Reading: John Force pre-race notes

Points Leader Moves Closer to 13th NHRA Funny Car Title READING, Pa. (Oct. 8-10) -- With a 330 mile-an-hour race car beneath him and recent driving woes behind him, John Force's destiny is ahead of him as he speeds into this week's...

Points Leader Moves Closer to 13th NHRA Funny Car Title

READING, Pa. (Oct. 8-10) -- With a 330 mile-an-hour race car beneath him and recent driving woes behind him, John Force's destiny is ahead of him as he speeds into this week's resumption of the 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Coming off a record-breaking performance last week at Joliet, Ill., one in which he drove his Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Mustang to NHRA national records of 4.665 seconds and 333.58 miles per hour, in the process becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the 4.70 second barrier, drag racing's biggest winner now knows exactly what he must do to clinch an unprecedented 13th series championship.

To do so this weekend, he must win two more rounds than the man closest to him in POWERade points, Del Worsham.

That won't be an easy assignment. After all, Worsham has beaten Force the last two weeks en route to his category-leading fourth and fifth wins of the season in the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Monte Carlo.

However, time is on Force's side. So is performance.

Until his car made an erratic move out of the racing groove and lost traction in the final round of last week's CARQUEST Nationals, Force had put on a jaw-dropping performance display that included a 4.697 second qualifying effort, a 4.701 second average for four consecutive runs and speeds of 333.58 mph, 332.75 mph, 330.96 mph and 329.83 mph, the fastest of the event. And he did all of that on a fuel mix in which nitromethane was restricted to 85 per cent per new NHRA guidelines.

Before the CARQUEST Nationals, the quickest and fastest any Funny Car driver had gone on 85 per cent was 4.749 seconds at 324.20 mph, Force's numbers in qualifying No. 1 for the Labor Day Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., and the Sept. 26 O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas, respectively.

Although he led the points before NHRA opted to decrease the nitro percentage from 90 to 85 per cent, Force has steadily increased that advantage in the seven races contested since the rule was first enforced at Seattle, Wash. (July 23-25).

He led by just 27 points going into Seattle. He now leads Worsham by 237 points, three-time former NHRA Top Fuel Champion Gary Scelzi by 313 and Whit Bazemore, who set the pace as recently as June 19, by 336.

To mathematically eliminate everyone, the 11-time Auto Racing All-American must leave Maple Grove with a 277-point cushion.

Although Force isn't yet ready to celebrate a championship, the reality of the situation is that by winning just two rounds this weekend he would put himself far enough ahead that it would require a qualifying failure on his part in one of the season's last two races (something that hasn't happened in 17 years) for the door to remain even slightly ajar even if his closest pursuer was to extend his winning streak.

Still, Force harkens back to 1992. That's the year that Cruz Pedregon won five straight races, caught Force and won the championship.

"You have to race scared," Force said, "like you're 200 (points) behind instead of 200 ahead. If you don't, these guys will send you home. I won't relax until we're at the (awards) banquet."

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon