John Force Racing press release
Force drives for ‘real heroes’ in zMax return
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – John Force has a great affinity for first responders and members of the American military. For 20 years, his brother Walker was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy and he himself aspired to a career in law enforcement until, as he tells it, “I failed the ink blot test.”
It is because of his respect for those he calls “the real American heroes” that the 62-year-old drag racing icon is committed this week to racing a special edition version of his Castrol GTX® HIGH MILEAGE™ Ford Mustang – even if it places him at a significant weight disadvantage in the fourth annual O’Reilly Nationals at zMax Dragway.
In collaboration with Lionel/NASCAR Collectibles and the Stephen Siller “Tunnel to the Towers” Foundation, which builds housing for military quadruple amputees, Force will start the Countdown to 1 playoffs in a car that honors victims and survivors of the 9-11 attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon as well those who perished in the crash of American Airlines flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Reminded that he abandoned a special edition Mustang just two weeks ago because the extra paint and graphics may have upset the weight balance, Force said that would not happen this week.
“When I was here a week ago, I met firefighters and policemen that were in New York City on 9/11,” Force said. “I met one firefighter who was buried in the rubble and dug his way out. That was very emotional.
“I want everyone to know the Stephen Siller story,” Force said. “He was playing golf with his friends when he got the call about the terrorist attacks. He was too late to get with his team, but he ran seven miles through the tunnel with 70 pounds of equipment to join up with other firefighters at the twin towers, where he lost his life.
“Lionel/NASCAR Collectibles is donating money from the sale of the die cast (models of the Force-driven Mustang) to the Stephen Siller foundation and I’m honored to be able to run this Funny Car to support such a good cause,” Force said.
Despite performance problems at the MAC Tools U.S. Nationals that compelled them to swap a special black-and-yellow 15-time champion Mustang body for a conventional one significantly lighter in weight, crew chiefs Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Ron Douglas believe they will have a better handle of the weight issue this week and expect to field a Ford capable of winning the race.
Although he is 0-for-his career in the O’Reilly Nationals, Force has won five major races in North Carolina including last year’s inaugural 4-Wide Nationals, the only NHRA national event contested in the four-across format.
Prior to that historic triumph, Force won four times at Rockingham Dragway (1990, 1995, 1996, and 1997), the central Carolina track that for 10 years played host to the Winston Invitational All-Star race.
Drag racing’s biggest winner with 133 tour victories as well as 15 series titles, Force has struggled this season while trying to jump start a variety of promotional initiatives including the John Force Racing Traveling Road Show that will be one of the pitside attractions.
Because of Road Show commitments that took him to the Indianapolis 500, the Oshkosh air show and a number of NASCAR races where he preached the straight-line gospel, critics believe the 15-time Auto Racing All-America selection spread himself too thin, pointing to his on-track results as evidence.
Indeed, after winning six times in 2010 and coming from behind to win the championship on the last day of the season, Force has won just once this year (at Denver, Colo., when Matt Hagan was guilty of a final round foul start) and rolls into zMax with a losing record (14-15).
However, he rightfully has pointed out that as long as one makes the 10-driver Countdown, which he did, anything is possible.
“Robert showed us that you can win (the championship) from anywhere,” Force said, referencing teammate Robert Hight’s drive to the 2009 title after qualifying for the Countdown in the tenth and final position.
“We qualified No. 1 five times this year,” he said. “That’s more than anybody. So I now I’ve got a good hot rod and I feel good about our chances.”