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Riding A Wave Of Momentum, Force Keeps Eye On The Changing Weather 12-Time Series Champion Favored in Southern Nationals ATLANTA, Ga. (May 14-16) -- John Force is riding a wave of momentum, but the 12-time NHRA champion's euphoria at having...

Riding A Wave Of Momentum, Force Keeps Eye On The Changing Weather
12-Time Series Champion Favored in Southern Nationals

ATLANTA, Ga. (May 14-16) -- John Force is riding a wave of momentum, but the 12-time NHRA champion's euphoria at having overwhelmed his Funny Car rivals two weeks ago at Bristol, Tenn., is tempered by the knowledge that a time is coming when 4.70 second quarter miles and 325 mile-an-hour speeds will be little more than a fond memory.

In fact, that time could be sooner rather than later, perhaps as soon as this weekend's 24th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Although Force has appeared in more final rounds at this event than at any other in the series (12 including 10 in the last 12 years), his confidence on the eve of his 22nd appearance at the Georgia track seems to come and go in direct relationship to the weather.

"We're still learning this new Goodyear (tire)," said the driver of the Castrol GTX® High Mileage™ Ford Mustang. "It's like starting over. We've tested on it some and Jimmy Prock (Crew Chief on teammate Gary Densham's Ford) has been running it for us.

"But every time you have something new, it takes awhile to figure it out. Bottom line," Force said, "I've got the best brain trust in the sport (Crew Chiefs Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly, John Medlen and Jimmy Prock). They don't tell me how to drive; I don't tell them how to tune the car and that includes the tires."

At issue is the performance of the new Goodyear 2096 rear tire not in the cool and overcast that prevailed at Bristol, where Force dominated in earning his 110th tour victory, but rather in the summer-like conditions that could occur at Atlanta direct sunshine; warm air; torrid track temperatures.

Few Crew Chiefs believe the new tire is going to work as well in the heat as its predecessor, the Goodyear 1486. The consensus seems to be that while the 2096 is a better tire, especially from a safety standpoint, it's not a faster tire.

As a result, Crew Chiefs and drivers and, ultimately, fans and sponsors are going to have to be satisfied with reduced performance and a lot more tire smoke, the symbol of lost traction.

"It's the same for everybody," Force said. "Like it is with anything new, the team that adapts the best is going to be the team that wins. Bottom line, Coil and Bernie have always given me a good car for the heat, but you just hate to give up that performance."

Indeed, Force is at his best when it's cool. It was cool last year in Joliet, Ill., when the 55-year-old veteran scorched the timers for a new national quarter mile record of 4.721 seconds. And it will be cool when Force, or whomever, finally breaks the next great Funny Car performance barrier: 330 miles per hour.

Those aren't the conditions in which the POWERade Championship will be won, however, and Force knows that better than anyone, his team having won 13 championships in the last 14 years including 11 in succession.

"You have to win in the heat," he said. "Sometimes, you have to win ugly."

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- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham , Austin Coil , John Medlen