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Legendary John Forcc breaks Heartland Park record during qualifying

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Friday, May 23, 2014, at 10:52 p.m.

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— NHRA legend John Force may have turned 65 years old earlier this month, but he’s still shattering records.

Force, a 16-time Funny Car champion, broke Heartland Park records for speed and elapsed time on Friday night in claiming the provisional No. 1 position during a rain-shortened qualifying session for the Kansas Nationals.

Force raced his Ford Mustang 318.84 mph, topping the mark of 315.56 by Cruz Pedregon in 2012, and his elapsed time of 4.021 seconds eclipsed the 4.043 Force set last year in qualifying.

It was the third time Force has broken records this season. He set the national elapsed time record in qualifying with 3.966 seconds in the season-opener at Pomona, only to break that with a 3.965 in winning the final round with a track record 324.14 mph.

And a week later, Force set track records of 317.79 mph and 3.990 seconds in qualifying at Phoenix where he ended up losing in the semifinals.

“I’ve got a good hot rod right now,” said Force, a nine-time winner at Heartland Park and the NHRA’s all-time winner with 139 victories. “Jimmy Prock, my crew chief, I called him Babe, because he swings for the fence.”

John Force Racing cars were strong in qualifying with Force’s daughter, Courtney, funning second (316.23, 4.078) and points leader Robert Hight, a four-time winner this season fourth (312.86 mph, 4.091.) Alexis DeJoria (311.05, 4.082) was third as she and Force are bidding to post the 100th NHRA win by a female.

J.R. Todd, who four weeks into the season replaced two-time Topeka winner David Grubnic for Kalitta Motorsports, claimed the provisional No. 1 in Top Fuel with a run of 322.65 and elapsed time of 3.747, edging Steve Torrence, who went 325.06 in 3.778.

Vincent Nobile had a similar result in Pro Stock, taking the No. 1 spot with a run of 208.71 mph in 6.601 seconds, edging points leader Erica Enders-Stevens’ 6.611 in 208.91 mph.

While Force owns the most career Funny Car wins at Heartland Park, Todd’s teammate Scott Kalitta has the most Top Fuel wins with six, and he took advantage of the team’s knowledge of the track while racing the car in which Grubnic has won twice.

“This team has always had success here with the car that I am driving,” said Todd, 32. “I had some good notes to fall back on. Hopefully I can add to the success they’ve had here in the past.”

The three nitro classes completed the first of two scheduled qualifying rounds, before the second round was rained out. Two rounds of eliminations will be held at 1:30 and 4 p.m.

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