Editor's note: Resending with minor edits
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 8) – Sixteen-time NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champion John Force will mount his assault on an unprecedented 17th title when the series opens up the 2017 campaign this weekend with the Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Speedway in Pomona.
Driving the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS, the all-time leader in NHRA Funny Car victories (147) seeks a strong start to 2017 after a busy offseason. Force reunited with longtime crew chief Jimmy Prock in January and also obtained the services of co-crew chief Chris Cunningham. With Prock, Force won the 2013 championship.
The partnership has already proven worthy. Force was fourth-quickest during last week’s Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix. The test should prove to be a springboard to a successful season.
Force is a 16-time winner at Pomona, a track just 20 miles from his team’s headquarters in Yorba Linda. Of those 16 victories, seven have come in the Winternationals
“It sets the pace for the season, the mood of the season,” Force said. “We’ll get after it. We’ll take what we learned from the test, make some adjustments, and go to Pomona."
And like his previous 34 fulltime seasons, Force’s mind is on another title run. The last of his Funny Car championships came in 2013, with Prock leading the crew.
“That’s the dream; that’s what you go to bed (thinking about) every night,” Force said. “But I know my daughter Courtney’s looking at that, as is Robert Hight, and so are 20 others out here. But if you didn’t have the dream to win, you wouldn’t chase it. Every kid out here believes they can just get on a roll and make it happen. I’m going after 17; I don’t want to stop on sweet 16.”
The season-opening and 58th annual Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Speedway begins Friday, with the first two rounds of qualifications. Qualifying continues Saturday, while elimination rounds take place Sunday. FOX will televise three hours of live eliminations coverage at 1 p.m. Pacific.
- John Force has competed in the Winternationals 36 times, and every year since 1983. His first year competing was 1979.
- Force has advanced to the final round of the Winternationals 10 times, winning his last five finals appearances.
- Force has seven victories in the Winternationals, the first in 1991 and most recent in 2014. His record in elimination round races is 57-29.
- Force has 16 victories at Pomona.
- Force has been the No. 1 qualifier for the Winternationals nine times, the most recent time coming in 2014, when he won.
- Force has won the Winternationals three times from the No. 1 qualifying spot (1997, 2002, 2014).
- Force has only qualified outside the top eight five times in 36 Winternationals.
- Force has won his first-round Winternationals matchup 24 times.
- Force has won his last two first-round matchups, dating back to last season.
- In his career, Force has 147 victories and 1,263 round wins.
- PEAK will make a special announcement at 3 p.m. Friday regarding its sponsorship commitments with John Force.