After the most-dominant racer in drag racing history started giving up headlines to his daughters, some people may have been wondering: Does John Force still got it?
And the answer is: Yes. The old guy’s still got it.
Force extended his points lead Sunday by winning the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, PA. in pursuit of his 16th world championship in Funny Car. It was the 137th win of his career and his second consecutive victory.
Shawn Langdon won in Top Fuel, Jeg Coughlin won in Pro Stock, and Matt Smith won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“You give credit where it’s due, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this team is just great,” Force said. “What I look at as most exciting is the teamwork with this group. To get this win meant a lot to me, but they all mean a lot. I’ve got a good hot rod right now.”
Force beat Countdown contenders Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon, as well as Jeff Arend to move to the championship round, going as quick as 4.061 at 317.12 on Sunday. Hagan fell in the second round to Capps and will have to make up ground at the next two events to catch the red-hot Force.
“What we have right now is consistency,” Force said. “We had to beat good competition (Sunday). We stayed with our strategy and stayed with what we knew we could do.”
Langdon powered his dragster to a run of 3.779 seconds at 323.81 miles-per-hour to beat defending world champion Antron Brown in the final round and close in on his first career world championship. Langdon earned his class-best sixth win of the season and seventh of his career by topping Brown and his dragster, which went 3.806 at 322.04 in Brown’s second straight final round appearance.
“We have a good grasp on things, but there’s two races left and anything can happen,” Langdon said. “The competition level is so tough right now so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Langdon, who qualified #2 and won for the first time at Maple Grove Raceway, beat Leah Pruett in an entertaining peddle-fest, Bob Vandergriff, and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round and extend his Top Fuel lead to 83 points over Kalitta with two races remaining. Langdon went 3.794 at 324.67 to beat Kalitta’s 3.827 at 324.90 in a thrilling side-by-side semifinal matchup. Spencer Massey trails Langdon by 86 points in third.
“We had a little bit of luck and you need that on Sundays,” Langdon said, referencing his first round win against Pruett. “Going into the semifinals, that was a huge pressure situation. As a driver, I’m just trying to calm myself down. This Al-Anabi team knows how to win championships and I’m just trying to do the best I can. My mentality is just don’t mess anything up.”
Pro Stock’s Coughlin moved into the points lead and earned his fourth victory this season with a holeshot victory against defending world champion Allen Johnson. Coughlin, who has 56 career wins, posted a winning time of 6.616 at 208.75 in his Dodge Avenger, and his quicker reaction time overcame Johnson’s quicker, but losing Avenger, which finished in 6.588 at 209.39.
Coughlin, whose four wins at Maple Grove tied Warren Johnson for the most in Pro Stock history, leads Mike Edwards by 45 points and Jason Line by 48 points. Coughlin earned a crucial semifinal win against #1 qualifier Line on Sunday, and also defeated Larry Morgan and Shane Gray en route to the victory.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Oct. 24-27 with the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Pro Stock Championship Point Standings
1. Jeg Coughlin 2,433 2. Mike Edwards 2,388 3. Jason Line 2,383 4. Allen Johnson 2,360 5. Erica Enders-Stevens 2,319
Funny Car Championship Point Standings
1. John Force 2,457 2. Matt Hagan 2,392 3. Jack Beckman 2,331 4. Robert Hight 2,323 5. Cruz Pedregon 2,307
Top Fuel Championship Point Standings
1. Shawn Langdon 2,441 2. Doug Kalitta 2,358 3. Spencer Massey 2,355 4. Morgan Lucas 2,316 5. Antron Brown 2,312
The NHRA and Drag Racing Central contributed to this report.