Force nominated for Espy 'Best Driver' award

NHRA's Force nominated for third year as finalist for ESPN Espy 'Best Driver' award. John Force, the perennial NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion, is among the nominees for this year's ESPN ESPY awards. Force is the only drag racing competitor ...

NHRA's Force nominated for third year as finalist for ESPN Espy 'Best Driver' award.

John Force, the perennial NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion, is among the nominees for this year's ESPN ESPY awards. Force is the only drag racing competitor nominated among the finalists for the Best Driver category, which includes six drivers from other major auto racing series.

The winner will be revealed during a live ESPN telecast at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, July 10, 2002, at 9 p.m. ET.

Force, an 11-time NHRA Funny Car champion and winner of 100 NHRA national events, will face competition from four-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, three-time ESPY-winning NASCAR Winston Cup star Jeff Gordon, 2001 Busch Grand National series champ and Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Kevin Harvick, 2001 CART champion Gil de Ferran, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and 2001 IRL champion Sam Hornish.

"Naturally, it's an honor to have my name included with that group," Force said. "I've been to NASCAR races and I'm friends with some NASCAR

drivers through (my association with) Ford. I don't know much about formula racing, but I do know the names and I know the ability you have to have to succeed at this level."

It is Force's third straight nomination for ESPY Driver of the Year. Force, driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, is battling to earn his 10th straight (12th career) NHRA Funny Car championship this season and recently became only the third driver in major motorsports series history to earn 100 career victories, joining NASCAR legends Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) on the exclusive list. A two-time winner this season, Force is currently second in NHRA POWERade Funny Car point standings, behind teammate Gary Densham, who drives another Mustang for Force's three-car team. In 2001, Force earned six victories in 13 final round appearances and claimed a record 11th series title. He also set the national performance record with a 4.731 second elapsed time.

"To include a drag racer I think shows that the sport is getting a bigger audience and becoming more mainstream," Force said. "That's a credit to (NHRA President) Tom Compton and his group. With the new association with POWERade and Coca-Cola, I think the sport has a big future and I want to be a part of it - not just as a driver, but as a team owner."

The ESPY Awards - for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly - sets the stage for the sports world to celebrate the year's achievements, relive memorable moments and salute the best performers and performances.

Winners are selected by the ESPY Awards Academy, which includes Hall of Fame athletes and coaches as well as nationally recognized print and broadcast sports journalists representing every major media outlet.

Other past Best Driver ESPY winners include stock car racers Bobby Labonte and Dale Jarrett, and open wheel drivers Jimmy Vasser, Al Unser, Jr., and Nigel Mansell. The ESPY's have been presented annually since 1993.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , John Force , Kevin Harvick , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Nigel Mansell , Gary Densham , Al Unser Sr. , Richard Petty , David Pearson