To say the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series campaign has been a challenge — physically, mentally, and monetarily — for John Force Racing would be a gross understatement.
While they have combined to win five races (Brittany Force one, Courtney Force three, Robert Hight one) and currently lead the points standings in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, the team has destroyed or damaged, to some extent, no less than five racecars during the season’s first nine races. And just when the 16-time Funny Car champion — who endured devastating explosions at three straight races to open the year — believed his team had turned the corner, another incident at last weekend’s Route 66 Nationals in Chicago left him reeling yet again.
During the final session of qualifying Saturday at the Route 66 Raceway, Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro struck the hides and took an immediate right turn into the guardrail, exploding in a ball of flames upon impact. The damage to the body and chassis were extensive, but Force emerged unharmed, just as he has through countless such occurrences throughout his legendary but sometimes exhilarating career.
“I gave it a quick pedal and it just shot to the right,” Force explained. “I kept trying to get it off the wall but it kept pulling me over. I think the body might have been on the front tire and that affected the steering. I got it stopped and got out. I am sore but I won’t let this race car beat me up. I have PEAK and Old World Industries out here. We are going to pull out the backup car and get to work. I love all the fans out here and I have to thank them for all their support.”
“We had some things figured out and that run wasn’t anything like the start of the season,” Force added. “We are making progress with all three of the Chevrolet Camaros. Courtney’s hot rod is flying and I ran good yesterday. We are all trying to run fast. You have to out here against this competition,” added Force.
Force bounced back in eliminations with a backup car, advancing to the semifinals before losing to teammate Hight on a centerline infraction.