POMONA, Calif. -- Having already ruined the holidays for rivals who this year had hoped to end his seven-year reign as NHRA Winston Funny Car Champion, it's appropriate that John Force should close out the season at the wheel of a Castrol ...
POMONA, Calif. -- Having already ruined the holidays for rivals who this year had hoped to end his seven-year reign as NHRA Winston Funny Car Champion, it's appropriate that John Force should close out the season at the wheel of a Castrol GTXÂ® Ford Mustang that promotes the new Universal Studios movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
The red-and-green Mustang, bearing a likeness of the Dr. Seuss character on its hood, is the latest in a series of theme cars created for Force by Phoenix-based Action Performance Companies, Inc., whose core business is the manufacture and sale 1/25th and 1/64th scale replica race cars.
Last week, Force won his 10th race of the year, the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas, at the wheel of a Castrol-backed "Frankenstein" Ford that was part of a Action Performance/Universal Studios "Monsters of the Midway" promotion designed to coincide with Halloween.
This week (Nov. 9-12), he's hoping to duplicate that performance in the 36th annual AAA of Southern California Finals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex, an event he's won three times previously -- but not since 1996.
Of course, there's more to Force's bid for career victory No. 92 than fresh paint and a cute caricature. Underneath the Roush Racing carbon fiber body and custom paint is a 7,000 horsepower engine that last year propelled the 51-year-old Yorba Linda resident to NHRA national records of 4.788 seconds and 324.05 miles per hour and a new five-disc clutch that was factored into the combination for the first time just two weeks ago.
Force, who fought the transition to the five-disc clutch because of the success he enjoyed with the proven four-disc model, now is a believer in the newer technology.
"My leave times haven't been that good this year," acknowledged the eight-time Auto Racing All-America selection, "but it looks like some of it was the four-disc clutch and how we were running it. I had some of my best (reaction times) of the year last week (.473 and .475) with the five-disc.
"I know I've been against (making the switch), but (Crew Chief Austin) Coil told me we've squeezed all we can out of the four-disc clutch. We had to go to the five-disc just to stay competitive."
Of course, it wasn't like Coil and Co-Crew Chief Bernie Fedderly were flying blind in effecting the transition. Tony Pedregon has been running the five-disc clutch in his Castrol SYNTECâ„¢ Ford for the last three seasons, winning seven times and posting the quickest quarter mile in drag racing history at 4.779 seconds.
"All the data Tony collected the last three years was critical," Force said. "We had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do but anytime you make a big change, there's the unknown. Remember when we tried to run the new Ford body last spring? We thought it would be a simple deal but we almost didn't qualify at Columbus (Ohio) because the steering wasn't right and then we lost the points lead back to (Jerry) Toliver."
Fortunately, the planets realigned shortly thereafter and Force raced to a record tying 10th championship.