Gainesville John Force Seeks Drag Racing Immortality in 2000

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - John Force is the winningest Funny Car driver in NHRA history. He's got more event trophies and championship titles than anyone who has ever held the controls of a nitro-fueled, 6,000 horsepower short-wheelbase race...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - John Force is the winningest Funny Car driver in NHRA history.

He's got more event trophies and championship titles than anyone who has ever held the controls of a nitro-fueled, 6,000 horsepower short-wheelbase race car.

But for all his accomplishments, he stands at the threshold of achieving drag racing immortality as he faces the goals of his 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series season.

With a little luck, he can become the winningest driver in NHRA history. At the same time, if he's successful at accomplishing that goal, he'll most likely vault to the top in another category: most Winston championships. To achieve both goals, Force has to get past one driver: Bob Glidden. The legendary Pro Stock driver currently holds the title of winningest driver in the history of the sport, with 85 event trophies to his credit. Force, thanks to a recent victory in Phoenix, has 82 wins. Glidden, who retired at the end of the 1997 season, has 10 Winston championships. Force has earned nine, all during the last decade.

With all of the pressure mounting in the form of high expectations for Force to pass Glidden in both categories this season, the Yorba Linda, Calif. driver is looking at the challenge as another opportunity to add to an incredible resume.

Force says a 10th Winston championship can only come by scoring a lot of victories. He's focused on becoming NHRA's all-time win leader.

"Yeah, I want to (break the record)," said Force, who heads the list of Funny Car favorites for the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 16-19, at historic Gainesville Raceway. "But it is a record that just keeps pushing you ahead like 'I've got to do it... I've got to do it.' I would like to have the record because everywhere you go someone will say the winningest guy in the history of the sport is Bob Glidden. Maybe someone will say that about me someday, or maybe they won't. But, I'm going to keep trying."

Breaking records, posting milestone performances and laying the groundwork for the future of drag racing is nothing new for the former trucker who has always dreamed of making a name for himself in drag racing.

In 1996, Force was the first drag racer to be named Driver of the Year by a nationwide panel of motorsports journalists. Last season Force set national performance records for a Funny Car (4.788 seconds, 324.05 mph) and scored an emotional victory in the inaugural Winston Showdown, the first NHRA event to feature Top Fuel dragsters against Funny Cars. Last month, Force became the first drag racer to be nominated for two categories in the increasingly popular ESPYs, cable outlet ESPN's annual awards showcase for the best achievements in sports.

Following a lackluster performance at the season-opener at Pomona, Calif., Force seems to have his familiar Castrol GTX Ford Mustang back on track and should be a force in Gainesville, a track he admits is one of his favorites. The 50-year-old driver is a six-time winner of the $1.9 million race, the third of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. He'll need to be in top form to contend with rival Chevrolet drivers Jerry Toliver, who drives the WWF Racing Camaro, and Ron Capps, who drives the U.S. Tobacco Camaro.

"I'm excited to get a win and get points like I'm still in business," Force said about his win at Phoenix, the last stop for the series. "It was very important for us to not let the WWF guys or Capps get off to a huge start. I didn't want to give them the mental edge. Those WWF guys are tough. Their whole motivation is to kill the enemy. They don't mess around. We had to answer back (in Phoenix). It's really going to be one of those years. It's not going to be one of those runaway deals."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Bob Glidden