Dallas: John Force preview

DALLAS, Texas -- On a Texas Motorplex track on which he suffered the most serious injuries of his 32-year driving career, John Force hopes to regain his competitive health this week when the NHRA Full Throttle pro tour returns to the Lone...

DALLAS, Texas -- On a Texas Motorplex track on which he suffered the most serious injuries of his 32-year driving career, John Force hopes to regain his competitive health this week when the NHRA Full Throttle pro tour returns to the Lone Star state for the 24th renewal of the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals, second race in the Countdown to One playoffs

It's been just two years since drag racing's biggest winner left Billy Meyer's Texas track in a medical helicopter after suffering multiple injuries when his Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang blew a tire and crashed into Kenny Bernstein's Dodge Charger.

Two years of physical therapy and extra strength training have restored Force's physical health, but the Hall of Fame driver said he won't feel complete until he has regained the competitive edge that delivered a record 126 tour victories and 14 championships.

A 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection, Force scoffs at the suggestion that, at age 60, he has lost the skills that once made him almost unbeatable.

"I know I can still drive," he said, "and I know I can still win but, at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. We're down to the last five races (of the season) and time is running out."

At stake for Force is the survival of two remarkable streaks. The former truck driver has raced in at least one final round every year since 1985 and has won at least once in every season since 1987. That's 24 years and 22 years, respectively. Thus far this season, though, he's been unable to advance beyond the semifinals at the wheel of the Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang.

He also is trying to win his 1,000th competitive round with Austin Coil as his crew chief. That's 1,000 rounds won in 25 seasons together.

Unfortunately, it's a statistic that means nothing in the NHRA playoffs, which resume this week with Force 78 points behind Tony Pedregon and 77 behind his daughter, Ashley Force Hood, the highest ranked of the four John Force Racing qualifiers.

"The only round that makes any difference," Coil has said, "is the last one. If you won the last one, then there's the chance you can win the next one and if you happen to be lucky enough to win four-in-a-row, well, you're back in the winners' circle."

Although it's been 35 races since Force last appeared in a final round, the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection doesn't think anyone has yet been eliminated from championship consideration.

"I think we've got as good a chance as anyone else," he said. "Just look at what Cruz (Pedregon) did last year. He got hot in the Countdown, won a couple of races in a row (three) and got the ring. He did the same thing in 92. We thought we had it won and he came out and won five-in-a-row and ran us down.

"This year, there's 10 good cars in the Countdown. Any one of them can win it. Our job is to make sure it's one of these Fords. Robert's (Robert Hight) race car is back. He's hot right now. But Ashley's had a great car all year and me and (Mike) Neff are both overdue. "

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Ashley Force , Robert Hight