Indy ORP: John Force preview

WHICH FORCE FORD WILL RACE AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS? 14-Time Series Champ Tries to Put DNQs Behind Him INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As John Force prepares this week for his 30th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, his first in a quarter century without...

WHICH FORCE FORD WILL RACE AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS?
14-Time Series Champ Tries to Put DNQs Behind Him

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As John Force prepares this week for his 30th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, his first in a quarter century without Austin Coil as his crew chief, he must wonder which of his Castrol GTX® High Mileage^Ù Ford Mustangs will show up? Dr. Jekyll? Or Mr. Hyde?

When racing begins Friday at O'Reilly Raceway Park, will Force find himself in the Funny Car that's won the world's oldest, richest and most prestigious drag race four times? Or the one that's been eliminated in the first round on seven occasions?

     Will it be the Castrol Ford that has started from the front at ORP more often than any
other (11 times)?  Or the one that hasn't made the starting lineup the last two years?

Will it be the track record-holder for quarter mile time at 4.691 seconds? Or the Ford that hasn't won a round on Labor Day since 2004.

One thing is certain, no matter what car he finds beneath him, Force is determined this year to re-assert himself.

     "We haven't qualified in two years and that's embarrassing," he said, "but we've
fixed the problems.  We haven't won this year, but this is a better car.  It's more
consistent but it hasn't been consistent enough to win, yet.  There's still time."

If Force breaks out of his slump this week and wins a race for the first time in more than a year he'll do so without Coil, with whom he has won 126 races, 14 series championships at 999 racing rounds over the last 25 seasons.

In an effort to build a fire under a team that this year has underperformed, at least by its own standards, Force opted to temporarily swap seats with son-in-law Robert "Top Gun" Hight, who is battling this week for his playoff life.

The upshot is that Hight is driving an Auto Club Ford prepared this week by Coil and Bernie Fedderly while Force is in a Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang tuned by Jimmy Prock.

It's in the Prock car that the Hall of Famer went to the semifinals two weeks ago at Reading, Pa., thereby securing a berth in the playoffs for the third straight year.

     "I hate not being with (Coil and Fedderly) because we have done this for so long
together," Force said, "but they're who I'll finish my career with.  This is just for right
now.  When the Countdown starts, I'll be back with Austin and Bernie.

"The deal was to get Robert in a more consistent Mustang to help him move up in the points," said the 60-year-old drag racing icon. "It was based on putting an older guy like me with a younger kid (Prock) and putting a younger kid like Robert with older guys like Bernie and Austin -- just to shake things up."

As for Prock, who has struggled mightily this season while dealing with new components and concepts, Force believes he's on the verge of regaining his position as one of the most successful crew chiefs in the sport, one who has saddled the Indy Funny Car winner three times in the last five years.

     "He's been a little lost, but he's close," said the 14-time Auto Racing All-America
selection.  "All he needs is to get his confidence back."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Austin Coil