Las Vegas II: John Force preview

FACED WITH REALITY, FORCE PLAYS NEW ROLE AT VEGAS 14-Time Champ Hoping to Take Out the Front Runners LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Although it is difficult for him to accept the fact that he is all but mathematically out of contention for the 2006 NHRA...

FACED WITH REALITY, FORCE PLAYS NEW ROLE AT VEGAS
14-Time Champ Hoping to Take Out the Front Runners

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Although it is difficult for him to accept the fact that he is all but mathematically out of contention for the 2006 NHRA Funny Car Championship, marking the first time in almost two decades that he will go back-to-back seasons WITHOUT a title, drag racing icon John Force hasn't given up on a championship for his four-car all-Ford, all-Castrol team.

"It's hard to accept that I don't have a chance to win this championship," said the 59-year-old who has come so far back after suffering career-threatening injuries in a 2007 crash. "I'm a very positive type of guy. I'm the kind of guy that looks at the stock market and believes it will come back.

"This is America (and) I believe (as a team) we're going to win this championship and I'm going to think that until the points on the board tell me (different)."

Nevertheless, when racing begins this week in the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Force will have to confront the reality of his own situation and the formidable odds confronted by teammates Robert Hight and Ashley Force, who presently are fifth and sixth in points.

For Force, the quest for an unprecedented 15th individual title officially ends when points leader Tim Wilkerson makes his first qualifying run, whether it's this week or at the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals two weeks hence.

Realistically, though, it ended before the Countdown even began when the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection failed to qualify for the inaugural NHRA Carolina Nationals at Charlotte, N.C., first race in the playoffs.

"You can't give teams this good that kind of a head start," Force said. "We fixed it (installing a new clutch system the week after Charlotte), but it was too late. Now, my job is to take out the guys ahead of Robert and Ashley and that's what we'll try to do."

The problem for Force is that he has not had much success at LVMS, where he has put his Castrol GTX0x00ae High Mileage0x2122 Ford Mustang in the winners' circle just once in 15 tries and where his record 395 race qualifying streak came to end in 2007.

For some, one win in 15 tries might be acceptable, for some even remarkable, but not for a driver who, over the course of his 31-year career has won 25 per cent of all the races in which he has participated (126 of 516).

The only time the 1996 Driver of the Year defied the odds was at this race in 2002 when, with then teammate Tony Pedregon threatening to take away his points lead, he ran the table beating Pedregon himself in a classic final, 4.820-4.869.

"I still believe in magic," Force said. "Robert or Ashley can still win this thing and that's how we're looking at it."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Robert Hight