Richmond: Ashley Force Hood preview

FORCE STREAKS ON LINE AS TOUR MOVES TO VMP 14-Time Series Champ Usually Dominant in Virginia RICHMOND, Va. -- On a Virginia Motorsports Park track on which he has won a higher percentage of elimination races than he has anywhere else in the...

FORCE STREAKS ON LINE AS TOUR MOVES TO VMP
14-Time Series Champ Usually Dominant in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. -- On a Virginia Motorsports Park track on which he has won a higher percentage of elimination races than he has anywhere else in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series (he's 22-4, a winning percentage of 84.6), John Force tries again this week to extend two of the most impressive streaks in his spectacular career.

Entering this week's fourth and final NHRA Virginia Nationals, the 22nd of 24 events in the series, drag racing's biggest winner finds himself stuck in the semifinals. His Castrol GTX® High Mileage^Ù Ford Mustang has won 21 race rounds this season, but hasn't appeared in a final since June 1, 2008.

As a result, streaks for consecutive seasons with at least one final round appearance (24) and successive seasons with at least one tour victory (22) are very much in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, even though he is the only Funny Car driver in the Countdown who has not appeared in at least one final this season, Force hasn't given up on extending his records or on winning the championship.

He will begin this weekend's event in seventh place, 124 points behind his daughter, Ashley Force Hood. Ironically, his inspiration will come from a most unlikely source: arch rival Cruz Pedregon.

"I've seen him win from back of the pack even before there was a Countdown," Force said of the driver of the Advance Auto Parts Toyota. "We thought we had the championship won in 1992, but Cruz won five straight races and beat us. That was a lesson. Last year, (Tim) Wilkerson led the points all year, but (then) Cruz got hot at the end and won three straight.

"I know my race car isn't where it needs to be," Force continued, "(but) it's come around a long way. It was good enough to get me in the Countdown and if we can do something this weekend, anything's possible. It's all about destiny and timing."

Even though he was winless in 65 races to start his career, Force never before had gone more than 22 races without at least once racing for an event title. He's been to 10 semifinals since last racing in a final round last year at Topeka, Kan., a final in which he beat Wilkerson to earn his first victory since coming back from a 2007 crash.

"I know I can still drive," Force said, "and I know I can still win but, at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding."

The 126-time tour winner has made it dramatically clear this year that he still has the fire. What has been lacking is the firepower.

"Me and Coil (Hall of Fame crew chief Austin Coil) have been through a lot of ups and downs in 25 years," Force said. "We'll get through this, too, along with Bernie (Fedderly). It's still about winning and it's still about being safe. We know how. We just have to do it."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Ashley Force , Austin Coil