Brute Force: 16-time champion leads Friday Funny Car qualifying

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jun 14, 2019 at 9:53 PM

BRISTOL — John Force is still one of the fastest men on the planet at 70 years old.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car world champion had the quickest time in Friday night qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. If Force’s run of 3.911 seconds and 326.95 mph in his Chevrolet Camaro holds up Saturday, he will extend his all-time record of 157 NHRA No. 1 qualifying awards.

Force had No. 1 qualifying efforts earlier this season at Houston and Richmond, and one previous top qualifying effort at Bristol in 2015.

“At my age, I thought I knew everything,” Force said. “The way my daughter Courtney performed in that car last year, I’ve got a lot of work to get in her ballgame. The track was nice today, but I think a lot of people undershot it. I feel good for (Brian) Corradi and Daniel Hood, — the guys on this team who tune the car — and (Tim) Fabrisi, our car chief who has really worked on the cockpit.

“The car kept moving around, but it kept recovering real quick. I have to thank Fabrisi for that.”

Force is looking to extend another record — as the NHRA’s all-time winningest driver. He comes to Bristol trying to capture a milestone 150th career victory. He has four wins at Bristol, one behind Ron Capps for the track record.

Shawn Langdon qualified second in a Toyota Camry with a 3.944 elapsed time and 324.51 mph. Bob Tasca III was third at 3.959 (318.54) in his Ford Mustang, followed by Jack Beckman in a Dodge Charger and defending series champion J.R. Todd in a Toyota Camry.

Robert Hight, Force’s teammate and a four-time winner this season, was sixth. Force was glad to steal the spotlight from Hight and the younger drivers Friday night.

“It feels really good. I was like I didn’t stand a chance,” Force said. “I was praying and hoping to make it, to feel that moment again for a minute and hear that cheer of the crowd. You would think at my age, I would be over it. But I just love it and feed off it.

“Robert gets all the love, all the respect every week, but for one night, I got a piece of the action. I love it and the people who make it happen. I’m just along for the ride.”

Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday with Sportsman eliminations. The third round of Nitro eliminations start at 1 p.m. with the final round at 4 p.m.

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