Castrol GTX high mileage driver puts Brainerd foul behind him INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 29 - Sept. 2) -- In a season in which he has been uncustomarily erratic, John Force remains the man to beat this week when the NHRA POWERade Drag...
Castrol GTX high mileage driver puts Brainerd foul behind him
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 29 - Sept. 2) -- In a season in which he has been uncustomarily erratic, John Force remains the man to beat this week when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series rolls into a remodeled Indianapolis Raceway Park for the 49th renewal of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the sport's most prestigious single event.
Despite such unseemly errors as three foul starts and a centerline violation, rivals still are affording the 12-time champion and his Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang a wide berth, especially in an event in which he is the defending champion.
"Some people might have written John off (earlier in the season), but not me," said Whit Bazemore, the 1997 and 2001 U.S. Nationals winner and one of those in position to end Force's reign of terror in the Funny Car division which has included 10 straight series titles. "I've said from day one that John is the guy to beat, whether it's at the U.S. Nationals or for the championship."
Force rolls into IRP third in points behind Bazemore and Castrol teammate Tony Pedregon. After languishing in 12th place earlier in the year, the 108-time tour winner has rebounded and extended to 17 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA national event.
Nevertheless, it's been difficult this year for even his staunchest supporters to determine which John Force will turn up on race day.
Will it be the John Force who lowered the NHRA national record to 4.721 seconds last May in Joliet, Ill., or the John Force whose Mustang careened across the centerline two weeks later at Columbus, Ohio, costing him a victory; the John Force who dominated the Western Swing, winning two of three races, or the one who, two weeks ago, fouled out in the first round at Brainerd, Minn.?
Admittedly, Force has been up and down this year more often than George W's approval rating.
But this is Indy, the sport's biggest race. And in big races, Force always comes to play.
The fact is that since 1996, he has won seven of the 18 races offering winner's purses exceeding $50,000. Those include the U.S. Nationals, the Budweiser Shootout (contested in conjunction with the Nationals) and the now defunct Winston bonus races.
Two of Force's five Budweiser Shootout wins paid $100,000. He won $100,000 at Rockingham, N.C., in 1997 and $200,000 in the inaugural Winston Showdown at Bristol, Tenn., in 1999. That easily makes him the most prolific "money racer" in the sport.
Nevertheless, the 108-time tour winner insists that "'it's not about the money. It's about proving yourself against the best. I'd race at Indy for nothing as long as everybody else was here. Tony, Baze, Ron Capps, (Gary) Scelzi, Del Worsham, Gary Densham, (Tim) Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson, (Dean) Skuza. As long as all the top guys were racing, I'd do it for nothin' but don't tell that to NHRA.
Despite his struggles this season, Force feels good about his chances at IRP.
"We've got a good race car," he said. "We've just got to get the driver tuned up. The thing is, I've gone(to the starting line) too many times thinking about what I have to do. You can't think when you go up there, you just have to react. I know better; I'll get better."
That's probably not what his rivals want to hear.
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