FORCE STILL THE FAVORITE AS TOUR MOVES TO READING 13-Time Champ Tries to Put Setbacks Behind Him READING, Pa. John Force is hoping to capitalize on the Goldilocks effect this week when the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour returns to Maple Grove...
FORCE STILL THE FAVORITE
AS TOUR MOVES TO READING
13-Time Champ Tries to Put Setbacks Behind Him
READING, Pa. John Force is hoping to capitalize on the Goldilocks effect this week when the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour returns to Maple Grove Raceway for the anticipated completion of the 22nd annual Toyo Nationals.
At the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., the sport's most decorated driver let his car down when he was guilty of a first round foul start against Jim Head. Last week, at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Dallas, the car let the 13-time champ down when it lost traction after Force had done his job at the starting line against points leader Ron Capps.
So, if things were too hot in Indy and too cold in Dallas, conventional wisdom suggests that everything will be just right this weekend for the 121-time tour winner and his national record-holding Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
If so, the 13-time Auto Racing All-America selection could bound past Capps and back into the points lead in an ongoing bid to win his 14th championship.
The 57-year-old icon comes in trailing the leader by just 37 points with four races remaining.
"There's still lots of time," Force said, "but we can't keep making mistakes. The driver can't go brain dead like at Indy. We have a car that's good enough to win this hampionship. But we've got to do the job, too, and the last two weeks (last two races) we haven't done the job."
Although he has won three fewer races than Capps this season, Force doggedly has remained on the heels of the Dodge driver. Capps has been No. 1 after 17 of the 19 races contested thus far; Force has been No. 2. The only time he has led was after his August victory in the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn.
However, Capps and Force both have emphasized that the only thing that matters is who occupies the top spot at the end of next month's season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona, Calif.
Although he's won six times at Maple Grove and is the track record-holder (4.72 seconds, 327.82 mph), Force last visited the winners' circle in 2001, losing the last two years in the final round, in 2004 to reigning series champ Gary Scelzi and last year to former protege Tony Pedregon
Drag racing's all-time leader in final round appearances (194), tour victories and individual rounds won (958), Force has struggled this year not from lack of performance but from lack of consistency, a direct contrast to his failed title bid a year ago.
"A year ago we struggled in performance (qualifying No. 1 just once)," Force said. "This year we've got this new Mustang and (crew chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) put a new (engine/clutch) combination together. But we didn't have the data to back it up. Now I think we do."