Englishtown Funny Car John Force is the ''force''

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - With one more victory, nine-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force will tie Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden's all-time leading win total of 85. In the process, a victory also will help Force in his bid to overtake current...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - With one more victory, nine-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force will tie Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden's all-time leading win total of 85.

In the process, a victory also will help Force in his bid to overtake current Funny Car nemesis Jerry Toliver, who has been the Winston points leader in the 6,000 horsepower category since the season-opening event in early February at Pomona, Calif.

No doubt, the stage is set for high drama at the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions.

The $2 million race, May 18-21 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, is the eighth of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

While records are great, Force admits that he wants to beat Toliver in order to accomplish another record -- a 10th NHRA Winston Championship. Glidden, who dominated NHRA Pro Stock racing from the early 1970s to the mid '90s, also has 10 Winston titles.

While Force and Glidden never met on the racetrack, the same can't be said for Force and Toliver, who have developed an intense rivalry this season. Toliver, from Huntington Beach, Calif., opened the season with two victories in three final round appearances in his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Chevy Camaro. His teammate, Jim Epler, also has one victory this season.

Not only has former drag boat racer Toliver been outstanding on the track, but he's also made his championship intentions well known, much to the chagrin of Force, who owned the category during the last decade.

"He's doing the talk, just like the WWF," said Force, a winner of the last two events at the New Jersey quarter-mile. "It's a gimmick to create excitement. In the WWF they yell and scream and throw each other off the stage. It's just what they do. We may not break any tables, but I do think Toliver has brought some excitement to the NHRA. He sure has lit a fire in me to get going and win some races."

After being as low as fourth in the Winston point standings, back-to-back victories in Richmond, Va. and Atlanta have propelled Force to a close second in the points battle. Heading to Englishtown, Force trails Toliver by 30.

"The bottom line is, this ain't wrestling," Force added with a grin. "This is drag racing."

And Force knows that in drag racing, anything can happen. After 22 years in the sport, he's seen it all. He knows how quickly a points lead can evaporate.

"Sometimes if you hype it too much, it can bite you," said Force, who in 1992 thought he had a Winston championship secured by mid-season, but his car suffered a variety of mechanical problems down the stretch, giving way to title-hungry Cruz Pedregon, who went on a winning rampage. Pedregon is the only driver besides Force to win a championship in the '90s.

As for the title of first driver in the new millennium to win a Winston Funny Car championship, Force isn't making any predictions. He wants to let his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang do the talking on the racetrack. However, he did say if he and the 6-3 Toliver were to meet in the squared-circle, that outcome might be a little more predictable. "Hey," Force added. "I can't beat him up, he's bigger than me."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , John Force , Bob Glidden , Cruz Pedregon , Jerry Toliver