Force returns to favorite track in bid for 10th straight FC Title. ENNIS, Texas Even though he's facing his strongest challenge since 1998, there is a concrete reason why John Force this year should win an unprecedented 10th consecutive NHRA ...
Force returns to favorite track in bid for 10th straight FC Title.
ENNIS, Texas Even though he's facing his strongest challenge since 1998, there is a concrete reason why John Force this year should win an unprecedented 10th consecutive NHRA Funny Car Championship and the $400,000 POWERade bonus that goes with it.
That reason is Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex, a track unique among those that host NHRA national championship events because of its all-concrete composition.
Whereas every other track on the circuit uses concrete at the starting line with a transition to asphalt roughly halfway down the quarter mile course, the concrete "launch pad" at the Motorplex never ends.
Conceived and created by Meyer, an 11-time NHRA tour winner who three times was runner-up for the NHRA Funny Car title (1980, 1982 and 1984), the Motorplex is the track best able to handle the almost 7,000 horsepower produced by Force's national-record holding Castrol GTX0x00ae Ford Mustang.
That's the main reason it is the favorite track of drag racing's favorite son, the track on which this week (Oct. 11-13) he hopes to re-energize his title bid by re-asserting himself in the 17th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC0x2122.
After all, in 11 of his last 13 appearances at the Motorplex, Force has driven his 325 mile-an-hour hybrid into the Funny Car final. Moreover, he has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 qualifier in 12 of his last 14 trips to the track on which, in 1998, he became the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.80 second barrier.
That's the kind of performance with which Force and his Crew Chiefs, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, expect to address the challenge posed by Tony Pedregon, who has driven the second Team Castrol Mustang, the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, to three consecutive victories.
"Tony, John Medlen, Dickie Venables, that whole team has done a heckuva job," Force said. "I said when Tony beat me at Atlanta (in 1996, his fifth race with the team) that I had hired my own assassin. Now he's trying not to make a liar out of me."
Despite the fact that Pedregon has moved to within 18 points of the lead, the closest anyone has been at this point in the season since Cruz Pedregon won the title in 1992, Force said there's no reason for panic.
"Why?," he asked. "We still have the lead and we still have a real good hot rod. We've just had some problems the last three races and Tony has stepped up and done his job. That's why we have three cars. When one goes down, the others are supposed to step in and get the sponsors into the winners' circle.
"Between me and Tony and (Gary) Densham, we've won 14 races and we're 1-2-3 in the points. How can you be upset about that? No matter what happens the next three races, it's been a great year for the team, for Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, All-Pro/Bumper-to-Bumper, Auto Value and Action, the company that does all the collectible cars for us."
Still, there's the championship. Even though all the money goes into the same pot (all purse and bonus monies are disbursed to crew members from all three teams), Force didn't become a 104-time tour winner by not being competitive.
"Somebody makes a run at us every year," he said. "I still get up for the fight, whether it's Tony or Ron Capps (who trailed by just 43 points with three races remaining in 1998) or (Whit) Bazemore. Competition is what it's all about."
Indeed, eight different drivers have finished second to Force the last 12 years and that doesn't even include Jerry Toliver, who two years ago led the points through mid-season before finishing third.