Gainesville: John Force preview

Force Seeks Eighth Win in Mac Tools Gatornationals GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19-21) -- For John Force, one of the Funny Car favorites in this week's 35th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the wearin' o' the green isn't...

Force Seeks Eighth Win in Mac Tools Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19-21) -- For John Force, one of the Funny Car favorites in this week's 35th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the wearin' o' the green isn't just a seasonal concession to fans who trace their lineage to the Emerald Isle.

For the 54-year-old drag racing icon, winner of a record 12 NHRA series championships, wearing the green is something that's as natural as, well, signing an autograph.

In fact, it's difficult to catch the 109-time POWERade tour winner wearing a shirt without at least a touch of green trim or a hat without a red-and-green emblem.

Force's new driving uniform is so green that rivals have suggested it makes him look like a leprechaun, which is of absolutely no concern to the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection.

He just loves green.

It's an affinity that can be traced to a specific event in 1986 -- the signing of his first contract with Castrol Motor Oil, the company that today sponsors not only his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang but also teammate Eric Medlen's Castrol SYNTEC Ford.

After all, Castrol's corporate logo is green. The Castrol GTX oil can is green, red and white. Castrol SYNTEC blends green with black. Force's options were either to embrace the color green or lose the financial green. He opted for the former.

Of course, at the time, the decision wasn't as easy as one might expect. For one thing, in racing there long had been a stigma attached to the color green. Even today, there are Crew Chiefs who won't allow anything green in their pit areas.

For another, $5,000 (the amount of that first contract) wasn't really enough money to tempt most of those competing in the NHRA series to change religions or abandon long-held superstitions. However, to Force, who was struggling financially and had yet to win his first tour event, it seemed like a windfall.

Ultimately, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection was able to parlay that modest start into what today is the standard for the sport, the proverbial "300-pound gorilla" of drag racing.

The success of John Force Racing, which has won 11 consecutive NHRA Funny Car championships and 142 NHRA events, all with Castrol support, has contributed further to the St. Patrick's rite by leaving the competition green with envy.

As for the Gatornationals, Force has come an awfully long way since 1981 when he was displaying his race car at a Wendy's hamburgers location on the very morning of the event.

"We did a lot of appearances back then for extra money," Force said. "We couldn't afford a show car, so we used the race car. We'd be standing on the corner with the race car, the one we qualified on Saturday, and (Don) Prudhomme and (Raymond) Beadle and (Kenny) Bernstein would drive by on their way to the track."

You won't find Force's race car on display this week, however, at least not the one in which he will compete in Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

However, you might find it in the winners' circle, where it has appeared even more often than at Wendy's -- seven times in the last 12 seasons.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Eric Medlen