Topeka: John Force preview

CATCHING CAPPS A SLOW PROCESS F0R 13-TIME NHRA FUNNY CAR KING Force 91 Points Back as Tour Moves to Heartland Park TOPEKA, Kansas -- John Force has gained ground on Funny Car points leader Ron Capps at each of the last two races in the NHRA...

CATCHING CAPPS A SLOW PROCESS F0R 13-TIME NHRA FUNNY CAR KING
Force 91 Points Back as Tour Moves to Heartland Park

TOPEKA, Kansas -- John Force has gained ground on Funny Car points leader Ron Capps at each of the last two races in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series but, at the rate of 15 1/2 points per event, drag racing's all-time winner said "it'll take 50 races" for him and his Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang to make up the entire difference.

While that's a bit of an embellishment, when the tour moves this week to Heartland Park-Topeka for the 18th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals, Force will face a 91-point deficit, equal to almost five full rounds of racing.

Furthermore, while there is not yet a sense of urgency in the Force camp, the 119-time tour winner has admitted that his inability to take advantage of recent opportunities at Atlanta, Ga., and, last week, at Columbus, Ohio, is cause for concern.

"We've had our chances," said the 13-time series champion. "Cappsie's gone out in the first round the last two races but we only got (31) points on him. They're not gonna struggle like that (very often). We've got fast race cars but the (lack of) consistency is killing us right now."

Indeed, Force has set the qualifying pace at half the races run thus far and one of the other John Force Racing Mustangs has started from the point in the others. Nevertheless, no one has won from the No. 1 qualifying position in either the Funny Car or Top Fuel divisions.

The defending champion at Heartland Park, Force still is seeking his first victory of the 2006 season. Nevertheless, even without a win, the 57-year-old drag racing icon could have completely wiped out his deficit to Capps simply by reaching the final round at the last two events.

Instead, he was upset in the second round at Atlanta and then, last week, suffered a rare first round loss when a supercharger drive belt snapped while he was trying to backpedal (feather the throttle) against former teammate Gary Densham.

The upshot is that Capps remains almost a full race ahead of the 13-time Auto Racing All-America selection and almost two complete races ahead of everyone else in the category.

Three times a runner-up this year, twice to Capps, Force is hoping for a get well weekend at a Heartland Park track on which he has been dominant.

In 20 career appearances at the Kansas track, he has gone to the finals 12 times with eight victories.

That's why the 1996 Driver of the Year remains optimistic despite the fact that he is in the midst of an eight-race victory drought, the second longest victory drought he has endured to start any season since 1989. The only campaign in which he went longer without winning his first race was 2003 when he didn't win until the 13th race.

Nevertheless, Force insists that it is way too soon for anyone to start talking championship.

"Wait until Indy (and the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals)," Force said. "That's when the real race starts."

Meanwhile, the new 2006 Castrol GTX Ford Mustang beneath him gives Force an added dimension in his bid to overtake the leader. Already the NHRA national record-holder for quarter mile time at 4.665 seconds, he believes -- no, he knows -- his car is capable of going even quicker and earning the 20 bonus points that accrue every time the record is re-certified.

Force pushed the Mustang through the timers in 4.664 seconds at the season- opening CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., but couldn't provide a backup run required for certification.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham