Columbus Funny Car Preview

FORCE USING THE FORCE TO DOMINATE NHRA FUNNY CAR WARS KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Perhaps it's only a coincidence that George Lucas decided to release his megahit movie 'STAR WARS I: The Phantom Menace' during the same summer that the NHRA ...

FORCE USING THE FORCE TO DOMINATE NHRA FUNNY CAR WARS KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Perhaps it's only a coincidence that George Lucas decided to release his megahit movie 'STAR WARS I: The Phantom Menace' during the same summer that the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series is featuring a similar blockbuster -- 'UNTOUCHABLES IX: The Funny Car Dominator.' The two fast-paced action thrillers center their respective themes around the Force. In Lucas' movie the characters are hoping to draw energy from the Force, trusting it will guide their destiny. In NHRA competition, Funny Car competitors are trying their best to defeat the great powers of the Force. John Force that is. If the Hollywood and NHRA worlds could somehow merge, Funny Car drivers like Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps and Al Hofmann sure could use a lightsaber to aid in their quest. The way Force has been running, the competition sure needs something to regain an advantage. Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., has been impressive in winning six of seven finals behind the wheel of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. So far the only driver to even put a dent in his progress has been Tim Wilkerson, who recently beat Force in a final round match at the Route 66 Raceway. Force, 50, will make a charge at a seventh victory at the 35th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 10-13, at historic National Trail Raceway, just minutes east of Columbus, Ohio. The $1.6 million race is the 10th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Force, an eight-time Winston Funny Car champion, is having his finest season since 1996, when he won 13 races, the Winston championship and was named Driver of the Year by a nationwide panel of motorsports journalists. In fact, this season is beginning to shape up as the best of his career. "We've got two great teams, we've got money and Tony (Pedregon, teammate) and I both know how to drive a hot rod," said Force, who has been a competitor in NHRA's Funny Car category since 1978. "We've been fortunate to be able to come out here and keep knocking 'em away and winning some races. I think the competition is coming around. (Tim) Wilkerson did a good job at Chicago. Our success has made them start focusing more and they're beginning to run better. It's getting a lot tougher out there. We've just been on our game and a little lucky so far." He says he can't help it if his competitors are getting frustrated by his knack for going to final rounds and winning races. "One year when (Don) Prudhomme won just about every national event he told me that none of your competitors like you when you're winning races," Force said. "It isn't because they don't respect you -- it's because they don't like to keep on losing to you. I'm going to keep winning as long as I can." He hopes that's a very long time. Financially he feels like he's in great position. "When I get paid I don't go out and buy a new boat, I go buy new pistons, heads and other stuff for my hot rod," Force said. "Go over and take a look at my pit area, it's a junkyard over there." * New Competition: John Force will have a new competitor to challenge when Tommy Johnson Jr. makes his debut in the cockpit of Joe Gibbs' Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird. "I'm excited to get started and begin a new career," said Johnson, 31, who last drove a Top Fuel dragster in NHRA competition. "To be associated with Joe Gibbs Racing is a dream and I feel honored to have been selected. This is the kind of ride I've been patiently waiting for."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tommy Johnson Jr.
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing