Bristol: John Force preview

Force seeks first win of year; first win at Bristol Dragway. 12-time series champion looking for improved performance. BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 25-27) -- A fully-supercharged John Force rolls into Bristol Dragway this week hoping to jumpstart his...

Force seeks first win of year; first win at Bristol Dragway.
12-time series champion looking for improved performance.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 25-27) -- A fully-supercharged John Force rolls into Bristol Dragway this week hoping to jumpstart his 2003 championship bid on the only racetrack in the series on which he hasn't won at least one NHRA POWERade event.

Force hopes to bring an end to an uncharacteristic early-season slump when he sends his Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang after the Funny Car championship in this week's third annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals.

The fact that the veteran is so upbeat going into a race in which he has had little previous success he was a semifinalist in 2001 before being upset in the first round a year ago has much to do with the fact that while he has struggled, teammates Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham have dominated.

In fact, his "team cars" roll into Thunder Valley 1-2 in POWERade points.

He is further encouraged by the fact that All-Star Crew Chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly now have rebuilt their inventory of "good blowers" (superchargers).

The supercharger, a key element in the on-demand delivery of almost 7,000 horsepower, has been the most recent of Force's 2003 problems. Mismatched rotors resulted in three blower explosions in four runs between Las Vegas and Houston, one reason, but certainly not the only one, that the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection returns to Tennessee having won just two rounds in five races this season. He is ninth in points, 257 back of Pedregon.

Still, the 53-year-old California has somehow remained optimistic.

One reason is that while his car's performance has been suspect, his driving has been outstanding. He has been the first to react to the starting signal in six of seven races (best record in the category) and his average reaction time of .049 is among the best in either of the fuel divisions.

Finally, he's juiced because, while he hasn't won the Thunder Valley Nationals, he has won at Bristol, coaxing a "Superman" version of the Castrol GTX Mustang to victory in the inaugural Winston Showdown in 1999, a race in which the Funny Cars ran against the Top Fuel dragsters in an All-Star format.

Force beat five Top Fuel cars including those of Doug Kalitta and Cory McClenathan en route to a $210,000 payday, the biggest of his drag racing career.

"That was a big day," Force recalled, "mainly because it was Funny Cars against dragsters. For one race, all the Funny Car guys were pulling together."

Nevertheless, Force, as much as anyone, understands that drag racing is a "what have you done for me lately" sport.

And lately, "we haven't done much," he said.  "It hasn't been one thing.  It hasn't
just been the blowers.  A (spark) plug fizzed on the burnout at Vegas.  We've dropped
cylinders.  Everybody goes through it.

"But we'll be back and when we are, I'm not talking to any of these guys who already have us dead and buried. What else are Coil and I gonna do? Racing is all we do and we've never raced to lose."

Force, winner of 10 consecutive NHRA Funny Car titles, has had longer streaks in which he hasn't reached the finals (five races), but it's been 14 years since he has been in-and-out of the Top 10 as often as he has been this season.

-www.johnforceracing.com

-jfr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Doug Kalitta , Gary Densham , Austin Coil