Sonoma: John Force preview

Castrol GTX High Mileage Driver aiming for western swing sweep SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) -- It's a drag racing fact that a good driver can't overcome a bad race car. However, entering this week's 16th annual Fram/Autolite Nationals, 15th race...

Castrol GTX High Mileage Driver aiming for western swing sweep

SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) -- It's a drag racing fact that a good driver can't overcome a bad race car. However, entering this week's 16th annual Fram/Autolite Nationals, 15th race in the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, the sport's most decorated Crew Chief takes issue with those who have suggested that drivers are like light bulbs: you just screw one out and screw another one in.

"The only thing I have to admit is that when the drivers are out there on the starting line, they're all alone," explained Austin Coil, who as Crew Chief, has directed John Force to 10 consecutive NHRA Funny Car championships and 108 tour victories.

"When we're in the pits," Coil said, "I have four other Crew Chiefs (Bernie Fedderly, John Medlen, Jimmy Prock and Dickie Venables) to consult with. So, for that, I'd have to give John a nod on the level of difficulty. He has to do his job all alone."

No one ever has done that job better. After directing the Castrol GTXJHigh Mileage Ford Mustang to victories the last two weeks at Denver, Colo., and Seattle, Wash., Force rolls into Infineon Raceway not only as the defending event champion but as a legitimate contender for a 13th career championship.

Moreover, he has put himself in position to become the first driver in history, regardless of classification, to sweep the three races comprising the Western Swing (Denver, Seattle and Sonoma) on two different occasions.

He first accomplished that feat in 1994 on the way to his fourth championship. If he can do it again, it could pave the way to yet another.

Of course, every driver is alone in his race car. So, what makes Force different?

"John has the ability to dig deep when the chips are down," Coil said. "The other drivers I've worked with over all the years with the Chi-Town Hustler, you know, would do a pretty good job of driving until you got to that critical round. And in that critical round, instead of finding a little more, they managed to find a whole lot less." "John could have .100 lights all day (.000 is perfect) and when it gets down to where he's gotta have that .030 or .040 to win the round, he finds it. He's the only driver I've worked with who has that ability."

Nor does Coil believe his driver's skills are waning, that despite a terrible start to the 2003 season, one in which Force wasn't even in the Top 10 after the first four events.

"Absolutely, it's still there," Coil said of Force's driving skill.

"You talk about age, well, (the late) George Hoover actively chiefed his kid's race car when he was 91 years old and The Greek (Chris Karamesines) is still actively driving (a Top Fuel dragster) and, in my opinion, doing a damn good job (at 75). So there's no telling when me and John, you know, have to, like, say we've had enough."

For those trying to end Force's reign of terror in the Funny Car division, that can't possibly be good news.

DID YOU KNOW?

John is trying to extend to 315 the number of consecutive NHRA national events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. The last time he failed to make a starting lineup was Oct. 31, 1987 at Pomona, Calif....John's 20-year-old daughter, Ashley, a senior at California State University-Fullerton, is competing this weekend in the Super Comp class.... John will break ground this month on a new satellite shop complex in Brownsburg, Ind., just down the road from Indianapolis Raceway Park, home of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. The new facility will have 40,000 square feet under roof including offices, storage and an apparel and souvenir store. Most importantly, it will be able to house all of the team's rolling stock six tractor-trailer rigs and a bus plus assorted Ford Excursions and vans. In the meantime, John also has embarked on an expansion of his primary shop facility in Yorba Linda, Calif., focusing particularly on the machine shop which presently is not large enough to accommodate the latest machine tool equipment from Fadal and Giddings and Lewis....John's 12-time Champion version of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang will debut at the U.S. Nationals....with his victories the last two weeks, John has extended to 17 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one event. The record is 22 straight seasons by Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson who, like Force, already has won this season....John is the only drag racer to have won the Driver of the Year award (1996).

-jfr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Chris Karamesines , Austin Coil , John Medlen