Sonoma: John Force preview

FOR FORCE, NO EXCUSES BUT NO WINS IN 2009 14-Time Champ Still Thinks He Can Win Title SONOMA, Calif. -- Although he reached the semifinals last week at Seattle, Wash., ending two years of complete winless-ness on the NHRA's Western Swing,...

FOR FORCE, NO EXCUSES BUT NO WINS IN 2009
14-Time Champ Still Thinks He Can Win Title

SONOMA, Calif. -- Although he reached the semifinals last week at Seattle, Wash., ending two years of complete winless-ness on the NHRA's Western Swing, drag racing icon John Force rolls into Infineon Raceway for this week's 22nd annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals with a sum total of zero tour victories on his 2009 resume.

For a guy who's won 126 tour events and 14 championships, who in 1996 won 13 of the 19 races comprising the NHRA series, that kind of production -- or lack thereof -- might indicate a deterioration of abilities.

However, it would be tough to find anyone inside the Funny Car family bold enough to make that statement.

Moreover, at age 60, Force still believes he can win races AND win the championship at the wheel of the aptly-named Castrol GTX® High Mileage^Ù Ford Mustang. The co-crew chiefs on that 300 mile-an-hour hybrid, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, also are sexagenarians, meaning they're sixty-somethings.

Force, who hasn't been to a final round in a career worst 29 straight races, rolls into the Bay Area in eighth place in Full Throttle points, still very much in the hunt for one of the 10 starting spots in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

"We're not where we want to be right now," Force said, "but trust me, we're not far off. I'm still confident I can win the championship. I'm no miracle worker who can just make it happen on my own, but I think we can do it as a team, me and Coil and Bernie and my guys.

"To be honest, the car has been off a little and we have some new crew guys but, as a driver, I couldn't feel better physically. I go to the gym every day, have ever since I came back from my crash. I have no excuses. In fact, I've named this the No Excuses Tour.'"

Nevertheless, to lock up a berth in the Countdown and secure an opportunity to race for his 15th individual title, Force still has a little work to do.

He needs to win rounds to put distance between himself and the drivers immediately behind him in the point standings. Perhaps more importantly, he needs to win a race, if only for his mental well-being.

The 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection hasn't gone to the winners' circle since June 1, 2008 when he prevailed in the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan. Thus far, that's his only victory since coming back from injuries suffered in a Sept., 2007, crash in Dallas, Texas.

"I wouldn't be out here if I didn't think I could win," said the seven-time FRAM/Autolite Nationals champion.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Austin Coil