Force family continuing longstanding tradition of celebrating Father's Day at Bristol
The Force family from Yorba Linda, California, has a longstanding annual Father's Day tradition.
They love to gather the entire clan each year at a beautiful location nestled among the rolling hills of Northeast Tennessee.
Their major celebration of all things Dad involves fun, speed, excitement and usually an end-of-the-day group photo where an NHRA Wally trophy is raised high in the air.
The family patriarch, 16-time NHRA Funny Car world champion John Force, a four-time winner at historic Bristol Dragway, site of the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 15-17, wouldn't have it any other way.
"Why not be with your kids on a father's greatest day of the year?" Force quips with his patented wide grin.
"I really love the tradition that [SMI owners] Bruton (Smith) and Marcus (Smith) have started at Bristol," Force added. "I'm getting older, but my old hot rod does the running for me. We're going to give the fans a great race. I love Bristol. It's one of the greatest tracks on the circuit."
A bonus for the Force family is they have four separate opportunities to celebrate a victory in the famed Thunder Valley Winner's Circle. If John doesn't get it done, one of his two racing daughters - Courtney in Funny Car and defending Top Fuel world champ Brittany - can deliver on their side of the bracket.
Force's son-in-law, defending Funny Car world champ Robert Hight, is riding high with momentum after winning recently in Chicago and would love to celebrate another Bristol title (he won here in 2011) with the family, including his daughter Autumn.
"Racing Father's Day weekend at Bristol is awesome," Hight said. "My daughter comes with me every year. We have a blast at the track. On Sunday we do the Track Walk together. If you can end the day in Winner's Circle, that makes it a perfect Father's Day for me."
Brittany, who has yet to win at Bristol but earned her first world championship trophy last year at the controls of her 10,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster, could possibly share the winner's stage with her iconic father should they both win the popular NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
They have yet to win the same event together. If they could do it on Father's Day it would be epic.
"I love running at Bristol, it's one of my absolute favorite tracks on the circuit, and especially since it's always on Father's Day," said Brittany, who was the No. 1 qualifier at Bristol in 2014. "It would be really special to get a win there. I'm hoping that this year our Monster team can come home with our first Bristol win."
And of course Courtney may have to outrun her dad on his special day if she's going to claim her first Bristol title. She has raced him five times in final rounds, but never at Bristol on Father's Day. She trails him 3-2 in their all-time head-to-head final round record.
"It would be awesome to hopefully be in the final round with my Dad," Courtney said. "With both of us gunning for the win, it would be the picture-perfect Father's Day."
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 get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
In addition to the Forces, fans will get to see NHRA stars like five-time Bristol Top Fuel winner Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, three-time champ Antron Brown, defending Funny Car winner Ron Capps, Leah Pritchett, Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan and a host of tough Pro Stock contenders including defending race winner Alex Laughlin, defending series champ Bo Butner, and multi-time champs Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders, among others. The race also will feature side-by-side racing in the fan-favorite Pro Mod and Top Fuel Harley classes.
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.
Some of the special attractions scheduled for the weekend include skydives on Saturday and Sunday by the world famous U.S. Army Golden Knights, NHRA Legends appearances throughout the weekend by three-time Top Fuel world champ Shirley Muldowney and 2012 NHRA Pro Stock champ Allen and his father Roy Johnson and Thunder Valley's traditional Saturday evening FanFest, one of the biggest driver autograph sessions on the NHRA circuit that takes place in the pits 30 minutes after the final pro qualifying session. Bristol Dragway officials also will induct the latest member into the Thunder Valley Legends Hall of Fame on Sunday during pre-race ceremonies.
Qualifying for the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins Friday, June 15 with pro sessions at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. The final two rounds of qualifying are set for Saturday, June 16, at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 17.
The race will be televised on FS1, with a one-hour live qualifying show on Friday at 6 p.m. (ET), a one-hour Saturday show at 9 p.m. (ET) and a three-hour Sunday show, which airs at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Enough with the multi-colored neck ties and fancy pocket protectors, there's still time to purchase tickets and give your Dad an unforgettable Father's Day weekend experience. Weekend packages begin at just $84 while single-day Friday and Sunday tickets start as low as $35 for adults. Saturday adult tickets start at $50. Kids tickets start at $15 on Friday, $20 on Saturday and are free with a paid adult on Sunday.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also are available online at www.bristoldragway.com and can be purchased in the Tri-Cities region at any Food City grocery store.