Force Falls in Final But Has 13th Title in Sight

Force Moves Ever Closer To Championship For the second consecutive weekend, John Force did everything but win the race in a Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang that carried him even closer to a 13th NHRA Funny Car Championship. Force, drag ...

Force Moves Ever Closer To Championship

For the second consecutive weekend, John Force did everything but win the race in a Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang that carried him even closer to a 13th NHRA Funny Car Championship.

Force, drag racing's biggest winner with 113 tour victories, set Maple Grove Raceway track records for time (4.728 seconds) and speed (327.82 miles per hour) before losing traction and the championship of the 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals.

This time, Gary Scelzi was the beneficiary of Force's misfortune, using a final round time of 4.853 seconds to win for the second time this year. Force, whose car suffered a clutch malfunction, slowed to 11.507 seconds at 86.39 mph.

By reaching the final round for the 10th time this season and dispatching Del Worsham in the semifinals, Force extended his lead to 260 points. That means that all the veteran will have to do when the tour moves to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 19-31, is qualify for the 16-car field.

The last time Force failed to make the starting lineup was Oct. 31, 1987, a span of 344 tour events. The No. 2 qualifier behind rookie teammate Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Mustang, Force sped past Jerry Toliver with his record-setting run in round one, took out Tim Wilkerson in round two with a 4.762 and beat Worsham in the semifinals with a 4.765. Those were the three quickest times of eliminations.

"I didn't realize it, but I guess we broke the pressure plate (in the clutch)," Force said. "They had to put a new one in which should have worked just fine. But it didn't. It was just too aggressive and we overpowered the track.

"I have to tip my hat to Gary Scelzi and the Schumacher team and to Worsham. He was unbelievable the way he fought for this championship. He's a class act. There were three good cars chasing us - (Whit) Bazemore, Scelzi and Worsham. So I tip my hat to them. I have a lot of respect for each one of them.

"I've got a car that's got the potential of winning the next two races and I've got a driver that's back on track - and that's me. I got a little bit lost awhile back, but I'm okay now. Those 4.60s are out there. We'll see what we can do at Vegas. It's going to be exciting."

TEAM CASTROL Details:

JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.754 seconds, 323.81 mph.

Race results: Beat Jerry Toliver, Tim Wilkerson, Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi

Notable: Lowered the track record to 4.728 seconds, raised the speed record to 327.82 mph and moved even closer to clinching an unprecedented 13th championship.

Quotable: "(Top Fuel driver Tony) Schumacher got his championship here, (Pro Stock driver Greg) Anderson got his (at Indianapolis) and, bottom line, we should get ours in Vegas. It should be exciting." - JOHN FORCE.

ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.741 seconds, 324.12 mph.

Race results: Beat Jim Head; lost to Tony Pedregon.

Notable: Earned second career No.1 qualifying award.

Quotable: "We had a chance to make up some ground and we didn't get it done. The good thing is we've got a real fast race car going to Vegas." - ERIC MEDLEN.

GARY DENSHAM, 57, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang

Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.796 seconds, 323.74 mph.

Race results: Beat Phil Burkart Jr.; lost to Gary Scelzi.

Notable: Moved to within 19 points of fourth place and Whit Bazemore.

Quotable: "No one was more surprised than me (about a loss of traction in the first round). I expected it to go right down the track - but it didn't." - GARY DENSHAM.

NEXT EVENTS: ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19-31; Automobile Club of Southern California World Finals, Pomona, Calif., Nov. 11-14.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Tim Wilkerson , Phil Burkart , Jerry Toliver , Eric Medlen