FORCE TRIES AGAIN TO REDUCE DEFICIT AS SEASON RUSHES TO HALFWAY POINT 13-Time Champ Trails by 106 as Tour Moves to Gateway MADISON, Ill. -- After giving away last week the ground gained with his victory the week before, drag racing icon...
FORCE TRIES AGAIN TO REDUCE DEFICIT
AS SEASON RUSHES TO HALFWAY POINT
13-Time Champ Trails by 106 as Tour Moves to Gateway
MADISON, Ill. -- After giving away last week the ground gained with his victory the week before, drag racing icon John Force rolls his Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang to the starting line for this week's 10th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals hoping simply to reduce the margin between himself and pacesetting Ron Capps to less than 100 points as the 2006 season reaches its midpoint.
Force, drag racing's all-time winner with 13 championships, 120 NHRA tour victories and at least one win in each of the last 20 seasons, trails Capps by 106 points as the tour moves to Gateway International Raceway.
Although he cut the deficit to 48 pointsafter winning the CARQUEST Nationals at Joliet, Ill., on June 11, his first win of the current campaign, the 13-time Auto Racing All- America selection let the momentum swing back to Capps' last week at Englishtown, N.J., the result of a second round exit from the K&N Filters SuperNationals, a race eventually won by the points leader.
If the 57-year-old Force is to win an unprecedented 14th championship, he'll have to have to re-write history to do so because Capps already has won five times this season in the Brut Dodge.
Every driver in Funny Car, Top Fuel and Pro Stock history who reached mid-season with at least five wins went on to claim the championship.
Force did it four times himself, on three occasions reaching the midpoint with a record seven wins (1993, 1996 and 1999).
"Capps and (crew chief Ed) McCulloch have done a great job," Force said, "and that's why they're ahead. But look at it. They've won five races and they're only ahead by a 100 (106, actually). It's mid-season, but there's a lot of racing left to do. We can still catch 'em, but we need to start taking advantage when we've got a shot (at taking Capps out in the early rounds)."
Force, who lost last year's POWERade title in a down-to-the-wire duel with Capps and eventual champion Gary Scelzi, has gone to the finals four times in nine previous appearances at Gateway with victories in 1999 and 2002.
However, he was ousted in the very first round last season by Capps and lost in the final round the year before to Scelzi.
"It's a race where you have to be on your game," Force said of the Midwest Nationals. "They say it's a night race, but to win you have to be able to race in the heat because first round is in the heat (at 3 p.m.) and he second round, too. If you get past two rounds, that's when it's a night race."
"We showed (at Joliet) we can still win, but Capps ain't going away. He'll be there at the end. But so will Scelzi and Tony (Pedregon, the only other multiple winner this year) and all three of these Fords (Force's and those driven by teammates Robert Hight and Eric Medlen, currently third and fourth in points). There's no use even talking about the championship until after Indy (and the Labor Day Mac Tools U.S. Nationals). Everybody who has survived to then has a chance. It's gonna be just like last year down to the wire."