POMONA, Calif. -- John Force WAS NOT the first Funny Car driver to break the 5.00 second barrier, nor the first to eclipse 300 miles-an-hour. Those honors, instead, fell to Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler, respectively. That's why the nine-time ...
POMONA, Calif. -- John Force WAS NOT the first Funny Car driver to break the 5.00 second barrier, nor the first to eclipse 300 miles-an-hour. Those honors, instead, fell to Chuck Etchells and Jim Epler, respectively.
That's why the nine-time reigning Winston Funny Car Champion is so focused on this week's (Nov. 11-14) 35th annual AAA of Southern California World Finals at the LA County Fairplex -- because it's the last major drag race of the century "and people are going to remember who won the last one."
Not that his resume would be incomplete should he fail to reach the winners' circle on Sunday. It's just that Force is very conscious of the big moments in drag racing and he senses that success in this week's finale to a 22-race season would be very big indeed.
Not only would a victory make him the answer to yet another drag racing trivia question (i.e. "who won the last Funny Car race of the century?"), it also would apply an exclamation point to yet another "career season" for the 50-year-old drag racing icon from Yorba Linda, Calif.
"Sometimes when it gets down to the end of the season, you lose your focus," Force said, "but even though we've got the championship (his seventh straight and ninth in 10 years), we still have a lot of motivation. It's the last race of the century. We'd like to win that. Plus, bottom line, every time we win, we get another step closer (Bob) Glidden's records."
The records to which Force alluded are those for victories (85) and series championships (10) in a career. Once thought unapproachable, Force is closing in on them at 324.05 miles per hour, the speed at which he set the current NHRA national record at the wheel of his all-conquering Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, a car in which he has won 11 times already this year.
With back-to-back tour victories leading into the Finals, Force has moved to within four wins and one championship of tying Glidden, the now retired Pro Stock phenomenon who dominated the 1970s and 80s.
"We raced in different eras and in different classes," Force said of Glidden, "so there's really no fair comparison. But still, breaking that record, it's something that fans and the media like to talk about, I think. Just like when we won our eighth title and the said that was one more than (Dale) Earnhardt and (Richard) Petty won in NASCAR.
"It gives em something to write about and I'd rather them write about us than someone else."
Not that people aren't already talking about the 81-time tour winner who, after a 1998 season in which he won "only" three times, re-asserted himself this year at the wheel of newly-engineered Castrol GTX Mustang.
Strapped into a race car 50 pounds lighter than its predecessor, Force won six of the season's first eight races and set national records for quarter mile time (4.788 seconds) and speed. As a result, the loquacious one is a shoo-in to be named to the AARWBA All-America team for a record seventh straight time.
AAA of Southern California NHRA World Finals Nov. 11-14, 1999 LA County Fairplex Pomona, California
Pomona starts: 35 Times No. 1 qualifier: 7 (1989, 1990,1995, 1997, 1999 Winternationals; 1994, 1995 World Finals) Final round appearances: 12 Event wins: 6 (1991, 1993, 1997 Winternationals; 1988,1994, 1996 World Finals) Won-Lost Record: 64-29 Best performances at the Fairplex: 4.831 seconds (track record), Feb. 5, 1999 316.15 mph (track record), Feb. 7, 1999
John has qualified for 229 consecutive events dating back to the 1987 World Finals....John has won at least one NHRA event for 13 consecutive seasons....One of only two drivers to have broken the 4.80 second barrier, John has done so five times at four different racetracks (Texas Motorplex, Houston Raceway Park, Gainesville Raceway and Heartland Park-Topeka)....John is only the second driver, after Bob Glidden (85), to win 80 races in his career....If John puts his Castrol GTX Ford on the "pole" this weekend, it would be only the second time in history that a Funny Car driver has qualified No. 1 at both Pomona races in the same season. John also accomplished that feat in 1995.