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John Force has only one thing on his mind at Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals

• Jun 23, 2016 at 6:00 AM

At this point in the season, legendary Funny Car driver John Force is only focused on one thing when it comes to this weekend’s 10th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

“We want to get into the winner's circle,” said Force, who has 143 career Funny Car victories but none this year. “That is our goal for our sponsors like Peak Antifreeze and Advance Auto Parts. They have been on this Chevy for a couple weeks and I want to get them a win. This is a tough class and you look at all the other teams and we are bunched up pretty good."

Force’s last victory was in Epping a year ago, a span of 25 races.

He is ready to change that in his 10,000-horsepower PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro this weekend in Norwalk, where he won in 2014.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event.

For the first time, the race will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. The race is the 12th of 24 in 2016, making it the official halfway point of the season, and finishes off a stretch of four consecutive race weekends during the month of June.

Just six races follow Norwalk before the start of the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, but Force is focused on picking up his first victory of the season and also his first in his new Camaro body.

The iconic driver advanced to the final round at the second event of the season in Phoenix but has battled a number of problems since then, falling in the first round to Jack Beckman last weekend in Bristol.

It has dropped Force to ninth in the points standings in the loaded Funny Car class, but the longtime standout sees nothing but positives coming his way in the future.

“I have a young team led by (crew chief) Jon Schaffer and I know we are getting better every race,” Force said. “We aren't where we want to be but I am excited to have all these young kids around me. This team is working every day to get better and so am I.

“So many people worked on this Chevy Camaro hot rod. It is my new "company car" and I love it. You see so much better out of it and Mike Neff, my lead Funny Car crew chief from the Auto Club team, is working with Schaffer and Danny Hood along with Ronnie Thompson to get all these Camaros running quick. Courtney (Force, daughter) should have her new car in Chicago. These Camaros are going to be great for us and I have to thank everyone at the shop and all the Chevrolet engineers for all the hard work.”

The good news about the current four-race stretch is it allows for drivers to quickly make amends from the previous weekend.

That will be on the mind of Force after an especially tough outing for the three John Force Racing Funny Car teams.

Force fell in the first round, and Courtney Force and Robert Hight lost a round later in Bristol.

It made for a frustrating weekend, but John Force knows his team is only going to push forward, knowing full well he has a car capable of winning plenty of races.

"(Bristol) wasn't the weekend we wanted for any of us,” Force said. “We are all still in the Top 10 (point standings) but that isn't where we want to be. We want to be in the top three. We are learning every day. That's all I can say. Sitting here we have a great car. I love this Chevrolet. It is working. We just have a lot of work to do in the drivetrain, and we will figure it out.”

Courtney Force, who won earlier this season in Houston, is in third, while Hight is in eighth.

Both will be among the top contenders in Norwalk, where everyone will be chasing points leader Ron Capps, who has won two of the last three races.

Others to watch include Beckman, who is second in points, Bristol winner Tommy Johnson Jr., Matt Hagan, defending world champion Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson, who has two victories in 2016.

Racing at Norwalk and Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park also always marks a special occasion for Force, who races at the track more than once each year.

"I have match raced there for years and the Baders are a great family and great promoters,” Force said. “The crowds are awesome and you see how all the people at the gates and concession stands are smiling, and it is a fun place to race."

In Top Fuel, Kalitta topped Antron Brown in the final a year ago in Norwalk and the duo are first and second in points in 2016.

Kalitta surged into the points lead with three straight victories, while Brown, the reigning world champion, has two victories.

Others to watch in the class include Brittany Force, a two-time winner in 2016, Steve Torrence, who also has two wins this season, 2007 event winner and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, Richie Crampton, Shawn Langdon, who won last weekend in Bristol, Terry McMillen and J.R. Todd.

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson is in prime position to win a second consecutive Norwalk title this season as he is already off to a great start in 2016 with five victories.

Anderson’s teammate, Jason Line, also has had a stellar start with the points lead and six victories, including last weekend in Bristol.

Others to watch in the all new era of Pro Stock, which features race cars with fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter, include two-time Norwalk winner Vincent Nobile, back-to-back and reigning world champ Erica Enders, Bo Butner, 2012 champ Allen Johnson, Chris McGaha, Shane Gray and five-time world champ and Ohio native Jeg Coughlin.

Pro Stock Motorcycle will hit the track at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park for its fifth appearance of the 2016 season.

Last year, Stoffer raced to her second victory of the season. Three-time world champion and 2011 Norwalk winner Eddie Krawiec currently has a grip on the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead with two wins and three finals appearances.

Others in the two-wheeled category hoping to race to the winner’s circle include reigning world champion Andrew Hines, Angelle Sampey, who won in Englishtown last weekend for her first victory since 2007, Hector Arana, two-time champ and two-time event winner Matt Smith, Jerry Savoie, veteran rider Steve Johnson and Chip Ellis.

The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series returns to Norwalk for its sixth of 10 races during the 2016 season.

The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet.

This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:45 p.m. on Friday and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m. Saturday.

Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 26.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park at (419) 668-5555. Tickets also are available online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

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