Force claims historic 100th tour victory. BAYTOWN, Texas -- John Force provided a 300 mile-an-hour answer to the most often asked question in drag racing Sunday. Force, who had misfired in three consecutive races since earning his 99th ...
Force claims historic 100th tour victory.
BAYTOWN, Texas -- John Force provided a 300 mile-an-hour answer to the most often asked question in drag racing Sunday.
Force, who had misfired in three consecutive races since earning his 99th tour victory in the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., finally reached triple digits when he drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang past the Pontiac of Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round of the 15th annual O'Reilly Springnationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Force's final round time of 4.991 seconds was nowhere near his track record time of 4.788 seconds, but it was good enough not only to make history but also to extend his lead in the 2002 Powerade points.
After misfiring at Phoenix, where he lost to Del Worsham in the final; Gainesville, Fla., where he was upset by Dean Skuza in the very first round; and Las Vegas, where he exited in round two, also courtesy of Worsham, the 52-year-old veteran left no doubt Sunday.
After qualifying fourth, he posted the quickest time in each of the four elimination rounds to win at Houston for the seventh time, for the sixth time in the Springnationals. Johnson Jr., driver of one of the two Skoal Pontiacs, was a final round victim for the third time.
It was Force's 37th win in a Mustang and it came on the same track where Tony Pedregon became the first Team Force driver to reach the winners' circle in a Ford in 1997.
Force's unlikely drive to 100 wins began innocently enough on June 28, 1987. Who could have imagined that a victory in the Molson Grandnational (Sanair Dragstrip, Montreal), the only NHRA national event contested outside the continental United States, would be the first step toward drag racing immortality.
That win, which came in his 66th career start, was as big a surprise to Force as to anyone else. After all, he had been to the finals nine times previously and on each occasion had come up short. Nine final rounds, nine runner-up finishes before he beat Ed The Ace McCulloch at Sanair.
He wouldn't win his first race on U.S. soil until a year later when he beat Bruce Larson (who would go on to win the 1989 Winston Championship) in the final round of what was then the NHRA Springnationals at Columbus, Ohio (June 19, 1988). It was the first of three 1988 wins including his only career final round triumph against Kenny Bernstein, the man to whom he lost the first time he reached an NHRA final round (the 1979 Cajun Nationals at Baton Rouge, La.) and to whom he lost five more times before winning at the 1988 World Finals at Pomona, Calif. Win No. 10 came during his first Winston Championship season when he beat Larson at the 1990 Fram/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
No. 25 came on April 25, 1993 at Atlanta Dragway, where he victimized Chuck Etchells. Six years later, the same track surrendered victory No. 75, significant not because it came at the expense of arch rival Whit Bazemore, but because it represented Force's smallest margin of victory (.001 of a second) in all his 100 wins.
Between No. 25 and No. 75, Force beat Cruz Pedregon in the final round of the 1994 Sears Craftsman Nationals at Topeka, Kan., to win his 36th race and break Don The Snake Prudhomme's record for career Funny Car victories and he bested Etchells at the 1996 Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., to earn win No. 50.
Before 100 finally became a viable target, Force eclipsed Bob Glidden's once secure career victories record. Glidden won 85 times in Pro Stock, 55 times before Force made it to the podium for the first time. Nevertheless, Force tied the Pro Stock legend with a victory in the 2000 Castrol Nationals at Dallas, Texas, and, just one week later beat Jerry Toliver in the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill., for No. 86.
When faced with such potential milestones, Force rarely has been denied.
He won his 25th race the first time he had an opportunity to do so. The same with his 50th and 75th wins. He won on his second attempt to claim win No. 36 and on his second try at 100.