Infinenon Raceway Sears Point
Force A Factor Once More As Tour Heads West
John Force has resigned himself to the fact that he NEVER is going to break stock car legend Richard Petty’s record for career victories in a major series. That’s because the target number is two-zero-zero, an incredible 200 wins, all of them in NASCAR’s signature series.
By contrast, even though he’s won more races than any driver other than “King Richard,” Force’s total after driving his Castrol GTX® High Mileage™ Ford Mustang to victory in last week’s Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver, Colo., is a paltry 133.
Nevertheless, the reigning NHRA Funny Car champ needn’t feel too inadequate. After all, to reach that lofty plateau, Petty made 1184 NASCAR starts. When Force rolls to the line for this week’s 24th annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, he’ll be competing in “only” his 578th NHRA drag race.
Moreover, while Petty won races in 23 different seasons, last week’s triumph gave Force a win in 24 separate campaigns and, while Petty won his last race at age 47, Force still is winning at 62 with a multi-year contract that will keep him in a green-and-white Castrol firesuit at least for the next three seasons.
Force’s Denver victory not only silenced the skeptics – again – it also sent the ageless veteran into this week’s race as the only Funny Car driver with a chance to sweep the Western Swing, a series of three back-to-back-to-back events that concludes next week in Seattle, Wash.
The only Funny Car driver to have previously accomplished that feat (1994), Force believes he has a car good enough to do it again. More important, he thinks he has a driver to match.
“It was (son-in-law and 2009 NHRA Champion) Robert Hight who stepped up and told me that I was the problem,” Force said of his early-season struggles. “I told him I didn’t seem to have any luck and the car didn’t have consistency and he said ‘the only problem, John, is you.’
“I made him president (of John Force Racing) because he tells you what he believes,” Force said, “and not just what you want to hear. I love it. He said that I told him that to keep winning, you’ve got to live it seven days a week. Well, I’m living it again. We’ve struggled all year, but we’re back in the game.”
In fact, Force is within reach of another major milestone during the Western Swing. The 2008 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is quickly closing in on 1,100 round wins. Only three other drivers have won as many as 400 and none close to 1,000. Force has won 1,093 rounds, roughly the equivalent of two rounds per start for 34 pro seasons.
“We’re going to try to do it again,” Force said of the sweep. “We’ve struggled, but now it’s time to step up and get the job done.
“This car won Indy (the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) two years in a row with my daughter Ashley (Force Hood) driving,” said the 1996 Driver of the Year for all of American moto racing. “It’s a great hot rod. I was low qualifier four races in-a-row (earlier in the season) but I just couldn’t seem to get the win and now I think I was the problem.
“These guys were all used to Ashley (who took a leave of absence this year to start a family) and now they’ve got me,” Force said. “The whole routine changed and we’ve had to adjust. But, at the end of the day, I like this team. Great crew chiefs in Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, plus I like the energy of all these young guys. They keep me feeling young.”
They’re liable to keep him winning, too. After all, no one has won more often at Infineon than has Force, who has celebrated in the winners’ circle seven times, most recently in 2007.
The former truck driver has characterized that win as one of the most emotional of his career, coming as it did on the home track of Eric Medlen, a rising star at John Force Racing who lost his life in the testing accident in Florida six months earlier.
“Eric’s still in our thoughts,” Force said, “especially when we come to Sonoma. Every one of these Funny Car guys wants to win one for Eric. He was that kind of kid. We all miss him.”
By: john force racing