Brainerd: John Force preview

Rivals keep wary eye on 12-time champ as Powerade Tour moves to Brainerd Castrol GTX Mileage Driver a 10-time winner at Minnesota track BRAINERD, Minn. (August 15-17) In a career in which he has established a new standard for motor...

Rivals keep wary eye on 12-time champ as Powerade Tour moves to Brainerd

Castrol GTX Mileage Driver a 10-time winner at Minnesota track

BRAINERD, Minn. (August 15-17) In a career in which he has established a new standard for motor racing success, nowhere has John Force been more dominant than at Brainerd International Raceway.

Ten times in the last 15 years, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection has driven a Castrol GTX Funny Car to victory in the BIR event that this season has been reborn as the Lucas Oil Nationals.

Nevertheless, it is an anything but a confident John Force who returns this week to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

That's because a new, longer concrete "launch pad" installed since last year's race is certain to change the performance "personality" of the track on which the 12-time series champion has won 52 rounds of racing and lost just seven.

Certainly, the extension of the concrete from 300 to 700 feet is a welcome improvement, one to which Force's Hall of Fame Crew Chiefs, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, should adapt with little difficulty. The operative word, of course, is "should."

That's because races aren't contested on paper. If they were, Force could just go ahead and cash the winner's check and collect the maximum 118 POWERade points.

However, in the real world, race cars seldom react on the track as one would expect them to on paper.

Whenever there is a change to one of the performance variables, the adjustments that must be made are so critical that even in a car as dominant as Force's Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang, the official NHRA national record holder for the quarter mile at 4.721 seconds, can stumble.

Nevertheless, even though Force is somewhat apprehensive about the changes to the BIR racing surface, he is otherwise enjoying a resurgence that once again has made him the talk of the NHRA tour.

"Everybody had me dead and buried," the former truck driver said of his untypical performance at the start the 2003 season. "But, bottom line, we made a lot of changes to our 'ol race car and then I made a lot of changes to how I'm driving it."

Nevertheless, after languishing in 12th place early in the season, the 12-time series champion has raced into third place with victories in two of the three races in the just completed Western Swing.

In just three weeks, he decreased the margin between himself and points leader Tony Pedregon, his Castrol teammate, from 403 points to 199 and thrust himself prominently back into contention for an 11th consecutive championship, unprecedented in ANY sport.

Still, despite the media attention, Force doesn't see himself as a legitimate title threat "unless Tony and (second place Whit) Bazemore go out in the first round the rest of the season and that's not going to happen."

In fact, he is so confident in his protege that he has opted to give him the first of the new generation Mustang body shells just out of the wind tunnel this week at Marietta, Ga.

DID YOU KNOW?

John is the only drag racer ever named Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing (1996) and is the only drag racer ever to be named a finalist for ESPN's "Best Driver" Espy (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)....

John is trying to extend to 316 the record number of consecutive NHRA national events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. The last time he failed to make a starting lineup was at the 1987 World Finals at Pomona, Callif. (Oct. 31, 1987)....

John's 20-year-old daughter, Ashley, is competing this week in the Super Comp class at the wheel of a Ford-powered Jojhn Force Racing dragster....

John's 17-year-old daughter, Brittany, recently earned her Super Comp license....all three JFR Funny Cars will go straight from Brainerd to Indianapolis for three days of testing in advance of the Aug. 29-Sept. 1 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park....

construction will begin next month on a new 40,000 square foot John Force Racing shop facility in Brownsburg, Ind., just down the road from IRP. The new shop will provide a midwest base of operations for the team which will continue to maintain a permanent home at facilities in Yorba Linda, Calif., which are concurrently being expanded....John has gone to the semifinals or beyond in his last 10 appearances at BIR....

with his July 20th victory at Denver, Colo., John extended to 17 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA national event. The record is 22 straight seasons by Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson, a Minnesota native.

-jfr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Austin Coil