Las Vegas II: John Force preview

FORCE TRYING TO PROTECT POINTS LEAD AT LAS VEGAS 54 Points Separate Top Three Funny Car Drivers LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Drag racing champion John Force has seen this movie before. The difference is that this week he can write an alternative ending,...

FORCE TRYING TO PROTECT POINTS LEAD AT LAS VEGAS
54 Points Separate Top Three Funny Car Drivers

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Drag racing champion John Force has seen this movie before. The difference is that this week he can write an alternative ending, a luxury he didn't enjoy during a sometimes painful first season of Driving Force, a real-life TV series in which he stars with his wife and daughters on A&E Network.

"That's reality TV," Force said of the series which presently is on hiatus, "but this (points race) is reality and, trust me, there's a really big difference."

Last fall, the 13-time Auto Racing All-American rolled his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the Funny Car points leader in a three-way duel with Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps for the $400,000 NHRA POWERade Championship.

Leading by 36 points with just two races remaining, Force stumbled at LVMS, losing a first round match with Del Worsham, and faltered again in the season finale at Pomona, Calif. As a result, both Scelzi and Capps moved around him in the final standings, the three of them separated by just 32 points.

It was an unexpected and eye-opening turn of events for the only drag racer have won more than 100 tour events (121).

"Honestly, after we won Dallas and took the lead, I though it was over," Force said. "We had won so much (14 championships in 16 seasons for the team) that I never thought that we wouldn't win it."

Flash forward to the present. Force is back this week at LVMS for the sixth annual ACDelco Nationals and, like last year, he is the point man in a three-way battle for the title. This time, the other players are Capps, who trails by 46, and second year pro Robert Hight, Force's son-in-law, who is 54 behind.

Although he has been established as the Funny Car favorite by Las Vegas odds makers, Force doesn't exude the confidence he did at this time a year ago.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," said the NHRA national record holder for quarter mile time (4.665 seconds) and speed (333.58 miles per hour). "I learned my lesson."

Force's caution is fueled by more than just his collapse in the final two races of 2005. The fact is, the 57-year-old icon has never been as dominant at LVMS as he has at other stops on the circuit and strange things have happened to him in the Nevada desert.

The most bizarre, of course, was his entanglement in a double-disqualification with Bob Bode in the first round of the inaugural ACDelco Nationals in 2001, an incident that ultimately resulted in an NHRA rule change.

Bode left the starting line before the electronic "tree" was activated. A bewildered Force, unsure of just what had happened, followed suit. By rule, both drivers were subsequently booted from the race even though Bode was both the "first or worst" violator. To its credit, the NHRA re-wrote the rule" but not the result.

Ironically, that made his victory the following year "his only victory at LVMS" even more gratifying.

Outside of that win, which enabled him to hold off then teammate Tony Pedregon and claim an unprecedented 10th consecutive NHRA Funny Car Championship, and a runner-up finish at the 2004 ACDelco Nationals, Force's performance resume at LVMS isn't up to his usual standards.

However, he hopes to change all that this weekend.

"It's a great track, like all the Bruton Smith tracks," Force said. "This is a great race team and I'm supposed to be the best driver. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to win here. We just have to do it."

-credit: www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Bob Bode , Robert Hight