Denver: John Force preview

FORCE BIDS FOR STARRING ROLE IN SERIES OTHER THAN HIS OWN 13-Time Champ Seeks Seventh Mile-High Nationals Win DENVER, Colo. -- Although he will play a prominent role in Monday's premiere episode of the new real-life TV series that bears his...

FORCE BIDS FOR STARRING ROLE IN SERIES OTHER THAN HIS OWN
13-Time Champ Seeks Seventh Mile-High Nationals Win

DENVER, Colo. -- Although he will play a prominent role in Monday's premiere episode of the new real-life TV series that bears his name (Driving Force), John Force hopes to take a star turn one night earlier -- during ESPN's 7 p.m. (Mountain time) coverage of the 27th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

"(Driving Force) gives us a chance to take drag racing to a new audience (on the A&E Network)," Force said, "but ESPN takes care of the hard core fans and they're the ones that keep us out here (on the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour)."

Having driven his national record-holding Castrol® GTX® Ford Mustang to the final round in six of the season's first 12 races, Force has put himself solidly into contention for an unprecedented 14th NHRA Funny Car championship.

Down 44 points to pacesetting Ron Capps, he is seeking his sixth win in the last 13 years at Bandimere Speedway, a track whose 5,300 foot elevation creates challenges for drivers and crew chiefs unlike those anywhere else on the circuit.

"It puts a strain on the motor and it puts a strain on the driver," Force said, "because neither one of them can breathe."

     Crew chiefs compensate for the thin air by turning up the overdrive on the
supercharger and, in effect, creating more "artificial air."  Drivers just deal with it.
     "I take oxygen," Force said, "but I take oxygen at every race, just to keep up with
Capps and all these kids.  I do anything that'll help.  I coffee up.  I drink Coke Blak,
which is like coffee and Coke.  I drink POWERade.  I work the practice tree (a miniature
version of the Christmas Tree starting system).  Whatever it takes."

Force has been doing "whatever it takes" for 30 years and it's worked out pretty well for the 57-year-old icon. In fact, he rolls into the Mile-High Nationals having qualified a Castrol Funny Car for 381 consecutive races dating back to the start of the 1988 season. That's 19 consecutive years without a qualifying failure, a record considered by many to be the one most unlikely to be eclipsed.

Winner of at least one NHRA tour event for 20 straight seasons, Force has said that retirement isn't an option even though his 23-year-old daughter, Ashley, is being groomed to drive a John Force Racing Funny Car either next year or the year after.

"What would I do (if I retired)?" he asked. "I've been on the road for 30 years. Besides, I'm under contract with Castrol and Ford (to drive) through 2011."

Each time someone has mentioned the "R" word, Force has responded by pointing out that drag racing's requirements are different from those of other motor sports.

"We're not out there driving around for three hours like NASCAR," he said. "As long as you've got your health and your vision and can keep up your leave times (reaction times), there's no reason you need to get out of the car when you're 40 or 50 like they do in NASCAR and Formula. Look at Warren Johnson. He's 62 and still winning races in Pro Stock)."

     According to crew chief Austin Coil, Force is driving as well this season as he ever
has   and his experience makes him a threat on any track under any conditions.

"I've been down more racetracks than anybody out here," said the 13-time Auto Racing All-America selection. "I think that gives me an edge, but we'll see. There's a lot of great drivers and teams out there."

Nevertheless, those other teams have struggled to keep up with Force's own. John Force Racing, Inc., has won 14 of the last 16 Funny Car titles and its drivers are second, third (defending Denver champion Robert Hight) and fifth (Eric Medlen) in points entering the Mile-High Nationals.

As usual, the Western Swing, which continues the next two weeks at Seattle, Wash., and Sonoma, Calif., will play a major role in determining who ultimately takes home the $400,000 POWERade bonus.

Force, by the way, is one of only five drivers to have swept the three races in the Western Swing, a feat he accomplished in 1994. He just missed in 1996 when he sandwiched Denver and Seattle wins around a Sonoma runner-up.

-jfr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Austin Coil