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MEMORIES OF 1992 KEEP FORCE'S CONCENTRATION ON CHAMPIONSHIP PURSUIT CLERMONT, Ind. - As John Force prepares for drag racing's premier event, things couldn't be better. He's won eight races behind the wheel of the national record holding ...

MEMORIES OF 1992 KEEP FORCE'S CONCENTRATION ON CHAMPIONSHIP PURSUIT CLERMONT, Ind. - As John Force prepares for drag racing's premier event, things couldn't be better. He's won eight races behind the wheel of the national record holding Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and enjoys a very large lead in the Winston point standings. He's on cruise control, right? Wrong. If he could only get rid of those memories. Force enjoyed a similar advantage in 1992. During that year he watched in horror as his big lead faded into drag racing's Bermuda Triangle and rookie Cruz Pedregon set out on a winning streak that ended with an NHRA Winston championship trophy. Oh, does Force remember that dreadful season. It's the only blemish on his incredible record during his 'Decade of Dominance', as he's earned NHRA Funny Car championships during every other season in the 1990s. It's that memory that keeps him truckin' in 1999, seeking his ninth title. A three-time winner at Indy, Force vows to never let his success get in the way again. He's more determined than ever to keep his focus at the 45th annual U.S. Nationals, Sept. 1-6 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The $2.6 million race is the 16th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Although Force's biggest threat to the championship is his teammate, second place driver Tony Pedregon, he remains on guard. "I always think it's going to change," said Force, winner of 78 national events. "I've never forgot the '92 season when Cruz beat me for the championship. He got on a roll and just went right past us. We had a big lead then, but it didn't matter. Cruz just kept winning races and we had problems. Next thing you know, he's celebrating and I'm trying to figure out what happened. Since then, no matter how big of a lead I have, I'm always looking over my shoulder. This sport is crazy that way. Just when you least expect it, something weird happens. You can never have total control." Force, who was pressed to the wire last season by Ron Capps, says the competition is coming around. Whit Bazemore, armed with a new Chevrolet Camaro body for his Kendall Oil sponsored ride, has been to the last four finals, and posted a victory at Sonoma, Calif. "The competition can all run good numbers," Force said. "They're getting better. Bazemore is coming on. There's some kids out there like (Del) Worsham who are starting to find the confidence that they can win races. My teammate, Tony Pedregon, has won some races this season. There's plenty of competition out there. My job is to stay ahead of it. Fortunately that's what we've been able to do this season."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force