COMMERCE, Ga. --
The reigning and now 16-time Funny Car world champion, Force has been to the final round in eight of the past 11 races dating back to last year's highlight-filled finish that sent him to a world championship. Along the way, the iconic Force claimed four victories and both the E.T. and speed world records.
It gets even more incredible when JFR teammate Robert Hight's blistering start to 2014 is included. Hight has advanced to the finals at the last five events, taking three wins including the most recent event in Houston. He shot past Force to the top spot in the points standings, though Force remains focused and impressed with his team's outstanding hot streak.
"We have been on a tear and our other cars (Courtney Force in Funny Car and Brittany Force in Top Fuel) are coming around," Force said. "I feel as a whole team we have come together and the brain trust will keep us alive and winning. We have been to every final going back to Indy last year, which is thirteen finals in a row. Winning is where the focus is and we won't forget safety."
Force's last win at Atlanta Dragway came in 2005, but if recent performances are any indication he is in line for a good showing in 2014.
Coming off a storybook finish that included three straight wins to win the world championship, Force started 2014 with a victory at the Winternationals, breaking both ends of the national record by going 3.966 at 324.12 mph. Additional final round appearances have followed in Gainesville and Charlotte, and Force is also banking on crew chief Jimmy Prock's strong success at Atlanta Dragway to pay off at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.
"Atlanta can be tricky because of the heat," Force said. "We have adapted and with Jimmy Prock that seems like one of the places where he does well. But Jimmy and I have never run this track together and I am excited about that. I also love the people because they are really into their racing."
"I need to do well and it is not just because we are up there in the points," Force said. "It is the matter of you have to learn how to run by the time you get to the Countdown. We say it every race at the team meetings, 'This is the race you have to start winning.'"
All eyes at Atlanta Dragway will also be on the likes of Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, DeJoria and Courtney Force in Funny Car, Brittany Force in Top Fuel, and Katie Sullivan and Angie Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle as the landmark 100th win by a female will be within reach at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Female competitors currently have 99 NHRA victories and John Force is certainly aware one of his daughters could be the one to get to that magical mark.
In Top Fuel, Brown took home his third career victory in Atlanta a year ago and has been red-hot in 2014. After back-to-back wins, Brown is the points leader and has three victories overall this season. Doug Kalitta is right behind in the points standings and also owns two Atlanta victories. Other championship contenders include Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, 2012 Atlanta winner Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi, Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force and J.R. Todd.
Enders-Stevens won for the second time in three races by winning at her home track in Houston and the Pro Stock points leader is poised to possibly become the first female Atlanta winner in Pro Stock. Four-time world champion Greg Anderson returned to his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro in Houston while his KB Racing teammate Jason Line took the season opener in Pomona. Defending champ Jeg Coughlin, a five-time world champion, has two wins in Atlanta but will be looking for his first since 2010, but will face stiff challenges for contenders like teammate Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile.
The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its third stop of the 2014 season at Atlanta Dragway. Mike Castellana took the opening race in Gainesville and Mike Janis topped Castellana at the most recent event in Houston. Defending champion Rickie Smith reached the Pro Mod finals in Florida and is looking for a second straight world championship in the doorslammer category.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 18. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16 at 3:45 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17 at 12:45 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at 2:45 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRAtix.com or call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free.