Force Tries to Extend Points Lead In Return to Favorite Racetrack All-Concrete Surface at Texas Motorplex Could Yield Records ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24-26) -- One of John Force's biggest assets in his drive toward an unprecedented 13th NHRA Funny...
Force Tries to Extend Points Lead In Return to Favorite Racetrack
All-Concrete Surface at Texas Motorplex Could Yield Records
ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24-26) -- One of John Force's biggest assets in his drive toward an unprecedented 13th NHRA Funny Car championship is a good memory.
Although he is the defending champion in this week's 19th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC® and even though he has been a finalist in nine of his last 11 appearances at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex, Force still is haunted by the memory of 1992.
That's the year he squandered a big points lead to Cruz Pedregon to whom he then lost in the Motorplex final when he hit the concrete guardwall not once, not twice, but three times in a frustrating, futile and unnecessary catch-up attempt given the fact that disqualification resulted after the very first impact.
The Texas loss, for all intents, ended Force's bid for a third straight championship and sent him into a long winter of discontent.
He never has forgotten that feeling, which is why his team has won every Funny Car championship since and why, despite his resume, he is unlikely to be overconfident this week when he sends the Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Mustang after its fifth Fall Nationals victory in the last seven years.
"There's nothing to celebrate," Force said of the imposing 206-point advantage he enjoys over Gary Scelzi. "Everything could turn around in a race or two. We have to be on our game because Scelzi and (Whit) Bazemore will be on theirs.
"The Motorplex is my favorite track because I love the concrete (the only all- concrete quarter mile on the NHRA POWERade circuit)," acknowledged the 113-time tour winner, "but it's a good track for the Dodges, too, because it'll take the power." (Scelzi and Bazemore both drive Dodge Stratus Funny Cars).
"We want to go in (to the race) like we're 200 behind, not 200 ahead," he said. You've gotta race with that fear (that someone is going to "take it all away from you)."
It's a mindset that has served the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection well in a Hall-of-Fame career that began modestly enough in 1978 when he qualified for the season-ending NHRA World Finals at Pomona, Calif., before promptly losing in the first round.
Force didn't win for the first time until 1987 but, fueled by the fear of failure, he has been winning ever since.
In fact, following his 1992 loss to Pedregon, he came back the following year to claim the first of his six overall victories at the Motorplex, the track on which, in 1998, he became the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.80 second barrier (4.787).
Force's current lead is the equivalent of 11 competitive rounds. That means that for Scelzi to catch him, he would have to win 11 more rounds than Force over the season's last five events.
Nevertheless, Force doesn't consider it a comfortable lead.
"I won't be comfortable until the (year-end) banquet," he said. "That's when I'll know if we won or not, if I get the ($400,000 bonus) check."