St. Louis: John Force preview

FORCE'S QUEST FOR 1,000 INTENSIFIES AT GATEWAY 14-Time Funny Car Champ One Round Shy of Milestone MADISON, Ill. - " Having been stopped just short in his most recent bid for drag racing immortality, John Force takes his quest for 1,000...

FORCE'S QUEST FOR 1,000 INTENSIFIES AT GATEWAY 14-Time Funny Car Champ One Round Shy of Milestone

MADISON, Ill. - " Having been stopped just short in his most recent bid for drag racing immortality, John Force takes his quest for 1,000 round wins to Gateway International Raceway this week where he'll try to put his Castrol GTX ® High Mileage Ford Mustang in the winners' circle on his 59th birthday.

Beaten by his daughter, Ashley, in the final round of last week's Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., drag racing's biggest winner needs just one round win in Sunday's 12th annual O'Reilly Midwest Nationals to reach 1,000.

Last week, the 14-time Auto Racing All-American tried to play down the importance of becoming just the second pro driver to compete in 500 NHRA events ("It ain't hard. All you gotta do is just show up"). By contrast, he is keenly aware of the impact of his next achievement.

"Winning all those rounds, that even impressed me," joked the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection, "but I remember the days when we couldn't even win one round.

"So, we don't think about records. We just go out every race and do what we do. It's like I told Ashley, you can't let records and the points get in your head cause it'll mess you up.' We just focus on winning because that's what Castrol, Ford, the Auto Club and Old Spice pay us to do. But if you're winner, the records are going to come."

Although he once qualified for a record 395 consecutive races and has won more tour events (125) and more NHRA championships (14) than anyone else, 1,000 winning rounds is almost other-worldly, even by John Force standards.

To provide some perspective, the other nine drivers in the current NHRA POWERade Top 10 have won only 1,909 rounds between them. Also, those who have done the math understand that winning 999 rounds in 500 races means that, on average, Force has gone to the semifinals in EVERY race he's ever run â^a" including the 14 for which he didn't even qualify.

So, even though his daughter is garnering most of the headlines this week as the first woman ever to win an NHRA Funny Car race, Force's drive to 1,000 round wins is just as compelling.

Although he still isn't 100 per cent recovered from the career-threatening injuries he suffered last September in a crash at Dallas, Texas, last week he showed flashes of his old form in reaching his 201st career final round.

After struggling just to make the show, Force was quickest in the first two rounds and his 4.822 against No. 1 qualifier Tim Wilkerson was the quickest of the day. The final round result might even have been different if he hadn't lost lane choice to his kid by .003 of a second.

Of course, winning that 1,000th round isn't going to change things at John Force Racing, Inc., and rivals hoping that Force might step aside likely will be disappointed.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'm just starting to have fun again. My kids are all out here with me (youngest daughters Brittany, 21, and Courtney, 19, have divided cockpit time this year in the Top Alcohol Dragster division), my ol' hot rod is running good again. I'm having fun. Besides, what would I do? I love this sport. I love what I do and I'm going to do it as long as I can."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tim Wilkerson