John Force Racing press release
Force is the x-factor in championship battle
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – John Force could be the most dangerous driver in the field this week when the Full Throttle drag racing tour returns to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the11th running of the Big O Tires Nationals, the next-to-last race in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs.
The 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion owes that distinction NOT to the fact that he is the reigning series champion; NOT to his status as the defending event champion; NOT even to the fact that he’s just four round wins shy of another NHRA career milestone (1,100 rounds won).
Nope, the reason the 62-year-old icon is such a formidable threat this week is because he has a fast car, a bruised ego and absolutely nothing to lose.
After playing his way out of any chance of successfully defending his most recent championship, Force brings his erratic Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang back to an LVMS track on which he swept both races a year ago and on which he has posted a 13-4 record since missing the 2007 race because of injuries sustained in a life-threatening crash at Dallas, Texas.
“I’ve just been getting spanked,” Force said of the downward turn his season has taken since he won the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver in July, earning his record 133rd career victory.
“What bothers me the most,” he volunteered, “is that I can’t run for the championship (after falling almost 200 points behind pacesetting Jack Beckman, to whom he lost two weeks ago at Phoenix). All I can do now is try to beat some of these guys to help Mike Neff and Robert (Hight, presently third and fifth in points).
“As a team, we’ve still got a shot at this title, but I’ve got to get my hot rod back in the game. (Don) Schumacher has four good Dodges with Beckman and (Matt) Hagan (plus Johnny Gray and Ron Capps) and we’ve got two really good Mustangs.
“But, at the end of the day, we need all three of our cars to be able to do some damage,” said the 2008 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. “That means we’ve got to step up with my hot rod – and I think we can. ‘Guido’ and Ron (crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) have been working hard and so have I. There’s two more races to turn it around.”
Amazingly, Force hasn’t won a round since Aug. 7, when he beat Jeff Diehl in the first round at Seattle. Since then, he’s lost to Beckman twice, to Ford Racing teammate Bob Tasca III twice, to Cruz Pedregon, Johnny Gray and Dale Creasy Jr.
In fact, he is a very un-Force-like 14-19 for the season and, barring a spectacular turnaround, he will finish the season with a losing record for just the second time in the last 27 seasons.
The only driver in any motor sports discipline to have won races in 24 different seasons (Richard Petty won NASCAR races in 23), Force has started from the No. 1 spot five times this season, second only to Cruz Pedregon (six), but rarely has his qualifying success translated into anything positive on race day.
He’s won just four rounds against Countdown drivers this year and, significantly, lost four straight races to Beckman.
Those are stats that stick in his craw.
“Yeah, we’ve struggled,” Force said, “and they don’t pay us to struggle. This team is known for winning and we’lI win again – I promise you that. But right now we have to get Neff and Robert back to the top and get another championship for Castrol and Ford, Auto Club, Mac Tools and BrandSource.”