Joliet II: John Force preview

Points Leader Favored in 4th Annual CARQUEST Nationals JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 1-3) -- Tiger Woods isn't driving as well this season as he would like. For that matter, neither is John Force. However, when big money is on the line, few ...

Points Leader Favored in 4th Annual CARQUEST Nationals

     JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 1-3) -- Tiger Woods isn't driving as well this season as he would
like.  For that matter, neither is John Force.

However, when big money is on the line, few would bet against either champion, which is why Woods always is a threat on the PGA golf tour and why Force is the Funny Car favorite in this week's fourth annual CARQUEST Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Although he was disqualified last week for the third time this season for premature acceleration (leaving the starting line before the green light), Force leads the NHRA POWERade driver standings by 228 points with only this week's race and three more remaining on the 2004 calendar.

That means that barring a meltdown the equal of Chernobyl, the sport's most prolific winner is going to drive the Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Mustang to a 13th series championship and extend his team's streak of consecutive NHRA Funny Car Championships to 12.

That said, the sport's most prolific winner is not yet ready to start spending the $400,000 bonus earmarked for the 2004 champion.

     "We're looking okay," Force said of his 12-round lead over Gary Scelzi, "but it's
not over.  If I had done my job, we'd already have clinched."

Force acknowledges that, on occasion, he simply has lost his concentration this year, a problem he is confident he can correct.

""Red lights (foul starts) are part of it, but they're the worst when you've got a car as good as this one," observed the 113-time tour winner. "It may be the best car I've ever had because it's good in the cool and it's good in the heat; it's good on the best tracks and it's good on the ones that aren't so good."

Force will be on one of those good tracks this week, a Route 66 Raceway quarter mile on which Whit Bazemore set the current NHRA elapsed time record (4.713 seconds) and on which Scelzi set the speed record. It also is the track on which Force won last spring's Route 66 Nationals; the same one on which he earned his 100th career title in 2000.

"It'll be a fast track," Force said, "but I don't think we'll see a record. Everybody's still learning to run on 85 per cent (the newly-mandated limit on the amount of nitromethane in the fuel mix)."

The ability of Force's team to adapt to the new fuel regulation has been the key to Force's drive to the title.

Before that rule was implemented at Seattle, Wash., Force led the driver standings by a scant 27 points. He's padded that lead by 201 points in the six races contested on 85 per cent nitro.

Force credits Chicago native Austin Coil, his crew chief since 1985, for making the adjustments that have enabled him to post the quickest Funny Car times and fastest speeds since the rules change.

After coaxing the GTX Start Up Ford through the timers in 4.749 seconds at 323.12 mph three weeks ago at Indianapolis, Force followed up by posting a time of 4.784 seconds at 324.20 mph last week at Dallas, Texas.

"I just want to lock up the championship," Force said. "I don't want it to come down to the last round at the last race."

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Austin Coil