Las Vegas: John Force preview

John Force hopes to change his luck in return to site of October win. 'Lucky 13 Tour' off to sluggish start for 12-time series champion. LAS VEGAS, Nevada (April 5-7) -- Thus far, John Force's "Lucky 13 Tour" has been anything but. After...

John Force hopes to change his luck in return to site of October win.
'Lucky 13 Tour' off to sluggish start for 12-time series champion.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (April 5-7) -- Thus far, John Force's "Lucky 13 Tour" has been anything but.

After winning 10 straight NHRA Funny Car Championships and becoming only the third driver in any major motor racing series to win 100 events, who would have imagined that three races into the 2003 season, the 53-year-old veteran would be languishing in 12th place in the POWERade point standings after winning just one competitive round?

However, if the 12-time champion is concerned, he hasn't shown it.

"We're just trying to work through some mechanical problems," he said. "We made a lot of changes in the off season to stay ahead of the game and everything hasn't worked out like we thought.

"The biggest problem has been dropped cylinders. That's been at the bottom of it, but we stayed and tested after Gainesville (the March 16 Mac Tools Gatornationals) and I think (Crew Chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) learned some things.

"I guess we'll find out pretty quick once qualifying starts."

Ironically, even though he's off to his worst start in the last 14 seasons, Force can reach another career milestone in this week's fourth annual SummitRacing.com Nationals.

If he is able to put his Castrol GT High Mileage Ford Mustang in Sunday's 16-car starting lineup, it would extend to 304 the number of consecutive NHRA events for which he has qualified a Castrol-backed Funny Car, eclipsing the drag racing record for consecutive starts (303) set by Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson.

The last time Force failed to make the starting field was Oct. 31, 1987, when he was unable to crack the lineup for the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif.

Second longest active streak? It's 98 races by Top Fuel dragster driver Tony Schumacher. Among Funny Car drivers, the second longest streak is 44 by Force's teammate, Tony Pedregon.

Still, Force knows that drag racing is a "what have you done for me lately?" sport and lately, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection has struggled.`However, few among his Funny Car rivals believe that the 106-time tour winner will be down for long.

"It's not like we haven't run well," Force said. "We just haven't been consistent. The car wants to run 4.70s but we haven't been able to get it to run to the big end. Usually, it noses over about 900 feet. That's what they've been working on."

Once one of the "problem tracks" on which he had had little success, The Strip immediately was transformed into a Force "favorite" last fall when he beat Pedregon and the Castrol SYNTEC Ford in the final round of the AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals to effect a late season turnaround that enabled him to win the NHRA Funny Car title for an unprecedented 10th consecutive season.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher