Baytown: John Force preview

Force Seeks New Edge at Spring Nationals; Funny Car Icon Back in Green-and-White at HRP HOUSTON, Texas Back this week in the familiar green-and-white of Castrol GTX ®, his principal sponsor for the last 24 years, John Force is looking...

Force Seeks New Edge at Spring Nationals; Funny Car Icon Back in Green-and-White at HRP

HOUSTON, Texas Back this week in the familiar green-and-white of Castrol GTX ®, his principal sponsor for the last 24 years, John Force is looking for a new edge at Houston Raceway Park, site of the 22nd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals.

The 59-year-old drag racing icon, the sport's biggest winner, is hoping that, in this case at least, familiarity breeds content.

After going 2-3 in a three-race turn at the wheel of a black-and-gold Mustang touting BP/Castrol's new Edge brand, Force returns this week to the colors in which he has secured the majority of his record 125 NHRA tour victories.

"We've always done good in Texas," Force said. "Dallas and Houston. They're both big horsepower tracks. Robert's won there (a reference to teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight, the 2005 Spring Nationals champ) and Ashley was in the final last year."

Although he presently is only ninth in the Full Throttle driver standings, Force believes he finally has a race car capable of getting him back to the No. 1 position he has occupied 14 times since the 1980s.

"Bottom line, we struggled," Force said of a 2008 season in which he finished seventh in points, "(but now) we've got a good hot rod. Last year, we didn't have a car that could run with these guys.

"Don't know why, but we seemed like we were always behind. The end of last year, things started getting better and Coil and Bernie (crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly) changed a lot of stuff in the winter: new injector, new clutch, new blower (supercharger)."

Indeed, even though he won just two rounds in the first three races, the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection deserved better.

He qualified solidly in each race (third once; fourth twice) but twice lost in the first round before finally getting back on tracktwo weeks ago when he drove into the semifinals at the ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.

"We just got outrun at Pomona. We were good in qualifying and we ran good first round, but Cappsie (points leader Ron Capps) just ran better. At Phoenix, we had that fuel leak at the starting line and smoked the tires. It's early (in the season), but you don't want to lose too many chances."

Force, whose 2002 Houston victory was the 100th of his career, is vying with teammate Mike Neff to become the first driver in 40 years to win a NHRA tour event in a Ford-powered, Ford-bodied Funny Car. His Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and Neff's Ford Drive One Mustang both are powered by the BOSS 500 nitro motor developed in a collaborative effort by JFR and Ford.

Although the engine eventually will power all four of the JFR Mustangs, right now there is not enough inventory to support such an ambitious effort.

"After we got a second machine (a MAG Giddings and Lewis CNC), we were finally able to get blocks for me," Force said. "Now we can run blocks on one machine and (cylinder) heads on the other. That's really pumped up the production."

At Houston Raceway Park:

Although he has won seven times at HRP, six times in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals,

John hasn't celebrated in the winners' circle at Houston since 2002.

That 2002 Houston victory enabled John to become the first and only professional drag racer to win as many as 100 races.

Last Year:

-- After qualifying No. 9, John reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Del Worsham.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Robert Hight , Austin Coil , Mike Neff