John Force lights up the tires of his Funny Car during a championship run Sunday.
BRISTOL — John Force started off Father’s Day by beating his youngest daughter Courtney in the opening round of eliminations at the NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
By the end of Sunday, he had beaten longtime rival Cruz Pedregon in the final and added to his NHRA record win total with a 135th career Funny Car victory.
“I’m going after (Richard) Petty’s 200 (major motorsports wins) if I don’t fall over before then,” Force said. “I really thought Courtney was going to take me out in the first round. Her car has been flying. It’s all in the teamwork.
“It was just a great day. Even my wife on Father’s Day gave a card that said, ‘Don’t tell Courtney, but I hope you win. Love, Laurie.’ It was like Mother Teresa fixed my car right there because she’s the saint in our family, the one who holds everything together.”
A pair of Texans were also victorious.
Steve Torrence won for the first time this season in Top Fuel and Rodger Brogdon scored his first career victory in Pro Stock.
Force snapped a 31-race losing streak by powering his Ford Mustang down the drag strip in 4.148 seconds at 305.29 mph. Pedregon’s Toyota slowed at the end of his run to 4.335 seconds (224.02).
The Funny Car final was a rematch of the 2007 final, also won by Force. It was his fourth Thunder Valley Nationals victory, a record for the class at Bristol, and one which Force said was a long time coming.
“So many fans wanted me to win on Father’s Day,” the 15-time champion said. “Last year and the year before, there were a couple of times when it looked like I was going to rock and roll. I failed them and they get on you. They expect it and they don’t want to hear how you’re struggling.
“It’s been 31 races and they were printing up a t-shirt that said, ‘John Force, extinct.’ Now, we can get rid of that.”
In a Top Fuel final featuring Texas drivers, Torrence posted an effort of 3.871 (320.13) to beat longtime rival Spencer Massey for his fourth career victory. Massey, who was the event’s top qualifier, finished at 3.894 (317.19).
“I have a respect for that guy,” Torrence said. “I raced him in Super Comp, in Top Alcohol, and now we’re racing in Fuel. Every class I’ve run, I’ve raced Spencer Massey. He’s a great driver, always good on the tree so I knew I had to be on my game. I was definitely on my game there.”
Brogdon won the Pro Stock title after pre-race favorites Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson were eliminated in the quarterfinal round.
Johnson, the defending Pro Stock champion, lost on a holeshot to Greg Anderson, ending a bid for his first Bristol win. Edwards, going for a fifth straight Thunder Valley title, blew his motor on the next pass in a loss to Brogdon.
In the final, Brogdon finished just .002 of a second ahead of Erica Enders-Stevens. His Chevrolet Camaro went down the track in 6.745 seconds (205.38). Enders-Stevens, also in a Camaro, went 6.752 (205.66).
“Round-by-round, it was tough,” Brogdon said. “I had to make just adjustments to the pedal. But, the testing we did here last week paid off for us. We made nine runs in two days and we were so much better when we left than when we got here. I give a lot of credit to my guys. We had a great plan and it paid off.”