Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, April 18, 2010 | 6:58 p.m.
Class is back in session.
John Force, the most successful NHRA funny car driver in history, delivered that message to the rest of the motorsports world Sunday afternoon at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I can race again,” an emotional Force said. “I’m back in the game, I can compete and I can still do this.”
Force took home the top spot in the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals with a victory over Tony Pedregon, topping out at a speed of 284.93 mph for his third win of the 2010 season.
After a 2007 injury led to a pair of unsuccessful trips in Las Vegas -- disqualifying in 2008 and losing in the first round of the nationals last year -- Force explained afterward the motivation behind his recent success at the track.
“I’m working to show my kids that their dad can still do this,” he said. “They never saw me win. Every time I won, the trophies were taller than them. Sixty years old is not old and my family pushed me to do this.”
Force defeated his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, in the semifinals, besting her by 0.133 of a second.
The victory was the third of his decorated career not having started in the top half of the bracket.
“The hardest thing I’m working for is to be able to compete,” Force said. “We all want a championship in the end, but I want to show my kids, especially Courtney and Brittany, how much this means to me and how much I love it.”
His youngest two daughters are competing in the Top Alcohol Dragster division.
Force’s win puts him atop the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings with 553 points, 120 more than Matt Hagen, who was eliminated by Force in the second round.
Pedregon, the runner-up to Force, sits in fifth place.
“He started with no budget,” Force said. “He put it back together, doing whatever it takes. He was very emotional after the race but he’ll get right. He’s way too good.”
Larry Dixon’s Al-Anabi Racing dragster took home first place in the Top Fuel division, defeating Cory McClenathan for back-to-back victories and the points lead.
“I love it when our plan comes together,” Dixon said. “We had a great car all weekend, just unbelievable and very strong through qualifying. It was a great weekend all around.”
Dixon’s win was his 51st NHRA series victory in his 95th final round, and this year he is a perfect 3-0 under those circumstances.
Last weekend, he won the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals and remains one of the hottest cars in the division.
“My adrenaline and focus got better as the round went on,” Dixon said. “You don’t want to get left behind.”
In the Pro Stock division finals, Mike Edwards went from the top spot to victory lane by defeating Greg Stanfield.
Edwards, who has been victorious four out of the past six races this season, beat Stanfield by a car length and continues his stranglehold in the points standings.
“My team is outrageously dependable,” Edwards said. “It was a 180-degree change from last week at Houston.”
His 701 points leads the Pro Stock division by 261 points over Allen Johnson.
“Our team did a great job of making adjustments to get this car to do what it could,” he said. “My hat's off to them.”