John Force Eyes Potential Historic Weekend At Firebird Motorsports Park For Arizona Nationals

Story By: JERRY BONKOWSKI / JOHN FORCE RACING – CHANDLER, AZ – This weekend’s NHRA national event at Firebird Motorsports Park has the potential of being a historic trifecta of sorts for John Force.

The winningest driver in NHRA history with 16 Funny Car championships and 155 national event wins, Force will attempt to become the first Funny Car driver in NHRA history to win three separate and distinct events in the same weekend.

First, Force will attempt to win the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge race-within-a-race specialty event. Four drivers each in Funny Car, Top Fuel and Pro Stock will square off with each other. The winners of the first round of the Challenge, which is also part of Friday’s lone Arizona Nationals qualifying session, will return for the Challenge’s final round during the first of two additional Nationals qualifying sessions on Saturday.

Then, in Saturday’s second qualifying session, Force, in his trusty PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, will complete the final round of the Winternationals, which was rained out in Pomona, Calif., nearly two weeks ago. Force will face four-time and defending Funny Car champ Matt Hagan.

And then Force will try to make it 3-for-3 by winning Sunday’s Arizona Nationals.

“Like anybody, I want to win it all, we want to make the money, and we want to earn the points,” Force said. “So I’m going after it with everything I’ve got.”

All three events will be held at Firebird, which has reverted to its original name after spending the last several years known as Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. In addition, the Arizona Nationals mark the 39th year that Firebird will host an NHRA national event.

Force has raced at Firebird every year since it opened in 1983 and was runner-up at the first national event held there in 1985. He has won the race a record eight times (1994 through 1997, 1999-2001 and 2005), has been No. 1 qualifier eight times as well, and is trying to win an NHRA tour event for the 35th season.

Force’s last win was nearly two years ago (May 1, 2022 at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C.). On Saturday, he will be racing in his 267th final round (has a current record of 155-111) when he faces Hagan for the rescheduled Winternationals Funny Car title.

“We’re excited to race Hagan,” Force said. “He’s a great champion and he wants to win, just like I do. There’s basically three races to be won and you only get three qualifying attempts.

“But (Hagan’s) got the same problems I’ve got. So there’s no excuses, we just do it. That’s the rules that we play by … but I’m ready for it. We’re just going to do the best we can. I’m fired up.”

Force, who turns 75 on May 4, isn’t slowing down. He still is as motivated as ever for more race wins and he’d like to win at least one more championship in his illustrious career.

“I want everything right to run for the title this year,” Force said. “I found some things that could be causing me some problems and I’m going to address it. … I need to get back to where I belong. I’m just trying to be a better driver, trying to do a better job for us and to do the job for the sponsors.”

Force reached the final round in two events last year, but finished runner-up each time. That he made it to the finals of the Winternationals is rather inspiring, as in the first round of qualifying on Friday, March 22, he inadvertently crossed the center line and the run was disallowed.

He came back the next day to qualify solidly into the show and then wound up reaching the final round before rain forced its postponement to this weekend in Arizona.

“You don’t know if there’s another qualifying run the next day because they say it’s going to rain, and you’re thinking, ‘I might not be in the show,’” Force said of his Saturday predicament in Pomona. “I should have gotten to the other end. And I thought I got it to the other end, but I tapped the centerline or actually I went over. I didn’t see no cones go down. I wanted to believe I missed it. Because I don’t make excuses for myself, I learned a lot that weekend. … So that’s kind of where I’m at. I’m ready to go dancing.”


Brittany Force, meanwhile, will look to continue the consistency she had in the Winternationals. The younger Force was the No. 1 qualifier at Pomona, extending a personal streak that has seen her earn No. 1 at least once per season for the last 11 seasons.

Brittany made it to the semifinals at Pomona before her dragster lost traction, giving the win to Justin Ashley. The younger Force will join her father in her respective class in the #2Fast2Tasty specialty event and potentially could win that race and the Arizona Nationals, as well.

If that were to happen, John Force Racing would potentially come away with five wins in total for the weekend.

Although she’s never won at Firebird, Force has three runner-up showings there in her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster, and remains the track record holder for elapsed time (3.643 seconds) and speed (337.92 mph), both on Feb. 23, 2020.

Force is also looking to end a 24-race victory drought (last win Oct. 30, 2022 in Las Vegas). Her showing at Pomona, makes Force optimistic heading into Phoenix.

“After an improved race weekend in Pomona, this team is anxious to see what we can accomplish in Phoenix,” Force said. “Coming into this season we have taken everything we learned in the last few years and are using that for our new setup. I feel after a tough season last year we are finally in that upward climb.

“We need to qualify in the top 5 and focus on clean, consistent runs every time we go down the track. I’ve been to three finals in the past at Firebird but have never landed in the Winner’s Circle. The goal is to get this Monster Energy team our first win of the season three races in.”


The third driver in the JFR camp, Funny Car driver Austin Prock, looks to bounce back from a disappointing first-round loss at Pomona.

Prock won his first-ever race in a Funny Car in February in an exhibition event in Bradenton, Fla., and then finished runner-up in his first official NHRA national event in a Funny Car, the season-opening Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., nearly a month ago. He also was the No. 1 qualifier at both Florida races.

Prock wasn’t able to continue his success at Pomona, but hopes to turn things around at Phoenix. The Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS he is driving this season has a legacy of success at Phoenix, including teammate Robert Hight having won the last two editions of the Arizona Nationals.

“Personally, I’ve never had much luck there,” Prock said of his previous attempts while driving a dragster at Firebird. “But the car that I’m driving this year has had a lot of success there, and last year was my brother Thomas’s first win as an assistant crew chief (to the father of Austin and Thomas, Jimmy Prock, who is Hight’s and now Austin’s crew chief).

“I think we’ll pick up right where we left off in Gainesville (when Prock reached the finals before losing to J.R. Todd). I’m convinced the consistency we had in Gainesville and Bradenton is going to show in Phoenix.

“Pomona was weird. Track prep wasn’t there. This is a high-horsepower, powerful car. And it’s hard to tame down when the track’s that far off. If we would have had one more shot at it in Pomona, we probably would have got the thing dialed into where it needs to be. But when you have to make that big of a swing, it takes a few runs and some time. So I’m looking forward to Phoenix, I think that things can be quick again.

“Our team is definitely going to be strong this year. Last year, I don’t think anybody in the building was satisfied with the whole team’s performance overall. So we’re off to a good start in 2024 with one win, at least two runners-up and one of our cars has been low qualifier at all three events this year. So yeah, things are off to a good start. We definitely want to keep that train going.”

Prock is attempting to become the 29th driver in NHRA history to win national events in both Top Fuel (has 4 career wins) and Funny Car. In addition, Prock and his father are trying to become the first father-son crew chief and driver to win on the circuit since Del Worsham and his dad Chuck won Funny Car at Houston on March 30, 2008.

In addition, Austin’s 3.820 seconds qualifying time at the Gatornationals was the second quickest time posted since 2017, just shy of Hight’s 3.816 seconds run at Las Vegas on Oct. 29, 2023.