NHRA champion Force receives Espy Award

Castrol GTX high mileage driver a finalist for fifth straight year HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (July 16) - For the fifth consecutive year, NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force is among the finalists for "Best Driver" at ESPN's Espy Awards, the athletic...

Castrol GTX high mileage driver a finalist for fifth straight year

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (July 16) - For the fifth consecutive year, NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force is among the finalists for "Best Driver" at ESPN's Espy Awards, the athletic equivalent of the movie industry's Academy Awards.

Nevertheless, the 54-year-old drag racing icon has few illusions about his chances of actually reaching the podium at the 11th annual sports awards show which the network will air live from the Kodak Theatre beginning at 9 p.m. (ET) Wednesday.

The 106-time tour winner got a sobering dose of reality at the 2000 Espys in which he not only wasn't named "Best Driver" (despite 11 victories in 23 events the previous season), he didn't even win the Driver of the Decade award after claiming all but one NHRA Funny Car championship in the 1990s.

"It's an honor to be included with formula guys like (Michael) Schumacher," Force said, "but you have to be realistic. I go to the Espys to represent drag racing and my sponsors -- Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, AAA, All/Pro Bumper-to-Bumper and Auto Value, but it's hard when you know going in that you don't have a chance (of winning).

"I'll get to see a lot of the guys I admire in sports," Force said, "but I probably won't even get to hang out because I know that Thursday morning I've got to get on an airplane to Denver (where he competes this weekend in the 24th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway).

In addition to Schumacher, the Formula 1 Champion, Force is joined this year by two-time reigning IRL Champion Sam Hornish Jr., reigning NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart and Gil de Ferran, who made a strong run at the 2002 IRL title before crashing heavily and missing the season finale.

Last season, en route to an unprecedented 10th consecutive series championship, Force won eight times and, with victories in the season's final two events, managed to stave off the belated championship bid of Castrol teammate Tony Pedregon, winning by just 78 points, his smallest winning margin since 1990.

This year, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection is winless through the season's first 12 races, his longest victory drought to start a season since 1989. Nevertheless, he drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to an NHRA national quarter mile record of 4.721 seconds at Joliet, Ill., and he has reached the final round in each of the last two events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series (at Columbus, Ohio, and Madison, Ill.).

-www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Stewart , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gil de Ferran , Sam Hornish Jr.
Tags TV