'TUNNEL VISION' CONFIRMS FORCE'S BELIEF IN 2006 CASTROL GTX MUSTANG 13-Time Series Champ Defends Title in Southern Nationals ATLANTA, Ga. -- With wind tunnel data confirming what he already knew about his 2006 Castrol GTXÂ® Ford Mustang,...
'TUNNEL VISION' CONFIRMS FORCE'S BELIEF IN 2006 CASTROL GTX MUSTANG
13-Time Series Champ Defends Title in Southern Nationals
ATLANTA, Ga. -- With wind tunnel data confirming what he already knew about his 2006 Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, John Force goes back to work this week as the defending Funny Car Champion in the 26th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
"We've got three fast race cars," Force said after his team spent a day in the Low Speed Wind Tunnel at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, "(but) we knew that before we went (into the Wednesday session arranged by Ford Motor Company)."
The rub is that while the three John Force Racing Mustangs have been very quick and fast this season, starting from the No. 1 qualifying position at every race, they've been uncharacteristically erratic.
As a result, Force is second in points behind Ron Capps and, despite three final round appearances, still is looking for the victory that will extend to 20 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA POWERade tour event.
Wednesday's trip to the Low Speed Wind Tunnel at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Ga., was the first for the team since taking delivery on the new Mustang over the winter and it enabled crew chiefs to address several issues.
"(It) gave us the opportunity to confirm the data with the full-size car that was developed in the models (from which engineers worked to create a replica of the new era Mustang)," acknowledged crew chief Austin Coil, "plus we're always looking at ways in which we can increase downforce and decrease drag. (The wind tunnel) can be very helpful in those areas."
The challenge is to take that data and turn it into the kind of performance the team will need to claim its 15th Funny Car championship in the last 17 years.
Force, particularly, has been frustrated. After struggling last season with a car in which he started just one race from the No. 1 position, the 13-time Auto Racing All- America selection has been the quickest and fastest on tour since he rolled his new Ford out of the box for pre-season testing.
He was the quickest in both of the sanctioned pre-season test sessions (at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix) and opened the season by pushing the Castrol Mustang to the quickest quarter mile in Funny Car drag racing history (4.664 seconds).
Moreover, he has been the No. 1 qualifier at three of the first six races and has had the quickest car during eliminations at each of the last four events. That said, he's lost ground to Capps at four straight tour stops and rolls into Atlanta 122 points back of the Dodge driver.
The upside is that, after losing in the first round 10 times last season (on the way to a third place finish behind Gary Scelzi and Capps), Force has avoided early elimination through this year's first six evens and is back this week racing at one of his favorite tracks.
In fact, the NHRA national record-holder for quarter mile time (4.665 seconds) and speed (333.58 miles per hour) has been to the final round more often in the Southern Nationals (13 times) than in any other event in the series.
Winner of seven of the last 14 incarnations of the Southern Nationals, Force beat son-in-law (and teammate) Robert Hight by .002 of a second in last year's final round, sending him on his was to three victories in three weeks.
"Atlanta's been a good track for us," Force said, "so we feel pretty good coming in. Bottom line, we need to start closing up (on Capps). We're not gonna catch him this week, but we need to start gaining ground.
"(Capps and crew chief Ed McCulloch) haven't been beating themselves. We need to take care of that ourselves, but when we had the chance, like last week at Bristol, we didn't get it done. We can't do anything about that. What we have to do is focus on Atlanta."
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Last week's No. 3 start extended John Force's record qualifying streak to 375 consecutive NHRA tour events dating back to the beginning of the 1988 season. The second longest streak in history was 303 races by Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson. The second longest active streak is 143 races by Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta.
John Force has been a Funny Car finalist in more than half the NHRA races contested since 1989 (171 of 340). During that span, he has won 114 times.
John celebrated his 57th birthday on Thursday, May 4th. Shut out of the winners' circle until he was 38, the 13-time champion is contracted to drive a Castrol GTX Funny Car through 2010.