Las Vegas: John Force preview

Force hopes 3rd time's a charm in bid for 100th NHRA Tour Victory. LAS VEGAS, Nev. Denied at Phoenix, Ariz., and Gainesville, Fla., John Force this week (April 5-7) tries once more to lock up a milestone 100th career victory, this time on a ...

Force hopes 3rd time's a charm in bid for 100th NHRA Tour Victory.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. Denied at Phoenix, Ariz., and Gainesville, Fla., John Force this week (April 5-7) tries once more to lock up a milestone 100th career victory, this time on a racetrack that has been a source of total frustration to himself and Co-Crew Chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly.

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of this week's third annual Summitracing.com Nationals, is the ONLY track on the NHRA circuit at which Force has failed to put his Castrol GTX Ford Funny Car in the winners' circle at least one time.

Even though he has qualified well in three previous appearances at Bruton Smith's "dragstrip in the desert," he has yet to advance beyond the second round and, at last fall's inaugural AC/Delco Nationals, was ousted in the first round in a bizarre double disqualification.

The sport's most dominant performer would like to put the quest for 100 behind him as quickly as possible so that he can focus on winning an unprecedented 10th straight NHRA series championship.

Unfortunately, his Funny Car rivals aren't cooperating.

In fact, only one time previously has it taken him as many as three tries to earn a milestone victory. Of course, that excludes his very first win (at Montreal, Canada) which came in his eighth year on the NHRA tour, in his 66th start and in his 75th race.

Three races after earning his ninth victory, he claimed No. 10. Other than one false start in his bid for No. 36 (breaking Don Prudhomme's Funny Car record), he earned victories No. 25, No. 50, No. 75 and No. 86 (breaking Bob Glidden's drag racing record) on his first try.

Despite Force's reluctance to dwell on the subject, there is no denying the significance of 100 series victories. It's a benchmark that has been achieved only twice before by Richard Petty, who won 200 times, and David Pearson, who earned 105 victories, both in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series.

Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison won 84 times, Cale Yarborough 83 times and Dale Earnhardt 76 times in the same series while A.J. Foyt earned 67 victories in the old USAC champ car series (79 wins overall) and Mario Andretti won 65 times in CART, NASCAR and Formula 1.

On the NHRA tour, Force has won 12 more races than Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson, 14 more than Glidden and 64 more than anyone else in the Funny Car division.

It is the latter figure that is the most telling. Second in career Funny Car wins is Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, who won 35 times before making the switch to Top Fuel.

Force, who with a victory in the season opener extended to 16 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA national event, enters the fourth race in the POWERade series in his customary spot atop the Funny Car driver standings.

Nevertheless, the veteran insists that he is in the battle of his career this season.

"Everybody's after us," he said. "(Whit) Bazemore's old heap is starting to run. (Del) Worsham's been beating us up. I can't even beat my own guys, Tony (Pedregon) and (Gary) Densham (who have beaten him in the last five team finals). But we're in it for the long haul. We'll be fine."

JOHN FORCE at Summitracing.com Nationals...

*The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the only track in the NHRA POWERade series on which he hasn't won a major event.

*Event FC speed record holder at 321.04 mph.

*Involved in bizarre double disqualification in last year's fall event.

FORCE Highlights...

*Enters the Summitracing.com Nationals just one victory shy of 100 after winning the 2002 series opener at Pomona, Calif.

*NHRA national record holder at 4.731 seconds, set Sept. , 2001, at Reading, Pa.

*1996 Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing.

*Is seeking his 10th straight series championship and 12th overall.

DID YOU KNOW?

Last fall, during the inaugural AC/Delco Nationals, John suffered the most bizarre loss of his career when he was involved in a double disqualification in a first round match with rookie Funny Car driver Bob Bode. Bode, the No. 15 qualifier, left the starting line before the Christmas Tree was activated.

Force, reacting to his opponent's quick start, also left the line. According to NHRA rule, since the tree never was activated, both drivers were disqualified.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Darrell Waltrip , Warren Johnson , John Force , Bob Glidden , Mario Andretti , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Bob Bode , Austin Coil , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough , David Pearson