Las Vegas II: John Force preview

Second place still within reach as Force's reign nears its end. 12-Time champ aims for fifth 1-2 finish in eight years for Team Castrol. LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Oct. 24-26) 0x2022 For the first time in 11 years, John Force rolls into the next-to-last...

Second place still within reach as Force's reign nears its end. 12-Time champ aims for fifth 1-2 finish in eight years for Team Castrol.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Oct. 24-26) 0x2022 For the first time in 11 years, John Force rolls into the next-to-last race of the season with no realistic chance of winning the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.

Nevertheless, down 177 points to Castrol SYNTEC0 teammate Tony Pedregon as the tour moves this week to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection is anything but dispirited about the likely end of the most incredible singular performance in sports history 0x2022 10 consecutive series championships.

Not since 1992 has Force been on the short end of the points race. That's the year Tony's older brother, Cruz, won five of the season's last six races to catch and pass him.

"Nothing lasts forever," Force said, "but if Tony wins, I still win -- 'cause I own the car."

Indeed, if Pedregon holds on, it would be the 11th straight championship for Team Castrol and John Force Racing and the 13th in 14 years..

Of course, while the championship may be beyond his control, Force isn't without motivation this week as he returns to the third annual AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals as the defending Funny Car Champion.

With just this week's race and the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California World Finals remaining in the 2003 POWERade Series, Force quietly has moved himself and the Castrol GTX mgh Mileage Ford Mustang into position to challenge Whit Bazemore for second place.

That Force would even have a shot at a runner-up finish is almost unfathomable given the kind of season he has endured.

After all, he stumbled out of the gate when a new chassis/engine/clutch combination failed to deliver immediate results. The result was a dismal six-race stretch in which he went 3-6 and never got past the second round.

Four races into the season, he was 11th in points, the first time he had been outside the Top 10 at such a point since 1989.

Once Co-Crew Chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly finally were able to put the mechanical gremlins to rest, a new, and wholly unexpected, problem arose.

Force, who had been guilty of leaving the starting line in advance of the "go" signal just four times in his first 25 seasons on the tour, was guilty of two foul starts in three races. A third would follow in August, effectively ending his title aspirations.

Those starting line woes were attributed to changes in the NHRA's starting system that mandated a change in Force's driving routine, especially his starting line routine. For his part, Force accepted full responsibility.

"You fix the car," he told Coil and Fedderly. "I'll fix the driver."

Nevertheless, the 1996 Driver of the Year finally has worked his way back to within 63 points of second place and his performance at Las Vegas will have very large bearing on whether he actually can overtake Bazemore and secure his team's fifth 1-2 finish in eight seasons.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Austin Coil