Force Deals With Contradictions in Bid For First Victory of Season $200,000 Payday Belies Struggles at Bristol Dragway BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 30-May 2) -- John Force is a study in contradiction. The 54-year-old Californian suffers...
Force Deals With Contradictions in Bid For First Victory of Season
$200,000 Payday Belies Struggles at Bristol Dragway
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 30-May 2) -- John Force is a study in contradiction.
The 54-year-old Californian suffers from claustrophobia, yet has no problem standing amid throngs of pushing, shoving, demanding, yet adoring race fans, signing autographs until each and every one of them is satisfied.
While he feels like the walls are closing in when he's riding in an elevator, every week he allows himself to be strapped into a carbon fiber pod in which he hurtles down quarter mile racetracks at speeds exceeding 325 miles per hour.
Although he was a big loser in high school athletics (0-27 in three years as quarterback for Bell Gardens, Calif., High School), he has become the biggest winner in NHRA history with 109 tour victories and 12 series championships.
A former truck driver who started with little more than a dream and an IRS tax refund check, his life today is the dream of others.
Not only does he own the Castrol GTX High Mileage™ Ford Mustang Funny Car in which he will be trying to end a season-long victory drought at this week's fourth annual O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals, he also owns the Fords driven by veteran Gary Densham and rookie Eric Medlen.
He owns multi-million dollar shops in both Yorba Linda, Calif., and Brownsburg, Ind., as well as six 18-wheel transporters, the number required to ferry all the team's equipment from site-to-site along with the 40-odd road warriors who keep it running at a national record-setting (4.721 second) pace.
Totally focused when he's in his 7,000 horsepower hybrid race car, he often seems uncontrollable in interviews both before and after competition.
Delighted that his 21-year-old daughter Ashley is racing with him at many events this year, like any other doting father he also apprenhensive every time she straps into the 270 mile-an-hour Mattel Toy Store A/Fuel Dragster she is driving for car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
Nevertheless, Force's contradictory existence is nowhere more apparent than at Bristol Dragway, the only track in the NHRA POWERade Series on which he has yet to win a tour event but one on which he earned the biggest payday of his career.
Force's victory five years ago in the inaugural Winston Showdown, a special event created by former series sponsor R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., earned him a record $200,000 payday. However, since the NHRA decided to place a full-scale national event at the Tennessee track, Force hasn't advanced beyond the semifinals.
He plans to change all that this weekend.
"I love Bristol and we've always run good there," said the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection. "We just haven't had any luck and sometimes, no matter how fast you are, you need luck, too. What everybody forgets is that there are a lot of good race cars out there right now. We just need to focus and we'll be fine."
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