Joliet: John Force preview

FORCE DEFENDS FUNNY CAR TITLE ON RECORD-SETTING RACETRACK Points Leader Seeks Fourth Straight Tour Victory JOLIET, Ill. -- The ability to win the close games, win the close matches or, in the case of John Force, win the close races, is what...

FORCE DEFENDS FUNNY CAR TITLE ON RECORD-SETTING RACETRACK
Points Leader Seeks Fourth Straight Tour Victory

JOLIET, Ill. -- The ability to win the close games, win the close matches or, in the case of John Force, win the close races, is what makes a champion a champion.

That never was more apparent than in the three NHRA POWERade Series events leading up to this week's eighth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Although Force drove his Castrol GTX® Start Up® Ford to victory at Atlanta, Ga., Columbus, Ohio and Topeka, Kan., winning three straight races for the 13th time in his career, he as easily could have lost seven of the 12 individual rounds contested during the streak.

After all, his biggest margin of victory in those seven key races was .050 of a second, the margin by which he beat teammate Eric Medlen two weeks ago at Topeka, Kan. The average margin of victory was only .021 of a second.

Moreover, in two of the three final rounds, he reached the finish line less than .01 of a second ahead of the runner-up, beating teammate Robert Hight by .002 of a second at Atlanta and veteran Gary Scelzi by .008 of a second at Columbus.

That's why, despite his perceived dominance, the 118-time tour winner insists that (1) this is the most competitive field of Funny Cars ever assembled, and (2) the race for the $400,000 POWERade championship is far from decided.

Of course, that doesn't alter the fact that the 56-year-old drag racing icon is the defending event champion and track record holder at Route 66, the track on which he was clocked at an NHRA national record-setting 4.665 seconds at 333.58 miles per hour last October and the track on which he has set the record three times in the last four seasons.

Nor does it change the fact that the 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection has averaged 4.797 seconds on his last 11 competitive runs.

"You expect big numbers every time (at Route 66)," Force said, "but, bottom line, I wouldn't mind if the track was a little hot and greasy. This car's good in the cold air, but it's also good in the heat."

The difference, according to co-crew chief Bernie Fedderly who, with Austin Coil, has directed Force to 11 of the last 12 series titles, is that a lot of cars can run really well in the cool air, but not many can handle the heat.

     "We know that if the weather is cool and cloudy and the track's in good shape, it's
going to be a 'stand back' deal," Fedderly said.  "Now, there are a lot of cars that run
good in that kind of situation.  If it's a little more hot and greasy, well, we've been racing
pretty well in those conditions.  I certainly don't think it hurts us.

"Our numbers may be off (in the heat), but our ability to be competitive with the other racers, I think, is good."

Indeed, while Force has put up big numbers at Route 66, he has come away with just two wins in 11 appearances. That means that while he has won 27.6 per cent of ALL the races in which he has participated in a 30-year career, he's won "just" 18.1 per cent of the time at Route 66.

Winner of three or more tour events for 15 straight NHRA seasons, Force's first priority at Route 66 will be getting his Castrol Ford into the 16-car field, something he hasn't failed to do since Oct. 31, 1987 when he missed the starting lineup at the season-ending World Finals at Pomona, Calif.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Austin Coil