FORCE NOT YET READY TO CONCEDE NHRA FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP 13-Time Series Champ Has National Record on His Mind POMONA, Calif. -- With a little help from Mother Nature, John Force conceivably could put his competitive fate back in his own...
FORCE NOT YET READY TO CONCEDE NHRA FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
13-Time Series Champ Has National Record on His Mind
POMONA, Calif. -- With a little help from Mother Nature, John Force conceivably could put his competitive fate back in his own hands this week when the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour returns to its starting point for the season-ending 41st annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals.
Although he is down 28 points to Gary Scelzi and 26 to Ron Capps in the race for the 2005 NHRA Funny Car Championship, Force has a plan to level the playing field and it has everything to do with breaking his own existing NHRA national record
All he has to do is negotiate the Pomona Raceway quarter mile in fewer than 4.665 seconds and then back it up within one per cent to satisfy NHRA's archaic certification rules and, voila, a new NHRA national standard, a 20-point bonus and a virtual tie for the lead.
Of course, he then has to either get his Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Mustang back into the winners' circle at the LA County Fairplex or, at the very least, get one more win light than Scelzi and Capps.
If he can do all that, he'll be back on the podium Monday night in Palm Springs. Calif., accepting a check for $400,000. If not, well, he'd rather not think about that. Not yet, anyway.
The dominant driver in the series for a decade-and-a-half, Force truly believes he can set the record even though no one has come close to doing so all season long.
That belief is not without foundation, however. For one thing, he set the current record little more than a year ago at Joliet, Ill. For another, he has broken 4.70 seconds in each of his last two appearances at Pomona Raceway, a track on which he has won more often in his career than on any other (11 times).
And, finally, he stayed over for three days of testing following his first round exit at the Oct. 23 ACDelco Nationals, ultimately coaxing his 7,000 horsepower Ford through the timers in 4.728 seconds, the quickest any Funny Car has run at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"We tried some things (in testing) that were on the back burner," Force said, "but all of a sudden next year isn't that important. Right now is what's important."
"We can't count on someone else to do our job," he said. "We're going to have to be the ones to take out Scelzi and Capps. We can't count on them to make a mistake. One car might make a mistake, but not two of them. They're too good.
"If the weather is good, our plan is to try and set the record. That could be the difference for me (so) when we come out of the box (for the start of qualifying on Thursday), we're going to push it to the max of what that track will hold. But it's all about weather.
"If the weather's warm, (crew chief Austin) Coil said that'll take the record out of play and then we'll have to see how the ladder looks. Without the record, I have to win two more rounds than Scelzi and Capps. If we can set the record, I just have to win the race."
That's something he did a year ago, but by the time the tour returned to the Fairplex for the 2004 Finals, Force already had clinched his team's 12th straight title.
What's amazing is that the 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection still has a shot at the title even though he's lost 10 times in the first round, three times more often than in any other season and five times more often than in any championship season.
"Times have changed," he said. "Any other year, I already would have been out of it. But everybody has beaten everybody else and that's left it wide open."
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Did You Know? This weekend, John can extend to 369 the record number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. It's been 23 years since he last failed to make a starting lineup. That was at the 1987 Finals...John has won at least one tour event for 19 straight seasons and three or more for 15 straight years....last year, John won wire-to-wire at the Auto Club Finals, becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.70 second barrier at Pomona Raceway before beating Tony Bartone, Eric Medlen, Gary Scelzi and Del Worsham for his 11th Pomona Raceway win....John has won at least 30 rounds of racing for 16 consecutive seasons....this is the first time since 1991 that John has not won at least one race from the No. 1 starting position. His victories this year have come from No. 4 (Phoenix), No. 5 (Atlanta), No. 7 (Topeka and Dallas) and No. 8 (Columbus)....John's next round win will be his 50th in the Auto Club Finals, making it the third event in which he has won half-a-hundred. The others are the Lucas Nationals at Brainerd, Minn. (57) and the Summit Racing Nationals at Atlanta, Ga. (55).