JOHN FORCE, 50, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTXÂ® Ford Mustang, is the nine-time and reigning Winston Funny Car Champion. This is the 52nd time in his career that John has started an NHRA national event from the No. 2 position.
JOHN FORCE, 50, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, is the nine-time and reigning Winston Funny Car Champion. This is the 52nd time in his career that John has started an NHRA national event from the No. 2 position. Of his 81 career, victories, 12 have come from the second spot, the most recent being the 1999 Sears Craftsman Nationals at St. Louis. John is seeking his sixth win in seven years at Firebird International Raceway. His only loss in the last six seasons at Firebird came in the first round of the 1998 CSK Nationals.
PREVIOUSLY AT PHOENIX: This is John's 16th career start at Firebird International Raceway where he has reached the finals seven times. On the only other occasions on which he was the No. 2 qualifier, he earned runner-up honors in 1985 and was beaten in the second round (by Al Hofmann) in 1993.
SEASON-TO-DATE: John was beaten in the second round of the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., by Castrol teammate Tony Pedregon.
FIRST ROUND FOE: This is the first time John has opposed Johnny Gray.
CHASING THE RECORD: John presently is within striking distance of two of drag racing's most imposing records: 10 series championships and 85 event victories, both set by retired Ford Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden.
RECORDS: John is the official NHRA national record holder for both quarter mile time (4.788 seconds) and speed (324.05 miles per hour). He is the track and event record holder was well, having negotiated the Firebird quarter mile in 4.843 seconds at 317.87 mph.
DID YOU KNOW: John now has qualified for 231 consecutive races, the longest active streak in Funny Car drag racing. The last time he failed to qualify for an NHRA national event was at this race in 1987.....John is the only drag racer to have won the Driver of the Year Award for all of American motor racing (1996)....last July, John won the Winston Showdown at Bristol, Tenn., a $200,000-to-win event which matched Funny Cars against Top Fuel dragsters....John was a finalist for a 1999 ESPN Espy Award as Driver of the Year as well as for an Espy as Driver of the Decade, the first time a drag racer has reached that particular level of recognition.
TONY PEDREGON, 34, Chino Hills, Calif., will start from the No. 4 position for the 15th time in his pro career after guiding the Castrol SYNTEC™ Ford Mustang to a qualifying time of 4.938 seconds at weekend best speed of 310.13 mph. Tony has won only one time as the No. 4 qualifier, prevailing in 1998 at the spring race at Houston Raceway Park in which he beat his teammate and mentor, John Force, in the final.
SEASON TO DATE: Tony reached the final round at the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals contested three weeks ago at Pomona, Calif., losing the championship to Jerry Toliver.
CAREER RECORD: Tony has eight victories in 22 career final round appearances. He has gone to the finals 22 times in 97 starts for Team Castrol and John Force Racing.
VERSUS GARY DENSHAM: Tony is 10-3 against first round foe Gary Densham. He has beaten the California schoolteacher in six straight first round matches and in six of eight first round meetings overall. This is the second straight year Tony has opposed Densham in the first round at Phoenix.
QUICKEST MAN ON THE PLANET: Tony owns the quickest quarter mile in Funny Car history at 4.779 seconds, a mark he set last March in the first round of the MAC Tools Gatornationals. He also has the quickest time under NHRA's new rules (4.830 seconds) which restrict the fuel mixture to no more than 90 per cent nitromethane.
PREVIOUSLY AT PHOENIX: Tony is winless in six previous starts at Firebird International Raceway. He enjoyed his most productive outing just one year ago when he reached the semifinals before losing to Castrol teammate John Force. DID YOU KNOW? Tony was the initial winner (1996) of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award (and the $10,000 cash bonus that accompanies it)....Tony is the only Funny Car driver other than Force to have broken the 4.80 second barrier and one of only three drivers (with Force and Tommy Johnson Jr.) to have exceeded 320 mph....Tony and John are on opposite sides of the ladder and, as a result, could meet in the final round.