Story and photo by: Drew Hierwarter
John Force won the Funny Car portion of the NHRA MoPar Mile High Nationals yesterday when Matt Hagen red lighted in the final. It was Force’s first win of the season and reflects a turn around, of sorts, in his performance.
The team has been having a tough time for most of this season. With the exception of Norwalk, Ohio in June where he reached the semi-final, Force hasn’t made it past the second round in 2011 and has lost in the first round five times.
“Like the military, it’s all about teamwork”, Force said, “ and we have great guys, [crew chiefs] Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas have been struggling, and Mike Neff and Jimmy Prock stepped in to help them.”
But it took company president, Robert Hight, to sit Force down and tell him to focus on the job at hand.
“It’s you.” Hight told Force,”You have to get back in the game. Your head is hopscotching to the air show and the Indy 500 and every place you’re going. You taught me that you need to live it.”
Force himself admitted that he has been preoccupied with all of things going on outside the race car. “He (Robert) was right. I’m back in the game today.”
And back in the game he was. The win was the 133rd of his amazing career, the sixth time he’s won in Denver, and he did it with his slowest run of the day, a 4.361 elapsed time at 285.23 mph over the red lighting Hagen.
To get to the final Force had to beat his old friend and occasional nemesis, Tony Pedregon in the first round. Then he got by series point leader and teammate Mike Neff before facing Jeff Arend in the semi-final. Force lined up against Hagen in his record 214th final round and would not be denied.
Team Force is still in command of the Funny Car division with Neff leading the points, having already clinched his spot in the Countdown. He is 192 points ahead of teammate Robert Hight with the win moving John Force from eighth to seventh in the standings.