John Force ecstatic to get first win of 2016 after beating daughter

In drag racing, there are few sure bets.

But one of those certainties is when drag racing faces a major milestone, a John Force wager is indeed a safe one.

Sunday, as the NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals outside of Denver appeared live for the first time on a major network television, the 16-time showed up to collect yet another accolade in his storied career.

Force headlined a winners’ circle on FOX which included two other first time 2016 winners who showed up big for the spotlight of national television. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) scored monumental victories as well.

Crash keeps NHRA's Tim Wilkerson out of competition in Denver

The only repeat winner was Andrew Hines (Pro Stock), who captured his third triumph of the season.

Force, who was winless since last June in Epping, N.H., defeated his youngest daughter Courtney in the Funny Car final, 3.965 seconds to 3.963. A quicker reaction by the 67-year old Force proved to be the difference in winning and losing.

“It feels real good. All those records you set in the past … I was runner-up here the past two years to (Jack) Beckman and Robert Hight," said Force. "At the end of the day, I am young. I will fight this thing until I drop.

"But if you go look at the whippings we have been taking from Schumacher (Racing) and Kalitta (Racing) all year.  Everyone on the team has been winning except me. I needed this real bad and I told Courtney, ‘Hey, you are my baby, I love you, and I know you want to do good for Traxxas, but I am giving this everything I got."

On Sunday, the high-strung Force looked the part of a kid.

“I just love racing," admitted Force. "I was giggly with my kid, and she was like ‘What is wrong with you and why aren’t you serious?’ Because that is how I play the game. Everyone has their own deal, and my deal is to try and find my heart, go up there, get my kid out of my mind and I completely forgot I was racing her. I needed to get rid of that because that will slow me down.

"I have won a lot of championships, and I am going to win more races, and I am going to win some more championships. What I am saying is I know that father time is going to get me, but I am stuck for five more years. But the point is this. I love doing it. I can still do this game.  And that is why I love it.”

Top Fuel racer Schumacher, just like his Funny Car counterpart Force, has been entrenched in a dry spell of over a calendar year.

Schumacher broke through in a big way by taking out teammate and defending series champion Antron Brown. The U.S. Army-sponsored driver thundered to a winning 3.802 ET at 324.28 mph.

The victory was No. 82 for Schumacher, who enters next weekend’s event in Sonoma, Ca., ranked fifth in the championship point standings.

"This feels amazing," said Schumacher. "I do 200 speeches for kids and tell them that preparation is important, and so is adversity, and digging and digging. We had to get this. Our car, you don’t go a year without winning. I enjoy great moments in racing, but coming from a pretty big deficit will always be something I cherish the most. We’re doing our job, winning rounds. Now we just have to go out and keep winning these races."

If the adage which mandates it takes a village to raise a child, the same can be said for the Pro Stock division and it’s bid to end the relentless rule of the three-car KB Racing team.

For the first time this season, someone other than Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Bo Butner led qualifying and hoisted the winner’s trophy on Sunday afternoon.

The Marathon Petroleum-sponsored Johnson knows a thing or two about domination, as he has been ruthless in dictating dominance in the thin air of Bandimere Speedway.

Johnson captured his seventh career Mopar Mile High Nationals title after reaching his tenth consecutive final round. He recorded a 6.982 ET at 197.34 mph to beat Vincent Nobile.

“I am sure I am speaking for everyone in the pits, but to break that juggernaut is big,” Johnson said. “We might have got a break or two along the way, but I guess that was that mountain magic. It was great to win here for all the great Denver and Mopar fans and to get the win on live TV on FOX.”

In winning his third race of the season, Pro Stock Motorcycle ride Andrew Hines became the winningest competitor in the two-wheeled division and did so in record-setting style. His 7.134 ET reset the track record in beating teammate Eddie Krawiec.

“It doesn’t get much better racing up here in the mountain with the thin air requires a different setup,” said Hines, who appeared in his third consecutive final round. “Coming back to win on the mountain, it means a lot. My team has had my motorcycle really dialed in right now. It is our third final in a row, and I am just riding the wave. I don’t think I’ve ever put eight runs like that together in a weekend. The bike is such a joy to ride right now.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolls into Sonoma Raceway next weekend for the second stop of the Western Swing, the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

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Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus