Force ready to race

John Force will compete in this weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after being satisfied with new safety equipment in his Funny Car during two half-track passes Wednesday at the track.

The 14-time champion said teammates Robert Hight and Ashley Force, John’s daughter, will also be ready for Friday’s first professional qualifying session.

It will be their first event since teammate Eric Medlen died March 23, four days after a testing accident in Florida. Force vowed he would not return to racing until it was determined what caused Medlen’s death and ways were found to prevent a similar accident.

Force withdrew his drivers from the NHRA event near Houston two weeks ago to evaluate the cause of the incident that cost Medlen his life.

The major changes made to cars in Force’s stable included a wider roll cage that allows the driver’s helmet to be surrounded by 3 inches of a special energy-absorbing material. Modifications also were made to the R3 Head and Neck Restraint Systems to restrict side-to-side head movement.

The NHRA waived its policy against testing on a track within seven days of it being used for an NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series event. Force made his runs without using the track’s electronic timing system or his on-board computerized data acquisition system.

• SPORTSMAN BEGINS — A contingent of about 40 Southern Nevada racers will begin competition today in NHRA Sportsman categories.

Leading the group is Duane Shields of Boulder City, ranked second nationally and first regionally in Top Alcohol Dragster standings.

Henderson’s Justin Lamb is entered in two categories: Competition Eliminator and Super Comp.

Former national event winner Jimmy Lintz of Las Vegas will race in Super Gas.

• NEW LAS VEGAS PRO — Las Vegas resident Jon Capps will debut in a Funny Car this weekend, joining older brother Ron Capps in the professional ranks when pro categories begin qualifying Friday.

Jon Capps, 37, has competed in Alcohol Funny Cars and recently earned his competition license upgrade to drive in the nitro category.

He will drive a car tuned and owned by Paul Smith. It’s the same car that Phil Burkart drove to the final round of the NHRA event four weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla., where Burkart lost to Ron Capps.

• AUTOGRAPH SESSION — A free one-hour autograph session with top drivers entered in this weekend’s event begins at 7 tonight at the ESPN Zone inside New York-New York.

Among those scheduled to attend are Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, Melanie Troxel, Rod Fuller, Jack Beckman, Jeff Arend, Del Worsham, Morgan Lucas, Tony Bartone, Jon Capps, David Grubnic, Hillary Will and Jim Yates.

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