Las Vegas: John Force preview

Force defies odds in return to LVMS; Funny Car Icon Tries to Change Luck in Vegas LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- It's taken almost a decade, but John Force, drag racing's version of Superman, finally has convinced Las Vegas oddsmakers that The Strip at...

Force defies odds in return to LVMS; Funny Car Icon Tries to Change Luck in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- It's taken almost a decade, but John Force, drag racing's version of Superman, finally has convinced Las Vegas oddsmakers that The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is his kryptonite.

For eight years, Force was the betting favorite every time he showed up at LVMS in one of the Castrol GTX0x00ae Funny Cars in which he has dominated the NHRA pro tour since the 1980s. He delivered just one victory overall and none in the SummitRacing.com Nationals contested this week for the 10th time.

Not only has he been shut out of the winners' circle at the spring race, the last two years he's been shut out of the starting lineup. As a result, the 59-year-old's expectations this week are modest, especially by his standards.

"I just want to race on Sunday," said the 14-time champion. "You get where you take things for granted, but the last few years we've got a reality check. You can't win if you don't race. We didn't qualify for four races last year including Vegas. That was painful."

When Force didn't qualify for the 2007 Summit event, it ended a record streak of 395 consecutive starts in the NHRA pro series, one that began in 1988. When he again failed to make the show last year, it marked just the second time in his 31-year NHRA career that he's missed a race in back-to-back seasons.

His overall record at Las Vegas is 16-13, but in the spring he doesn't even have a winning record (6-7) and has NEVER gone to the finals. So, this week, the experts have installed Del Worsham as the favorite at 3-1. Force is listed at 12-1, his longest odds ever.

Now that the spotlight is focused on others, including daughter Ashley Force Hood, who is listed at 5-1 after winning last week at Houston, Texas, Force is hoping he can sneak back into contention for yet another championship.

Although he is only eighth in the current NHRA Full Throttle point standings, Force has said that the current edition of his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang is the best car he's had since the 2007 crash at Dallas that threatened to end his remarkable career.

"Everything's new with these cars since my crash and it's just taken us awhile to get everything right," Force said. "But Coil and Bernie (crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly) are the smartest guys out here. Working with the rest of the brain trust, they're getting it figured out. We've got a good hot rod. We just need to get consistent."

In addition to a completely redesigned and beefed-up chassis, the current edition of the Castrol Mustang is powered by the new BOSS 500 motor developed by JFR in collaboration with Ford engineers.

The new motor, which was first run in 2008 in the JFR Mustang prepared by John Medlen and driven by Mike Neff, has not yet been in the winners' circle although Force would like to add that distinction to an already remarkable resume. To accomplish that feat at LVMS, where he has so often struggles, would make it that much sweeter for the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Ashley Force , Austin Coil , John Medlen , Mike Neff