John Force takes 13th championship

Force Claims Record 13th N.H.R.A. Championship LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Ignoring superstition, John Force locked up NHRA Funny Car Championship No. 13 Saturday by driving his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to the No. 7 qualifying position in...

Force Claims Record 13th N.H.R.A. Championship

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Ignoring superstition, John Force locked up NHRA Funny Car Championship No. 13 Saturday by driving his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to the No. 7 qualifying position in advance of Sunday's fourth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The man who has made a career out of confounding conventional racing wisdom, debunking the auto racing myths that the color green and the presence of peanuts bring bad luck, closed out his last rival, Del Worsham, simply by qualifying for the season's next-to-last-race.

As is his routine, Force ate a spoonful of peanut butter Saturday just before donning a white-and-green firesuit, climbing into the cockpit of his 7,000 horsepower, sage green Ford Mustang and stopping the quarter mile timers in 4.777 seconds at 319.75 mph.

That performance enabled him to extend to 345 the number of consecutive NHRA tour events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. The last time he failed to make a starting lineup was 17 years ago Halloween night, 1987, when he was only 24th quickest for the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif.

There was no chance he wouldn't qualify this Halloween however, and, after mid-season, there was little doubt that he would win this championship.

Nevertheless, while most of his rivals had conceded the championship even before Force lowered the NHRA Funny Car record to its present 4.665 seconds during a spectacular Oct. 3 performance at Joliet, Ill., the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection's well-known paranoia didn't allow him an anxiety-free moment until the 16-car lineup was set early in the final Saturday session.

He needn't have worried.

Knowing that he needed only to qualify at Las Vegas to reclaim the title he lost last season to teammate Tony Pedregon, Force put up numbers during his first two qualifying attempts on Friday that were good enough to make the field -- 4.868 seconds on his first try and 4.786 on his second.

Force's unwillingness to even discuss the championship until every mathematical loophole had been closed, was born, in large part, with a nightmarish 1992 campaign in which his late season collapse enabled Cruz Pedregon to catch and pass him for the title by winning five straight races.

"I always remember that," Force said, "and I want the team to remember, too. I told them I never think it's over until I get the check (at the season-ending banquet)."

Force, whose third place finish last year led to speculation that his remarkable career was in decline, rebounded this season in spectacular fashion.

Although he started slowly and was only eighth in the driver standings after the season's first two events, the 113-time tour winner began to turn things around when he won at Bristol, Tenn., on the only track in the series on which he previously had been shut out.

He won again in the spring race in Joliet, Ill., and finally moved into the points lead by reaching the final round in back-to-back races at Englishtown, N.J., and Madison, Ill.

Nevertheless, it wasn't until the NHRA opted to reduce the percentage of nitromethane in the fuel mix that the 1996 Driver of the Year really began to assert himself.

In the eight races contested since that rule first was enforced, the veteran went to five finals, won twice and, on Oct. 2, became the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.70 second barrier when he was clocked in 4.697 second en route to No. 1.

John Force's Drive To His 13th NHRA Series Championship <pre> Date Site Points Leader Force's Status** June 13 Columbus, Ohio Whit Bazemore Third, -83 June 20 Englishtown, N.J. Del Worsham Third, -42 June 27 Madison, Ill. John Force +3 July 18 Denver, Colo. John Force +27 July 25 *Seattle, Wash. John Force +93 Aug. 1 Sonoma, Calif. John Force +146 Aug. 15 Brainerd, Minn. John Force +164 Aug. 22 *Memphis, Tenn. John Force +220 Sept. 6 Indianapolis, Ind. John Force +206 Sept. 26 Dallas, Texas John Force +228 Oct. 3 Joliet, Ill. John Force +237 Oct. 10 Reading, Pa. John Force +260 Oct. 31 Las Vegas, Nev. John Force Clinched

*Events won by John Force **Based on point standings at the conclusion of each event. {TX_ John Force's 13 NHRA Championships (And How He Clinched Them)

1990 -- Clinched by qualifying No. 2 at the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif., closing out Ed McCulloch without having to win a round although McCulloch went on to win the race.

1991 -- Clinched by qualifying No. 6 at the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif., closed out Jim White without having to win a round.

1993 -- Clinched by beating Freddie Neely in the semifinals of the Keystone Nationals at Reading, Pa., while closest pursuer Chuck Etchells was losing in the same round to Al Hofmann.

1994 -- Clinched by qualifying No. 1 for the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, closing out Al Hofmann without having to win a round.

1995 -- Clinched by beating Al Hofmann in the semifinals of the Chief Nationals at Ennis, Texas thereby closing out Chuck Etchells even though Etchells beat him in the final round.

1996 -- Clinched by beating Cruz Pedregon in the semifinals of the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

1997 -- Clinched when Whit Bazemore lost in the first round of the Revell Nationals at Ennis, Texas

1998 -- Clinched by beating Dean Skuza in the first round of the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif., ending Ron Capps' last gasp bid.

1999 -- Clinched ninth championship by beating Scotty Cannon in the second round of the O'Reilly Nationals at Ennis, Texas, while Castrol teammate Tony Pedregon was losing in the same round to Whit Bazemore.

2000 -- Clinched No. 10 when Bob Gilbertson beat Ron Capps in the second round of the Matco Tools SuperNationals at Houston, Texas.

2001 -- Clinched When Whit Bazemore was beaten by Del Worsham in the second round of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas.

2002 -- Clinched by beating teammate Tony Pedregon in the semifinals of the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif.

2004 -- Clinched by qualifying the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford No. 7 for the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, closing out Del Worsham.

-johnforceracing-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon