Reading: Force qualifies number one

JOHN FORCE , 51, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, is starting an event as the No. 1 qualifier for the 97th time in his career, for the seventh time in 18 races this season and for the seventh time at Maple...

JOHN FORCE , 51, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, is starting an event as the No. 1 qualifier for the 97th time in his career, for the seventh time in 18 races this season and for the seventh time at Maple Grove Raceway where he won from the No. 1 spot in 1990 and 1994. With the $4,000 in Budweiser bonus money he earned this weekend, John increased to $388,000 the total he has earned in his career. Of his record 89 career victories, 43 have come from the No. 1 qualifying spot including wins this year at Richmond, Dallas and Chicago.

SEASON-TO-DATE: John has won eight Winston Series races this season plus the Big Bud Shootout bonus race. No other driver has won more than three times. Force carried a 222-point lead over Jerry Toliver into the Keystone Nationals. That's the equivalent of 12 rounds of racing. Simply stated, Toliver must win two more rounds than John at each of the six remaining races to pull even.

VERSUS TOMMY JOHNSON JR.: This is the seventh career meeting between John Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. John leads the series 5-1.

DID YOU KNOW: John now has qualified for 248 consecutive races, the longest streak in Funny Car drag racing driver in any racing category ever has won seven tour events and FAILED to win the Winston Series championship.


RECORDS: John is the official NHRA national record holder for both quarter mile time (4.788 seconds) and speed (324.05 mph) and during qualifying set new Maple Grove Raceway records of 4.836 seconds, 312.50 mph while becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.90 second barrier at Reading. The 4.836 is the quickest run recorded with the Tim Gibson-designed Mustang body which debuted at Columbus in June. Previous best for the new car, which has carried Force to three wins, was 4.935 seconds at Brainerd, Minn.

PREVIOUSLY AT THE KEYSTONES: John has taken a Castrol GTX Funny Car to the final round at Maple Grove Raceway nine times, winning in 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994 and 1997. In 1996, the season for which John was named Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing, the Keystone Nationals was one of only two races (along with the Pontiac Nationals at Columbus, Ohio) in which he didn't advance to the semifinals or beyond. He lost in the second round that year to Kenji Okazaki. John's 1989 Reading victory (which came against Pennsylvania favorite son Bruce Larson) was his only win of the season. In only two events has John reached the finals more often than he has in the Keystone Nationals. He's been the finals 11 times at the Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., and 10 times in the Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals at Brainerd, Minn.

TONY PEDREGON , 35, Chino Hills, Calif., driver of the Castrol SYNTECâ„¢ Ford Mustang, is seeking his first victory in the NHRA Keystone Nationals, an event in which he was runner-up to Jeff Arend in his very first appearance (1996). This is the eighth time in his career that Tony has started a race from the No. 11 position from which he has won more races than any other: the 1999 Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., and the 1999 Mile-High Nationals at Denver.

QUICKEST MAN ON THE PLANET: Tony owns the quickest quarter mile ever recorded by a fuel Funny Car: 4.779 seconds on March 21, 1999 at Gainesville, Fla.

MECHANICAL WOES: Although he's gone to the finals five times this season and is fourth in Winston points, Tony has struggled since winning the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Columbus, Ohio, in June (the ninth win of his career but his only title thus far this season). His record since that win is only 5-6. While the SYNTEC Ford has shown signs of recovery with the adaptation of a SSI supercharger like the one used on teammate John Force's Mustang, it has suffered from gremlins again this weekend. A metal shaving was found clogging one of the fuel nozzles on Friday and the top supercharger pulley fell off halfway through Saturday's first qualifying session.


CASTROL GTX VERSUS CASTROL SYNTEC: As the No. 11 and No. 1 qualifiers, Tony Pedregon and John Force could oppose one another in the final round for the third time this year, the 14th time overall and for the first time at the Keystone Nationals. John owns a 10-3 advantage in the final round series and has won

PREVIOUSLY AT MAPLE GROVE: Last year, Tony started the Keystone Nationals from the No. 1 spot before losing to eventual Funny Car champion Tommy Johnson Jr. in round two. VERSUS TOLIVER: This is the the 12th time Tony has opposed Jerry Toliver. He leads the series 6-5, having won the last two meetings; the last three if you count the Big Bud Shootout.

CAREER RECORD: Although this is only his fifth full season on the NHRA tour, Tony already has nine victories in 26 career final round appearances in the Funny Car division. That's 26 final rounds in his first 102 starts for Team Castrol and John Force Racing.

DID YOU KNOW? Tony was the initial winner (1996) of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award (and the $10,000 cash bonus that accompanies it)....Tony has won at least one event in each of his five years with Team Castrol....Tony is the only driver other than John Force to have broken 4.80 seconds.

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Bruce Larson , Tim Gibson , Jeff Arend , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.