Denver: John Force preview

FORCE LOOKS FOR TWO-IN-A-ROW AS NHRA TOUR GOES MILE-HIGH 14-Time Champ Trying to Race His Way into Countdown DENVER, Colo. -- Coming off a breakthrough victory last Sunday that at least put him on the radar for the Countdown to the ...

FORCE LOOKS FOR TWO-IN-A-ROW AS NHRA TOUR GOES MILE-HIGH
14-Time Champ Trying to Race His Way into Countdown

DENVER, Colo. -- Coming off a breakthrough victory last Sunday that at least put him on the radar for the Countdown to the Championship, John Force tries to double-up this week when the NHRA POWERade tour moves to the top of the mountain for the 28th running of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.

Off to the worst start of his 30-year career, drag racing's biggest winner rallied last Sunday at Bristol, Tenn., where he drove his Castrol GTX® High Mileage™ Ford Mustang to a convincing victory, extending to 21 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA tour event.

"This ol' Mustang is finally starting to talk to me," Force said. "We changed hot rods (at the start of the current campaign) and the new car just wouldn't talk. No matter what we did to it. I couldn't beat my own daughter with it (losing to 24-year-old Ashley Force in the first round last May at Atlanta, Ga., in the first father-daughter match in pro sports history).

     "There's not question that we've struggled.  In one year, we went from being one of
the greatest teams in the history of the sport to the cellar; to being the worst.  We finally
just reached a point where we brought all the guys in and just asked  em.  Anybody
change their medication?  Have a stroke?  Bump their heads?  Anything?
     "Finally, there were only two things left (to change)," Force said.  "One was the
chassis and the other was (crew chief Austin) Coil and I ain't firing Coil  cause if I did
he'd write the tell-all book   and probably make a lot of money."

So, after losing in the first round two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Force's crew opted to swap out the old Murf McKinney chassis for a new one.

The two purportedly were identical. Force, who always has treated his race cars like his children, believes otherwise.

Regardless, whether it was the chassis change, one of the many adjustments made by Coil and co-crew chief Bernie Fedderly or divine intervention, the result was Force's 123rd career victory, one that extended to 21 the number of consecutive years in which the 14-time Auto Racing All-American selection has won at least one tour event.

"With all the yellin' and screamin' and fightin' that's been going on around here, bottom line, we're family and we kept it together," Force said.

      The victory only moved him up two positions (to 13th) in the driver standings, but
at least he can see the Top 8 from where he now sits.  Before, he had no view at all.

Nevertheless, with just five races remaining before the championship field is set and the points adjusted, he knows that getting a shot at a record 15th Funny Car title is anything but a sure thing.

"That was one race," he said of his success in Bristol's sweltering heat. "The only way we're gonna get in (the Countdown) is to keep winning rounds and keep winning races but at least now we've got a chance."

Fortunately, the 123-time tour winner has a history of doing just that at Bandimere Speedway, site of the most unique and challenging event in the series, one contested on a track that hangs off the side of a mountain at 5,300 feet elevation.

In his last 15 appearances in Denver's rarefied air, Force has won five times, most recently in 2003. More significant is the fact that on the six previous occasions on which he has won the race immediately preceding the Mile-High Nationals, he has gone on to win at Bandimere three times (1994 and 1996 after winning at Topeka, Kan., and 2001, after winning a special 50th anniversary event at Pomona, Calif.).

In fact, Force has gone back-to-back more often than anyone in history. Forty-five times he has won successive series events but 46 might be the magic number.

"I believe in miracles," Force said, "but it ain't just about winning. It's about doing your best. I remember that when I think about Eric. If I don't make it, I'm still gonna fight down to the last race cause that's what it's all about. In the end, we may not make the chase, but at least we got our heart back."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force