Force Tries to Extend Dominance at Atlanta; Veteran Aims for 60th Round Win at Southern Nationals ATLANTA, Ga. -- "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, skidding...
Force Tries to Extend Dominance at Atlanta; Veteran Aims for 60th Round Win at Southern Nationals
ATLANTA, Ga. -- "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, skidding in broadside, thoroughly worn out and loudly proclaiming,`wow, what a ride!'"
Although the author probably didn't have John Force specifically in mind when he penned those words, there's no doubt that it accurately describes the 59-year-old's career as a professional race car driver.
For 32 spectacular NHRA seasons, through Force's eyes, fans from Australia to Anaheim have lived a vicarious, 300 mile-an-hour life punctuated by explosions, fires, crashes and, ultimately, success.
That's why, whenever Force comes to town, as he does for this week's 29th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, he is, at the very least, the sentimental Funny Car favorite.
At Atlanta, though, he is much more than that.
As driver of a series of Castrol GTX hybrids including his current entry, a Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang celebrating the Mustang brand's 45th anniversary, Force has won seven Southern Nationals titles and gone to the final round on 14separate occasions, more than at any other event in the NHRA Full Throttle Series.
Last year, in his most recent trip to the money round, Force lost the title to his 26-year-old daughter, Ashley, thereby squandering an opportunity to create some real racing history.
Had he won, the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection would have claimed his 1,000th racing round and would have done so in his 500th NHRA event. It doesn't take a mathematician to compute the historical implications and the failure, even though it came in an all-Castrol final round, still stings.
In fact, Force still bristles at the suggestion that he wasn't trying as hard against Ashley as he would have been against someone else.
"That could have been history," Force said. "No one will have a chance to do that again 1,000 wins in 500 races. You knew Ashley was gonna win a race. Everybody knew that. If it wasn't Atlanta, it would have been somewhere else -- like Houston (where she earned her second victory earlier this year), but there on some things where you get only one shot."
The next milestone on which Force is focused is becoming the first driver in 40 years to win an NHRA Funny Car race in a pure Ford Ford body, Ford engine, Ford engineering. He hopes to take that giant step this weekend in a race in which he once reached the finals nine straight times.
Force's Castrol GTX entry is one of two Mustangs presently racing with the new BOSS 500 Ford engine developed collaboratively by Ford and John Force Racing, Inc.
The new motor, which was first run in 2008 in the JFR Mustang prepared by John Medlen and driven by Mike Neff, has not yet been in the winners' circle although. Neff has put it in four final rounds including this year's Slick Mist Nationals at Phoenix, Ariz.
At Atlanta Dragway:
-- John set a personal record by reaching the Funny Car final 12 straight times from 1992 through 2003.
-- If he wins one round this week, the Southern Nationals will become the second race in which John has won as many as 60 racing rounds, the other being the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn.
-- Two of John's closest final round wins came at Atlanta where he beat Whit Bazemore by .001 of a second in 1999 and Robert Hight by .002 in 2004.