ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- John Force rarely dresses up. However, the nine-time Winston Funny Car Champion will do so this weekend (May 19-21) in anticipation of achieving a milestone victory in the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals. ...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- John Force rarely dresses up. However, the nine-time Winston Funny Car Champion will do so this weekend (May 19-21) in anticipation of achieving a milestone victory in the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals.
Winner of the last two events in NHRA's Winston Drag Racing Series and just one victory shy of tying Bob Glidden's career record, Force will debut a "Nine-Time Champion" version of his Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang when qualifying begins Friday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Beneath the distinctive paint job, however, the world's fastest full-bodied race car (324.05 miles per hour) will be little changed.
"Basically, it's the same car that won Richmond (April 30) and Atlanta (May 7)," Force said. "It's just got a new body and new paint. There wasn't any reason to change. She's been running real good."
In fact, his two most recent victories raised Force's career bounty to 84 event titles. Glidden, who retired in 1996, won 85 times in a brilliant Pro Stock career.
"(No. 85) will come," Force said, "but maybe not this week and maybe not next week. Heck, I may not even be the first guy to get there. Warren Johnson (the five-time reigning Winston pro Stock Champ) has 80 wins. So he's right there, too.
"Bottom line, record's are nice, but that's not what we're here for," Force continued. "We're trying to win another championship and there are a lot of good race teams out there trying to keep us from it. (Jerry) Toliver is leading the points and he's put together a good team with Dale Armstrong as the Crew Chief.
"Then there's Ron Capps in (Don) Prudhomme's car, (Whit) Bazemore, Dean Skuza, Del Worsham. And don't forget my teammate, Tony Pedregon, in the Castrol SYNTEC™ Ford. It's not going to be easy."
Of course, with Force, easy is relative.
The 51-year-old veteran has dominated NHRA Funny Car racing for the last 11 seasons. During that span, he never has won fewer than three races in any one season and, in a sport in which a driver has earned double digit victories only six times in history, Force has won 10 or more events four times (1993, 1994, 1996 and 1999).
Even in 1992, when he lost the title to Cruz Pedregon in the final race of the year, Force won four times and sat on the pole eight.
His dominance has been such that he has won 63 of the last 147 events in the Winston Series. That's 42.8 per cent. Significantly, in a 2000 season in which rivals have tried to paint the champ as vulnerable, he's won three times in seven starts. The percentage? 42.8.
To the dismay of rivals, the loquacious one just won't seem to go away. For them, the Star Wars phrase "may the Force be with you" has proved to be more curse than comfort because, by his own admission, Force plans to be around long after he wins his 85th title.
"I'm just starting to have fun," he said.
<pre> John Force at......
Old Bridge Raceway Park Englishtown, New Jersey
Starts: 18 Times No. 1 qualifier: 3 (1988, 1993-94) Final round appearances: 7 Wins: 4 (1993, 1996, 1998-99) Won-Lost Record: 38-14 Best Performances: 4.843 seconds, May 15, 1998 *323.89 mph, May 17, 1998 *track record LAST YEAR -- Won for the second straight year from the No. 2 qualifying position.
DID YOU KNOW: John has qualified for 237 consecutive events..... he has won at least one NHRA event for 14 straight seasons, the longest such streak in Funny Car history .... John has broken the 320 mph barrier 15 times. No other Funny Car driver has done so more than once.....John has posted the best numbers of the season: 4.826 seconds, 321.50 mph.....if he reaches the final round for a third straight year at Raceway Park, John would reach 600 round wins in a 15-year association with his principal sponsor, Castrol GTX.
The Race on TV: ESPN2 will provide two hours of qualifying highlights (7 pm, ET, Saturday, May 20) and two hours of race coverage (7:30 pm, ET, Sunday).
SCHEDULE -- Nitro qualifying at 4 pm and 8 pm Friday; 12:15 pm and 4 pm Saturday. Finals starting at 11 am Sunday.