Marks the second time he’s reached a final round this season, previously having won the Winternationals

JOLIET, IL. – John Force advanced to Sunday’s final round of the Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant, but couldn’t hold off Matt Hagan in the Funny Car class at Route 66 Raceway.

Force, who turned 75 years old two weeks ago, was appearing in the record 268th final round  of his lengthy racing career. He has won 156 times, most recently earlier this year in the Winternationals.

“Yeah, it was disappointing,” Force said. “There was a lot to win, there always is. But you can’t win them all. Hagan’s a great racer, they do their job, we were in the hunt. We dropped some cylinders and it was over.”

Piloting the PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, Force (4.042 seconds/317.49 mph) defeated Buddy Hull in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations, the 150th Funny Car driver Force has faced in his career.

Force then followed up with another round win (4.008 seconds at 319.37 mph) in the quarterfinals, taking advantage of Alexis DeJoria’s slow .400 reaction time, sending Force into the semifinals.

“No doubt, when something like that happens, you surely don’t want to mess it up,” Force’s co-crew chief, Chris Cunningham, said of DeJoria’s slow start off the line.

In the semifinals, Force (3.987 seconds/317.94 mph) beat Daniel Wilkerson – who had defeated Force’s teammate, Austin Prock, one round earlier – extracting some revenge and sending Force to the final.

Even with Sunday’s final round loss, Force moved up to third in the Funny Car standings.

“We’re going to go to Epping and go and try and win, that’s all you can do,” Force said. “We need to get the car back on track. We owe it to all of our sponsors.”

As for Force’s teammate, No. 1 qualifier and Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS driver Austin Prock, he had an easy time of it in the first round of eliminations when opponent Jack Wyatt’s car failed to start. Even though he had a solo run, Prock said he “raced the track” and emerged with a strong run of 3.975 seconds at 324.67 mph.

In the second round, Prock (4.109 seconds/305.01 mph) lost to Wilkerson, ending Prock’s hope for a second win of the season.

The combination of Prock’s loss and Hagan’s win dropped Prock from the top of the Funny Car point standings, which he had held for the previous three races.

“We ended up having some ignition trouble,” Prock said. “It ultimately cost us the round, but I didn’t leave as I normally do. I’m really frustrated with myself. If I would have gotten my normal .060 (reaction time), we would have turned on the win light.

“I have some homework to do. We’re going to go test Tuesday and sort out our ignition issues and try to come out swinging in Epping (N.H., the next NHRA national event).

“It’s been a great season for John Force Racing and the Funny Car category; we’ve reached the final round and me and John both have wins. We have great hot rods, we just need to capitalize on it.” John Force Racing’s Top Fuel driver, Brittany Force, who was sponsored in this race by PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant, did not compete Sunday, having failed to qualify for the first time in 190 straight national events – dating back to the season finale at Pomona, Calif., in 2014. Even so, Brittany remains 10th in the Top Fuel point standings.