Seeks Fifth Win of Season in Castrol GTX Start Up Ford POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11-14) -- Once, after PGA legend Jack Nicklaus had blistered a particularly difficult course with exasperating ease, an admiring rival observed that while he...
Seeks Fifth Win of Season in Castrol GTX Start Up Ford
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11-14) -- Once, after PGA legend Jack Nicklaus had blistered a particularly difficult course with exasperating ease, an admiring rival observed that while he himself had played a solid round of golf, "Nicklaus played a game with which I was unfamiliar."
Funny Car drag racers assembled at Pomona Raceway for this week's season-ending 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals can empathize.
John Force is their Jack Nicklaus and the game he played the last two months in a relentless drive to another NHRA Funny Car championship was wholly foreign to them.
At each of the last six races in the NHRA POWERade series, Force's Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Force Mustang was quickest when it mattered -- during eliminations.
Force's streak began at Memphis, Tenn., where his 4.906 second race day best propelled him to his 113th tour victory. He subsequently was quickest during eliminations at Indianapolis, Ind. (4.840), Dallas (4.883), Reading, Pa. (4.728), Las Vegas (4.754) and, of course, Joiliet, Ill., where he unloaded a jaw-dropping, national record-setting 4.665 second quarter mile in a first round victory over an unfortunate Tony Bartone.
Nevertheless, even though the championship has been decided to his satisfaction, the sport's biggest winner isn't without motivation this week in his return to the Los Angeles County Fairplex track on which he has won 10 times in his career.
For one thing, he wants to apply an exclamation point to a season in which consistency, not just performance, carried him to the $400,000 champion's bonus.
For another, he wants to win for the Auto Club, one of the sponsors on which he has staked his drag racing future.
Mainly, though, he wants to win the season's last race to generate momentum for what he expects will be an even tougher battle next season.
"I can say this was my hardest championship to win," acknowledged the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection. "There were times when I didn't think I was going to make it (but) all of a sudden, it was like we got magic."
While his Castrol Ford was the dominant car down the stretch, setting the NHRA speed record for all categories at 333.58 miles per hour, he comes into Pomona having settled for runner-up honors in each of the last three races, losing final round showdowns with Gary Scelzi at the last two events.
Scelzi, the three-time former NHRA Top Fuel Champion, is just one of those from whom Force expects a battle in 2005.
"There are a lot of great young drivers out there (and) you have to be on your game every week," Force said, "but, for me, that's just more motivation. We didn't win 13 championships because we didn't know how to fight the fight."
It's a fight that, at age 55, Force still believes he can win. In fact, he's betting he can do so for at least five more years. That's how long he's contracted to remain in the cockpit.