IN 500TH RACE, FORCE GOES FOR ROUND WIN NO. 1,000 14-Time Funny Car Champ Four Rounds Shy of Milestone ATLANTA, Ga. -- It's easy to do the math, but the math is mind-boggling. This week, when John Force rolls his Castrol GTX High Mileage...
IN 500TH RACE, FORCE GOES
FOR ROUND WIN NO. 1,000
14-Time Funny Car Champ Four Rounds Shy of Milestone
ATLANTA, Ga. -- It's easy to do the math, but the math is mind-boggling.
This week, when John Force rolls his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang onto the newly-resurfaced quarter mile track at Atlanta Dragway, he will be appearing in his 500th NHRA national event, thereby joining Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson in a very exclusive fraternity.
There's no doubt that 500 races is a milestone. However, if on Sunday Force should wind up in the winners' circle, as he has seven times previously at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals, he would become the first professional drag racer to win 1,000 racing rounds.
Five hundred races; 1,000 winning rounds. It doesn't take an Einstein to compute the average: two rounds won at EVERY race the 58-year-old icon has entered including those for which he didn't even qualify. To put it another way, Force, on average, has gone to the semifinals in EVERY event in which he has competed since making his debut in 1978.
His 395 consecutive starts, a streak that spanned 20 seasons before it ended last year at Las Vegas, Nev., may never be eclipsed. His record 125 tour victories and 14 championships, 10 of them in succession, may never be challenged. But 1,000 round wins likely will provide the ultimate exclamation point to Force's spectacular and very unlikely career.
Consider the heir-apparent in the Funny Car division, 2005 Rookie-of-the-Year Robert Hight who, at the wheel of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club Ford Mustang, this year reached 100 round wins more quickly than anyone else in the history of the Funny Car division, including Force.
That said, Hight would have to win an average of two rounds per race for the next 19 years just to break the record. No one other than Force ever has come close to averaging two round wins per event.
Last year, for instance, champion Tony Pedregon won 33 rounds. Hight, runner-up for the second straight year, won 34 For his part, Force has won 50 rounds or more eight times and in 1996, en route to celebrating in 13 winners' circles and earning Driver of the Year honors, he won a Funny Car record 65 two-car races.
For him, the quest for 1,000 is not a priority.
"If it happens, it happens when it happens," said the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection. "What's more important right now is getting back to winning races for Castrol and Ford. That's our focus.
"I've struggled and the car has struggled, but I think we learned some things in testing (after failing to qualify two weeks ago at Las Vegas) that'll help us. (Crew Chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) are as frustrated as me, but we're gonna fix it. We've been dropping cylinders (causing the engine to misfire), but we're smart enough to figure it out and we will."
Force comes into Atlanta in eighth place in the POWERade standings behind both his daughter, Ashley, the only woman ever to sit atop the Funny Car driving standings, and Hight, the former trapshooting champion who is married to Force's oldest daughter, Adria, and is the only Funny Car driver to have led the points each of the last four years.
Nevertheless, Force already has won four more rounds this season than he had at this time a year ago and he's driving well. His car, 100 pounds heavier because of the new safety mandates, just hasn't caught up but believe that it will. His teammates say they'd bet on it; his rivals probably would, too.