Charlotte II: John Force preview

Originally-From: Denswood@aol.com force leads funny car rivals back to zmax CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On a track on which he made history last March, John Force this week resumes his unlikely bid for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car ...

Originally-From: Denswood@aol.com

force leads funny car rivals back to zmax

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On a track on which he made history last March, John Force this week resumes his unlikely bid for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship in the third annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Nationals, an event in which he has yet to win a single round of racing.

The 130-time tour winner brings his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang back to Bruton Smith's zMax Dragway for the first time in six months; the first time since beating his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, to win the controversial and inaugural 4Wide Nationals, the first NHRA national event ever contested in a four-across format.

At 61, an age at which the majority of his contemporaries are driving nothing more challenging than a golf cart, Force is poised to claim an unprecedented 15th championship in a category that arguably is the most competitive in the sport, one that features 8,000 horsepower race cars capable of zero-to-100 mile-an-hour acceleration in less than one second.

The sport's all-time leader in race victories, series championships, final rounds (210) and round wins (1,071), Force rolls onto the main stage at zMax with a three-round lead over his three closest rivals in the Countdown to 1 playoffs - Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan and Force Hood who, two weeks ago, repeated as Funny Car champion at the world's biggest drag race, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

If Force can hold on through this and four more Countdown races, the next one at the Texas Motorplex track on which he crashed heavily in 2007, he not only would become the oldest champion ever crowned in a major racing series, he would become the first drag racer to win titles in three different decades.

A 2008 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Detroit, Force earned his first Funny Car title in 1990; his last in 2006. Now, after the crash that almost ended his career and two frustrating seasons during which he battled both physical and mechanical limitations, the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection is back on top of his game and atop the point standings.

Although he won at Topeka, Kan., in 2008, less than eight months after suffering injuries to his arms, legs, hands and feet, he failed to reach a single final round last year while finishing ninth in points. It was the first time he hadn't gone to the money round since 1985 - a span of 24 seasons.

However, after revamping his crew, adding Mike Neff to the crew chief mix, switching to a chassis developed in-house at John Force Racing East in Brownsburg, Ind., and working himself back into fighting shape through daily gym workouts, Force has been driving like a man possessed.

In fact, on the season, he has posted the quickest reaction time in 80 per cent of the two-car heats in which he has been involved, easily the best mark among Funny Car drivers and one of the best in the sport overall.

As a result, in a season in which he is celebrating 25 years of Castrol sponsorship, Force has gone to more final rounds than any other Funny Car driver (eight), shares the category lead in victories with reigning series champion Robert "Top Gun" Hight, has started from No. 1 on three occasions (his first No. 1 starts since 2006) and has posted the quickest time of the season (1,000 feet, from a standing start in 4.021 seconds).

"It's a struggle every day to race against all these kids," Force said. "Ashley, Robert, (Matt) Hagan, (Bob) Tasca, (Tim) Wilkerson, Del Worsham, (Ron) Capps, Tony (Pedregon), all of 'em. I'm just happy to be able to compete again - but I really do want this championship. I'm 61 and don't know how many more chances I'm gonna have."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Matt Hagan , Mike Neff