Memphis: John Force preview

BACK WHERE HEgSAW ELVIS' FORCE READY TO WIN AGAIN 14-Time Champ Trying to Make Move in Countdown MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Fully 16 years after he "saw Elvis at 1,000 feet" while careening backward down the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter mile at ...

BACK WHERE HEgSAW ELVIS' FORCE READY TO WIN AGAIN
14-Time Champ Trying to Make Move in Countdown

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Fully 16 years after he "saw Elvis at 1,000 feet" while careening backward down the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter mile at 200-plus miles per hour, John Force thinks that maybe "The King" was trying to tell him something.

At 59, drag racing's biggest winner has had an epiphany. Entering this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, third race in the NHRA's Countdown to 1, Force still wants to win but he wants to do so safely.

A year after suffering near fatal injuries in a devastating crash in Dallas, Texas, the working man's champion is back this week at a track on which he won most recently in 2004 and 2006.

He returns at the wheel of a Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang that may finally have turned the competitive corner in what has been an often frustrating season.

After consecutive DNQs at Indianapolis, Ind., and Charlotte, N.C., Force qualified solidly in a triumphant return last week to the scene of his 2007 crash and then won two rounds to move from dead last in the Countdown standings to eighth.

He hopes to continue to move up this week in his bid for an unprecedented 15th series title -- all of them since 1989.

"I like Memphis," Force said. "I've always been a big Elvis fan and one of my cars is over at his museum. I always go by to make sure it's still there.

"It's good to have a fast hot rod again," Force said. "It was a little embarrassing. We went to Charlotte and Bruton Smith named this big ol' grandstand for me and all I could do on race day was go up there and sit.

"We've been making lots of power," said the 126-time tour winner, "but we couldn't get it to the ground. But, after Charlotte, Jimmy Prock (crew chief on the world's quickest Funny Car, Robert Hight's Auto Club Mustang) got with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly and made some changes and you could tell a difference right away."

Despite the improvement, Force still has a long way to go.

He'll start this week 152 points behind Tim Wilkerson, to whom he lost in last week's semifinals.

"We need some magic," Force said. "We need to win a couple of these races but it's hard to do. You look at the competition with Wilkerson and (Jack) Beckman and Tony (Pedregon) up there 1-2-3 followed by Robert and Cruz (Pedregon). This is the toughest bunch of Funny Cars I've ever seen. And that's the truth. I thought it was tough when (Don) Prudhomme and (Raymond) Beadle and (Kenny) Bernstein and the Ace' (Ed McCulloch, now the crew chief on Ron Capps' Dodge) were out here, but it's tougher now."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Robert Hight , Austin Coil