FORCE REMAINS A FACTOR AS TOUR MOVES TO LVMS 14-Time Champion Trying to Extend Two Streaks LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Entering this week's ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, John Force hasn't given up on...
FORCE REMAINS A FACTOR
AS TOUR MOVES TO LVMS
14-Time Champion Trying to Extend Two Streaks
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Entering this week's ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, John Force hasn't given up on himself, his team or his Castrol GTX® High Mileage^Ù Ford Mustang as they race to extend two of the most remarkable streaks in professional drag racing history.
With just two races remaining in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Series, Force is winless for the first time in 23 years. Not only that, he is final-less for the first time since 1984. If you do the math, that's a quarter century.
Six trips to the semifinals this year in his 8,000 horsepower hybrid Mustang have yielded no final round appearances for the 60-year old drag racing icon.
A 126-time tour winner, Force already has raced himself out of contention for a 15th career title. He presently is ninth in points and, barring a miracle, is on the way to his worst finish since the aforementioned 1984.
Nevertheless, it's been anything but a throwaway season for the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection.
For one thing, he owns the cars that are 1-2 in Full Throttle points (those driven by Robert Hight and Ashley Force Hood) and that has placed his team, John Force Racing, Inc., in position to win the NHRA Funny Car championship for the 16th time in the last 20 seasons.
For another, despite his struggles, Force already has assured himself of another Top 10 finish, his 25th in succession, and he is on pace to again post a winning record although he presently is one down in the win column (21-22). The last time the 1996 Driver of the Year didn't have a winning record was, you guessed it, 1984, one year before he hired Austin Coil as crew chief.
But, most of all, this has been a year of validation for the Hall of Fame driver's safety initiatives as manifiested in The Eric Medlen Project.
Especially gratifying was rookie Daniel Wilkerson's emergence from a frightening accident at Memphis, Tenn., without so much as a bruise.
"Winning is priority," Force said, "but now it goes hand-in-hand with safety. Vince Lombardi said winning is everything, but I don't think he ever lost a man on the playing field (and) we owe Eric Medlen to make the sport safer for the next generation."
As for his performance struggles this year, Force is a little confused.
"A lot of people are saying, you want Robert to win or you want Ashley to win,'" he said, "well, what about me? I'm still trying to keep my winning streaks alive. I'd like to do that. We've struggled so bad over here, Austin, Bernie (Fedderly) and myself (that) we brought John Medlen over to see if we could shake things up. I've still got faith that we can turn it around. It's all about destiny."