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John Force wins NHRA Midwest Nationals

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MADISON, Ill. (AP) - John Force raced to his record 136th career victory and moved into position for a 16th Funny Car season title Sunday in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.

The 64-year-old Force won for the second time this year, beating defending series champion Jack Beckman with a 4.097-second run at 310.13 mph in a Ford Mustang. Beckman had a 4.127 at 309.84 in a Dodge Charger.

Force is six points behind leader Matt Hagan with three events left.

Force beat Chad Head, Ron Capps and teammate Robert Hight to advance to the final round. Hagan, the top qualifier who entered the day with a 63-point lead over second-place Cruz Pedregon, lost to Beckman in the second round. Pedregon also lost in the first round.

``We've got a race now, and I'm excited,'' Force said. ``I had a good day. The most important thing for me was to see the crowd. They filled the bleachers. To win a championship you've got to live it every day, and I'm not chasing a championship. I've been busy chasing corporate America and taking care of our sponsors.

``My wife (Laurie) set me straight this morning, she said, `What you need to do is win. We need John Force to get back to winning races.' Hey, I can do that. I ain't going to say I will win another race or a championship, but I'll be in the fight with these kids.''

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Erica Enders-Stevens topped the Pro Stock field, and Matt Smith won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown raced to his third victory of the season and 40th overall, beating Khalid alBalooshi in the final. Brown finished in 3.788 at 323.97 for his second straight victory at the track.

Enders-Stevens also won for the second year in a row at the track, holding off Mike Edwards in the final with a 6.540 at 211.23 in a Chevrolet Camaro. Edwards regained the points lead with the runner-up finish.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith rode to his second victory of the season and moved into the series lead, outrunning LE Tonglet with a 6.887 at 194.52 on a Buell.

The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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