CHANDLER, Ariz. (April 6, 2024) – The last time John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, won a race was three days before his 73rd birthday: May 1, 2022 in the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C.

Saturday at Firebird Motorsports Park, Force gave himself an early 75th birthday present, capturing the rain-postponed final round of the Lucas Oil Winternationals, originally contested in Pomona, Calif., but which was rescheduled to be part of this weekend’s Arizona Nationals.

“Right now, I’m alive,” sad Force, driver of the PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. “I was going to quit this morning and walk out the gate. And now I’ve changed my mind. I told Prock (young teammate Austin Prock), ‘John don’t quit.’”

The 156th win (4.033 seconds/318.24 mph) of Force’s career came against one of his chief rivals, four-time Funny Car champ Matt Hagan (4.048 seconds/283.61 mph).

“I’m really excited to have pulled this off,” Force said with a big smile on his face. “I didn’t imagine there’d be drivers like Prock, Robert Hight, like Hagan, like (Ron) Capps. I mean, I’m too old to even race these kids. It’s exciting. I give it all I have and push the limits wherever I can.”

The 16-time Funny Car champion then thanked John Force Racing president and 3-time Funny Car champ Robert Hight, who has been sidelined this season.

“Robert, thank you for everything you’ve done when I’m struggling, sending me back for new glasses, doing everything to get this old man back in the game,” Force said of Hight.

Force dedicated the win to friend and former sponsor, the late Frank Tiegs, who passed away in February. Force still keeps a sticker from one of Tiegs’ companies, Flav-R-Pac, on his race car to honor his late friend. Force was one of approximately 1,700 attendees of a Celebration of Life in memory of Tiegs a week ago in Kennewick, Wash.

Force has come into the 2024 season with a renewed level of inspiration and motivation, still hungry for his 17th NHRA Funny Car championship (his last was in 2013).

Force may turn 75 on May 4th, but he’s driving – and now winning – as if he was back in his 30s.

“I better take it now,” he quipped when asked if Saturday’s win was an early birthday present to himself. “I just realized I’m going to be 75 in another month, May 4, and I’m doing some serious thinking where I’m going. But my mood’s changing right now.”

Force remains the most popular driver in the sport, a lofty position he has held for nearly 30 years. While he’s mulled retirement, Saturday’s wild cheers and standing ovation from fans in the sold-out crowd just may prompt Force to stick around longer.

“Probably the best thing about today was the sold out crowd, yeah, I love that,” Force said. “I told myself, ‘How bad do you want to win?’ I was mad, mad at myself. I started saying you just need to get out of the seat, you’re just too old for this stuff.

“Or you get out there and fight the fight. And I did, things went right and I got the win. So I’m excited.”

Although the win came at Firebird Motorsports Park, it was the conclusion of the Winternationals race that started two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif. As such, it will be credited as the eighth time Force has won the Winternationals in his career.

And if he doubles up and wins Sunday’s Arizona Nationals – as No. 4 qualifier, Force faces No. 13 qualifier Jim Campbell in the first round – it would also be the ninth time the legendary driver in drag racing history has won in the Valley of the Sun.

“I feel once I get in the race car I’m home,” Force said. “That’s where I get right, that’s when the stomach aches go away until you lose. But the hard part is thinking about having to give it up and you’re going to have to sooner or later, you just can’t go till you fall in the dirt.

“What I’m saying is that to have a day like this, first of all at my age, I can’t remember the first (win). I think it was in Montreal (June 28, 1987). But then you get something like this and all of a sudden, your life’s back. I can see my wife looking at me at the other end (of the track) with the two (grandsons). I can see that gleam back in her eye ‘cuz she was happy for me.

“She knows what I go through in the middle of the night, setting up in the bed and she’ll say, ‘John, the race is three days away, go to sleep.’ I’ve done it all a million times. And boy, it gets old. But then this fixes you.

“You know, I just can’t believe I’m still doing this. But man, I love it so much. And if I quit, that’s what really scares me.”

So Force tells himself simply, “Don’t quit. I don’t want to do that.”


Austin Prock held on to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car for Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Arizona Nationals. This marks the second time Prock has qualified No. 1 in the season’s first three races.

“That’s definitely something to be proud of,” Prock said. “I felt like I’m doing a little bit better job driving the car and I’m really getting things sorted out, getting this thing from A to B.”

Prock shot to the top spot in Friday’s solo qualifying session and then was able to hold on to it during Saturday’s two final qualifying sessions.

Prock is attempting to take the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS to victory for the third consecutive year of the Arizona Nationals. Hight drove the car to victory in the 2022 and 2023 events.

“All in all, not a bad weekend so far for everybody and a great weekend as an organization,” Prock said. “Our cars are running outstanding again.”

Prock will face No. 16 qualifier, Buddy Hall, in the first round of Sunday’s Arizona Nationals eliminations.


Earlier in the day, both Force and his daughter Brittany lost in the final round of their respective runs in the #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, a special race-within-a-race.

John Force (4.007 seconds/320.89 mph) lost to J.R. Todd (3.974 seconds/316.67 mph) in Funny Car.

Meanwhile, Brittany Force and her Monster Energy dragster (4.378 seconds/216.62 mph) lost to Tony Schumacher (3.925 seconds/292.77 mph) in Top Fuel.

Speaking of Brittany Force, she ran 3.812 seconds at 329.91 mph in her final qualifying attempt on Saturday. The two-time Top Fuel champion will start from the No. 2 position and will face NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart in the first round of Sunday’s race.


TV SCHEDULE: In addition to streaming on NHRA.TV, here’s the remainder of this weekend’s broadcast schedule (all times ET):

* Saturday, April 6 (10-10:30 p.m.), FS1: Winternationals final round (previously postponed from Pomona two weeks ago due to weather).

* Sunday, April 7: (10:30 a.m. to Noon), FS1: Highlights from Saturday’s qualifying.

* Sunday, April 7: (6:30-9:30 p.m.), Highlights from Arizona Nationals eliminations, FS1.