CLERMONT, Ind. -- In the last 10 years of Winston Series competition, John Force has beaten Del Worsham 23 times in 27 meetings. He's lost to the driver he calls "The Kid" only once in their last 18 duels. Nevertheless, when the two...
CLERMONT, Ind. -- In the last 10 years of Winston Series competition, John Force has beaten Del Worsham 23 times in 27 meetings. He's lost to the driver he calls "The Kid" only once in their last 18 duels.
Nevertheless, when the two square off in the first round of Sunday's 19th annual Big Bud Shootout at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a companion event to Monday's 46th annual U.S. Nationals, Force knows his Castrol GTXÂ® Ford Mustang won't have an easy time against Worsham's Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac.
In fact, Worsham beat Force in the first round of last year's Shootout, sending the nine-time Winston Champion to his worst ever performance at IRP where, one day later, he was beaten by eventual winner Frank Pedregon in the opening round of drag racing's most important single event.
One might logically think that Force would benefit emotionally this year from his desire to avenge that loss.
However, while Force vividly recalls last year's Big Bud, Worsham is driven by more current memories, notably his loss to the 51-year-old champion in the semifinals of the Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn.
Although Worsham was the quicker qualifier and had the quickest car in each of the first two rounds (4.932 seconds in the first and 4.934 in the second), Force used a .030 starting line advantage to make his 4.953 the winner over Worsham's quicker 4.939.
That "hole shot" victory paved the way for Force's ninth win in 13 years at Brainerd, his eighth victory of the current campaign.
"His hot rod had been outrunning us all day," Force said. "(Crew Chief Austin) Coil told me, "I need a little bit of help.' I said, "well, my light ain't been exactly killer.' The kid's young, he's got a lot of energy. He don't have to eat cupcakes and drink coffee to get his energy up like I do.
"This time, l just happened to get him. There's a good side to that and a bad side. The good side is that we won. The bad side is that he's going to be real hacked off and armed up for the first round. Bottom line, his ol' race car's been running great and we're going to have to be on our game to handle him."
Of course, Force has been on his game for the last three events, beating Frank Pedregon, Castrol teammate Tony Pedregon and Jim Epler in successive final rounds.
Moreover, Force has more experience in the Big Bud Shootout than any of the other seven qualifiers. He has appeared in 16 of the 18 previous events, gone to the finals eight times and won on four occasions (1987, 1990, 1993 and 1996).
In addition, he twice has claimed NHRA's "Double-up Bonus" by winning the Big Bud Shootout and the U.S. Nationals on the same weekend (1993 and 1996). No one in any pro category ever has won the bonus three times.
Already the most prolific winner in NHRA history (89), Force would love to add that distinction to an ever expanding performance resume.
<pre> John Force at the Big Bud Shootout...
1983 Beat Ken Veney; lost to Al Segrini 1985 Lost to Kenny Bernstein 1986 Beat Tom McEwen, Billy Meyer; Lost to Mark Oswald 1987 Beat Don Prudhomme, Billy Meyer and Mark Oswald 1988 Lost to Ed McCulloch 1989 Beat Kenny Bernstein, Mark Oswald; Lost to Don Prudhomme 1990 Beat K.C. Spurlock, Ed McCulloch and Bruce Larson 1991 Beat Al Hofmann, Richard Hartman; Lost to Jim White 1992 Beat Whit Bazemore, Cruz Pedregon; Lost to Al Hofmann 1993 Beat Whit Bazemore, Tom Hoover and Cruz Pedregon 1994 Lost to Kenji Okazaki 1995 Beat Jim Epler; lost to Cruz Pedregon 1996 Beat Gary Bolger, Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon 1997 Beat Del Worsham; lost to Kenji Okazaki 1998 Beat Al Hofmann; lost to Cruz Pedregon 1999 Lost to Del Worsham
DID YOU KNOW: Austin Coil, co-Crew Chief on John Force's Castrol GTX Ford, won the inaugural Big Bud Shootout in 1982 with then driver Frank Hawley at the wheel of the Chi-Town Hustler ....Coil owns the distinction of having had a car in all 19 Big Bud Shootouts....John has opposed 21 different opponents in his 16 previous appearances in the Big Bud Shootout....John has been the No. 1 qualifier for 10 of the last 11 Big Bud Shootouts. The only year he didn't come into the event as the No. 1 seed was 1991 when he was second behind Jim White....John hasn't won the Big Bud since switching to Fords in 1997.