Pomona: John Force preview

Force Opens Title Defense at Winternationals 13-Time Funny Car Champ Seeks 12th Win at Pomona Raceway POMONA, Calif. -- John Force had hoped to debut a new 2005 version of his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang at this week's season-opening...

Force Opens Title Defense at Winternationals
13-Time Funny Car Champ Seeks 12th Win at Pomona Raceway

POMONA, Calif. -- John Force had hoped to debut a new 2005 version of his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang at this week's season-opening 45th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.

Instead, because of design, production and approval delays, the 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion will have to make do with last year's model.

It's a problem that has elicited little sympathy from those against whom the 114- time tour winner will compete this week.

In fact, most rivals would have preferred to see Force in the new Mustang, one which no doubt would have been subject to unanticipated problems.

Instead, the 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection will roll to the line in the car in which he won five times last year and in which he set the current world records for the class at 4.665 seconds, 333.58 miles per hour.

That's the car in which he veteran was quickest in pre-season test sessions at both The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Firebird Raceway(Phoenix). It's also the car in which he set the Pomona Raceway track record last fall at 4.698 seconds.

Force, who has at least won tour event for 18 consecutive seasons and at least three for the last 15 years, is the only Funny Car driver to have covered the standard quarter mile course in fewer than 4.70 seconds.

He's accomplished that feat three times at two different tracks. In addition to the 4.698 he ran last November at Pomona, he twice broke the 4.70 barrier in a history- making weekend at Joliet, Ill.

Bolstered by the signing of a contract extension that will keep him in a Castrol- sponsored Funny Car through the 2010 season, Force said Wednesday that he "can't wait to go racing again.

"This new contract, it gives us time to develop our young drivers. Working with Eric (Medlen, second year driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford), Robert (Hight, rookie driver of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford) and Ashley (his 22-year-old daughter, who drives the Castrol Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster) has given me new energy. I feel like a kid again. I'm up for the fight. I'm motivated again."

That can't be good news for the 55-year-old veteran's long-suffering rivals.

"You know, the rumor was out that I was retiring," Force said. "No way. Drag racing is a four-second sport and as long as I have my vision and my reflexes, I think I can compete. It's not like we're driving around for three-and-a-half hours like they are in NASCAR. If I was in NASCAR, they'd have to schedule rest stops. The NASCAR guys are retiring at 40. We've got guys over here who are 75 (Top Fuel driver Chris Karamesines) and still racing. So I'm not going anywhere."

Force, who sets some kind of record almost every time he goes down the racetrack, said he knows his reign won't last forever.

"They've been after me for years," he said, "and one day they'll get me, but by that time, we will have trained a new group of champions: Eric, Robert and Ashley. That going to be my legacy. I didn't want it to just end when I finally got out of the seat. Now I know it won't. Castrol has given me the tools I need for the next generation."

In the meantime, the older generation is doing just fine, thank you. Despite the challenges posed by Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi, Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps, Tony and Cruz Pedregon and even the young guns on his own team, Force, in an old Mustang or a new one, is still the man to beat. That's something that hasn't changed in a decade and a half.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Chris Karamesines , Cruz Pedregon