Story By: SARA SLAUGHTER / JOHN FORCE RACING – READING, PA – John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS team enter the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first race of the NRHA Countdown to the Championship, sitting fifth in the points standings, just 50 back from the lead after the points reset for the six race playoffs.
Force will make his 800th career start Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, a track on which he has won a record seven times, most of any pro driver, regardless of category. His victories at Reading, Pennsylvania came in 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2013. The 1989 win was just the fifth of his career and his only win of that season.
“Starting the Countdown, the points reset really is working in our favor. Robert Hight and the Auto Club team are up there but it’s within reach,” Force said. “Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi they’ve made this PEAK Auto Chevy fast and we’ve found some consistency. These last six races are going to be exciting. Reading has been good to me in the past, be good to get some momentum going. We want to start with a good long weekend, keep ourselves in the conversation, a win this weekend would do just that.”
In 2021, after qualifying 12th, Force took his PEAK Chevy Camaro SS to the final round before losing to Tommy Johnson Jr., subbing for COVID-sidelined Matt Hagan. Force has qualified No. 1 seven times at Maple Grove Raceway, most recently in 2013 but also 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001.
AUSTIN PROCK AND TEAM PREPARED FOR COUNTDOWN CHALLENGE
Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster team have their sights set on victory, and a serious boost in their points position, as they head to the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first of six events in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
Prock started the 2022 Camping World NHRA season with a runner-up finish at the season opening Winternationals and has since secured the No. 2 qualifying spot at the Virginia Nationals where he reached the semifinals and followed up his performance with a semifinal finish at the New England Nationals. A series of early race day exits, and poor qualifying performances dropped the rising Top Fuel star to 12th in the points standings, the position he starts his second career NHRA Countdown the Championship.
“I’m feeling confident going into Reading with this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team. We have been making progress and I think it will show this weekend,” Prock said. “We’re ready to put on an exciting show in this Countdown. If we get off to a strong start this weekend, we will be right in the mix of things to go for the gold.”
The 2019 Rookie of the year, who was sidelined in 2020 and 2021 due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, will have plenty of inspiration to draw from as he vies for a shot at the 2022 Top Fuel world championship. His teammate, Robert Hight, won the 2009 Funny Car championship starting the Countdown in last place, a feat no one else has been able to overcome. Prock will have motivation from crew chiefs Joe Barlam and Rahn Tobler, the latter of which is the only crew chief to have won series championships with three different drivers in two different classes.
BRITTANY FORCE LOOKS TO KEEP TIGHT HOLD ON LEAD
Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy Chevrolet dragster team will enter this weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first event of six in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, with a 20 point cushion after finishing the regular season in the top spot.
Force, who has four victories in the Countdown to the Championship, is one of three women to have won multiple Countdown races (Erica Enders 10, Courtney Force 2) and one of only three to win a regular season championship (Erica in 2015 and 2021 and Courtney in 2018). Force is captured the No. 1 seed in the six race playoffs on the efforts of four wins in six final round appearances, a career best season for the 2017 world champion. Her top spot also makes her the first driver other than Steve Torrence to start the Countdown from No. 1 since 2016.
“The points have officially reset and our Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy team is in the lead heading into the first race of the countdown in Reading, Pennsylvania. This first race is going to be a big one. I feel like it will set the tone for the final five,” Force said. “Our team is in the best position, and we plan to leave in that same position. Our game plan is a top qualifying spot, a good race day ladder and going rounds on Sunday. We’ve had luck in Maple Grove in the past and plan to build on that.”
When she won the series championship in 2017, Brittany started sixth. In her 2017 championship season, Force picked up the victory at Maple Grove Raceway, beating Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence in the last three rounds. In 2021, she was the No. 1 qualifier and went to the semifinals. She has been the No. 1 qualifier three times (2015, 2019 and 2021) and, in addition to her 2017 win, was runner-up in 2014 and 2016. She set the current track and national record on Sept. 14, 2019, when she ran 3.623-seconds. She also is the track speed record holder for Top Fuel at 335.57 mph, a mark she established Sept. 10 of 2021.
ROBERT HIGHT CARRIES REGULAR SEASON CONFIDENCE INTO COUNTDOWN
Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS team are perfectly poised for a fourth championship as they enter this weekend’s Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the first event in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, as the top seed.
Hight and his Auto Club team “won” the regular season on the efforts of six victories in nine final round appearances, which ties a career single season high, and three No. 1 qualifiers. Bidding to become just the fourth driver to win as many as four NHRA Funny Car championships (after John Force, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme), Hight starts the Countdown from the No. 1 position for just the second time. He won his third championship from No. 1 in 2019. However, he has proven that it doesn’t matter where you start, winning his first championship in 2019 from last place. Hight is also tied with Matt Hagan for the most Countdown Funny Car wins at 12.
“It’s been a great season so far. Six wins, it matches a career best and, more importantly, reflects just how hard this Auto Club team has worked. These guys made sure we didn’t have a repeat of 2021, we struggled, and we weren’t happy with how things went,” Hight said. “This year has been a turnaround, Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham and this whole team have really come together and given us the best chance to win. We’re going to need a couple more to get the job done.”
Hight has only one career win at Maple Grove Raceway that came in 2011. However, he has won the opening event of the Countdown (previously held at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte) a total of three times, and of those three, won the championship on two occasions (2009 and 2017). Hight has been the No. 1 qualifier in Pennsylvania in both 2015 and 2017. Last year at Maple Grove, after qualifying No. 2, he lost to Force in the semifinals.
Competition at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway begins with qualifying on Friday at 5:45 p.m. and Saturday at 1:15 and 4:45 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled to begin Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Television coverage of the event begins Friday with a qualifying show at 7 p.m. ET and another on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Eliminations will be aired Sunday at 2 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. ET (check local listings) on FOX Broadcasting Network.