Pomona II: John Force preview

RESURGENT FORCE AIMING FOR 2009 NHRA TITLE RUN 14-Time Champ Bidding for Season-Ending Victory POMONA, Calif. - It's going to be a long winter for drag racing's biggest winner. Just when he felt like he was beginning to regain the...

RESURGENT FORCE AIMING FOR 2009 NHRA TITLE RUN

14-Time Champ Bidding for Season-Ending Victory

POMONA, Calif. - It's going to be a long winter for drag racing's biggest winner.

Just when he felt like he was beginning to regain the form that at one time made him even more dominant in the NHRA Funny Car division than Tony Schumacher has been in Top Fuel, John Force is confronted this week with a depressing reality.

For the 59-year-old icon, the end of the 2008 season means that he will have to wait at least 10 weeks to prove to himself and everyone else that he is indeed fully recovered from the injuries that almost ended his career little more than a year ago.

Although no one expected him to be back in his Castrol GTX ® High Mileage Ford Mustang this year, not after suffering so many broken bones and dislocations in a 300 mile-an-hour crash in Texas, Force was behind the wheel for the 2008 opener contested last February on the same Auto Club Raceway track on which the world's top straight-line racers will end the POWERade season in this week's 44th annual Auto Club Finals.

To many, the most amazing thing wasn't that the 126-time tour winner was back in the car for the season-opening CARQUEST Winternationals, but that he drove the Ford to the semifinals before losing to teammate Robert Hight.

Nevertheless, even though he went through the motions and, against tremendous odds, earned a popular June 1 victory at Topeka, Kan., this John Force was just a shell of the one who, in 1996, won 13 of 19 races and was runner-up in three others on the way to becoming the first drag racer ever named Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing.

Despite a rather uncharacteristic season, one in which he failed to win multiple events for the first time since 1989 and one in which he failed to make the starting lineup on four separate occasions, Force believes that he and Hall of Fame crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly can win again - and not just races, but a championship.

"Coil and Bernie still are the smartest guys out there," Force said. "They got a little lost, but they're back. Jimmy Prock (crew chief on championship contender Hight's Auto Club Ford) gave them his clutch technology and we've been good ever since.

"We're gonna go out this week and try to win the race for the Auto Club, Castrol, Ford, BrandSource, Old Spice , Sanyo, all our sponsors. They stuck with me through the crash and rehab and everything else we've gone through. I'd like to get em a win," said the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection.

The thing is, he just might do it and, if so, in the process he may decide who wins the title that once was his for 10 straight seasons (1993-2002). "My job is to take out Cruz (Pedregon) and (Tim) Wilkerson, the guys who are ahead of Robert in the points," Force said. "At the end of the day, we've still got a shot at this title with Robert. Winning it would make the winter a lot easier."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tony Schumacher , Robert Hight , Austin Coil