FORCE DRIVES SCHIZOPHRENIC FORD IN PURSUIT OF SUPERNATIONALS TITLE Points Leader Tries to Rally from Latest First Round Loss ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- It's been a feast-or-famine season for NHRA POWERade points leader John Force, the 118-time...
FORCE DRIVES SCHIZOPHRENIC FORD
IN PURSUIT OF SUPERNATIONALS TITLE
Points Leader Tries to Rally from Latest First Round Loss
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- It's been a feast-or-famine season for NHRA POWERade points leader John Force, the 118-time NHRA tour winner who rolls into Old Bridge Township Raceway Park this week not really knowing what to expect from his national record-holding Castrol GTX® Start Up® Ford Mustang.
On its best day, Force's 8,000 horsepower Mustang covered the standard drag racing quarter mile in 4.665 seconds at a finish line speed of 333.58 miles per hour, thus becoming the first full-bodied race car to break the 4.70 second barrier.
When that awe-inspiring version of the Castrol Ford shows up, the 13-time series champion usually wins, as he already has this season at Phoenix, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio, and Topeka, Kan.
However, this particular Mustang apparently has a dark side, one that teases and then disappoints -- and that is what has made this week's 36th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals so unpredictable.
The fact is, the car in which Force won three consecutive races just a month ago is the same one in which he has lost four times in the first round, most recently at last week's CARQUEST Nationals in Joliet, Ill.
On each occasion, after qualifying well (No. 2 on three occasions and No. 4 on the other), Force was victimized by a cylinder that failed to fire or one that stopped functioning, a serious problem when a single cylinder represents as much horsepower as that developed by NASCAR Nextel Cup car.
Not only does a "dropped cylinder" dramatically decrease horsepower, it also creates a handling problem, driving the car to the right or the left, whichever side has the fewest operating cylinders.
To Force's dismay, that problem is compounded in the heat and humidity expected this week at Raceway Park.
"Everybody fights it," Force said of the "dropped cylinder" phenomenon, "but that's why I've got Coil and Bernie (co-crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly). I trust them to tune up the ol' heap and they still trust me to drive it."
In fact, Coil has been with Force for every win and every championship. Fedderly, who came on board midway through the 1992 season, has been party to 11 championships and 98 victories.
Which is why, despite his first round problems, Force still leads veteran Gary Scelzi by 64 points, the equivalent of three racing rounds in an emerging rivalry between two of the sport's biggest winners and most entertaining personalities.
Before he began driving one of the Don Schumacher Racing Dodges, Scelzi was a three-time NHRA Champion in the Top Fuel division and that's the reason Force identified him, early on, as a legtimate threat to his reign.
"He knows how to win championships," Force said of Scelzi, "and he knows how to motivate people. Put him together with Schumacher's money and with that young crew chief (Mike Neff) and you've got something."
Good friends off the track, the two are seriously competitive on it. In fact, among drivers who have raced Force more than 10 times, Scelzi is one of just three with a winning record against the 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection (9-8).
* * * *
Did You Know? John can extend to 357 the number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. That record-breaking streak began with the first race of the 1988 season. The second longest active streak is 125 races by Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Angelle Sampey. The second longest active Funny Car streak is 97 races by Tony Pedregon, who won the 2003 POWERade championship for JFR in the Castrol SYNTEC Ford....John has opposed 114 different drivers in his NHRA career and has a losing record against only 12....John will be joined this Father's Day weekend by his 22-year-old daughter, Ashley, who will drive the Castro/Hot Wheels dragster in pursuit of the Top Alcohol Dragster championship....John has won at least one NHRA tour event for 19 consecutive seasons and three or more for 15 straight years.