Charlotte: John Force preview

FORCE EYES REDEMPTION AT CAROLINA NATIONALS !14-Time Series Champ Seeks 1,000 Win with Coil CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On an all-concrete zMax Dragway track on which neither has yet won a single racing round, John Force and crew chief Austin Coil...

FORCE EYES REDEMPTION AT CAROLINA NATIONALS !14-Time Series Champ Seeks 1,000 Win with Coil

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On an all-concrete zMax Dragway track on which neither has yet won a single racing round, John Force and crew chief Austin Coil try this week to apply an exclamation point to their 25-year collaboration and, at the same time, take a first tentative step toward securing their 15th joint Funny Car Championship.

After taking a one-race medical leave, Coil returns to work at this week's second annual Carolina Nationals with an opportunity to earn his 1,000th round win with Force as his driver.

How good is that? Well, do the math. Divide 1,000 rounds by 25 years and what you get is 40 -- as in 40 rounds won every year for a full quarter of a century.

Unfortunately, it's a statistic that will mean nothing this week when Force and Coil begin their latest championship quest 80 points behind pacesetting Tony Pedregon in the Full Throttle standings that were adjusted following the Labor Day Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

"The only round that makes any difference," Coil has said, "is the last one. If you won the last won, then there's the chance you can win the next one and if you happen to be lucky enough to win four-in-a-row, well, you're back in the winners' circle."

Although the three principals responsible for the performance of the Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang are now sexagenarians, getting back in the winners' circle remains the goal every time Coil and co-crew chief Bernie Fedderly send Force to the starting line.

That said, it's been an awfully long time since the sport's biggest winners' have celebrated an NHRA tour victory. In fact, it's been 34 races since Force has even had a chance to win a race, the longest final round drought of his pro career.

Confronted with that futility and considering the fact that he didn't even qualify for last year's inaugural Carolina Nationals, few expect Force to be a factor either in Sunday's race or the Countdown.

It's a mind set from which the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection derives motivation.

"Coil can still tune a race car and I can still drive one," said the 126-time tour winner. "I didn't like the Countdown (when the NHRA created it in 2007) because we dominated all those years without it. But now, in a year where we've struggled, with the Countdown, we still have a chance.

"I haven't given up (on winning a race or two before season's end)," said the first drag racer ever to earn Driver of the Year honors (1996). "I still think we can. We finally have a consistent car. We keep going to the semifinals and if you keep going to the semifinals, eventually you're going to the finals.

"I think we've got as good a chance as anyone else," Force said. "Just look at what Cruz (Pedregon) did last year. He got hot in the Countdown, won a couple of races in a row (three) and got the ring.

"This year, there's 10 good cars in the Countdown and any one of them can win it. Our job is to make sure it's one of these Fords."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Austin Coil