to live it, you've got to love it. You've got to study the drivers. I said I do all that, but I wasn't. So sometimes you need a slap in the face. And that was the monkey that made me focus.”
“Give me a good race car, I can race. I may not be as young as these kids and a hot shot on that Tree, but I can still get it done. I'm glad it's over and I can calm down now and not live with that, thinking you'd never get it. I know I've only got a few years left. I want to enjoy it. I want to have fun. And when you can't win … I've been trained to win and it's just it's just not fun."
Force, who has scored nine of his 150 wins at Pacific Raceways, from his first Northwest win back in 1991 to his most recent in 2014, had a good car all weekend, with three-second runs on three of four qualifying passes from his Brian Corradi-tuned peak Auto Lighting Camaro. From the No. 4 qualifying spot he took down Jim Campbell in Jim Dunn’s Oberto-backed entry with a 3.895, low e.t. of eliminations, then beat his teammate, points leader Robert Hight in round two after Hight’s Auto Club Chevy lost traction at midcourse on a warm racetrack.
After Jack Beckman smoked the tires against Force in the semifinals, the 16-time champ was in career final round No. 255 and on a course with history. Force’s first career win came June 28, 1987 -– exactly 700 Funny Car races ago.
Capps, who hadn’t been in a final round since the Richmond race in mid-May, raced his way into his 121st career final and his second straight at the event with the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.
Capps, whose first of 62 career victories came at Pacific Raceways in Top Fuel in 1995, and crew chief Rahn Tobler, who only made two full runs in four qualifying shots, had their act together Sunday, defeating points-hungry Tim Wilkerson in round one with a 3.93 then raced to a 3.99 in the heat of the day to defeat J.R. Todd, whose DHL Toyota got loose downtrack.
Facing Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan in the semifinals, Capps beat the Sonoma runner-up in a side-by-side three-second battle, 3.97 to 3.98, to advance to the money round.