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FORCE , HIGHT SWAP CREWS FOR TOYO TIRES NATIONALS 14-Time Champ Will Race for Prock at Maple Grove READING, Pa. -- It's been 25 years since John Force drove a race car for anyone other than Hall of Fame crew chief Austin Coil. Nevertheless,...

FORCE , HIGHT SWAP CREWS FOR TOYO TIRES NATIONALS
14-Time Champ Will Race for Prock at Maple Grove

READING, Pa. -- It's been 25 years since John Force drove a race car for anyone other than Hall of Fame crew chief Austin Coil.

Nevertheless, that streak will end this Friday when the 14-time champion rolls to the starting line to begin qualifying for the 25th annual Toyo Tires Nationals in a Castrol GTX® High Mileage^Ù Ford prepared by Jimmy Prock.

In a bid to provide a struggling Robert Hight with the best opportunity to make the NHRA's Countdown to One playoffs, Force decided to place the former NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year with the most experienced of the four crews that support the John Force Racing, Inc., Funny Car effort -- his own.

As a result, Hight will drive for Coil and Bernie Fedderly this week at Maple Grove Raceway while Force will rely on Prock to lock up a playoff spot of his own.

"We're just trying to shake things up a little and give Robert and Auto Club their best chance to make the Countdown," Force said. "Going to the semifinals last week got me close enough so now we can focus on Robert."

It's the latest in a series of steps taken by the sport's biggest winner in an effort to light a fire under a team that, as a whole, has struggled this season.

"It's one of the things we talked about when I met with the crew chiefs after Norwalk (and the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals)," Force said of the crew swap, "but we couldn't do anything because I wasn't up in the points."

The last time anyone but Coil made the tuning decisions on Force's Funny Car at an NHRA national event was Oct. 21, 1984 when Larry Frazier was crew chief and the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection was beaten in the first round of the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.

Nevertheless, Force is excited about being paired with Prock, considered one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the sport.

"I remember Jimmy sitting on the tailgate of the truck back when his dad (Tom Prock) used to give me used clutch parts," Force recalled.

"He's been a little lost, but he's close. All he needs is to get his confidence back."

Although he turned 60 this year and even though he is less than two years removed from the devastating crash that left him hospitalized for almost a month with broken bones in his arms, legs, hands and feet, Force has given few indications that his skills have diminished.

In fact, he was credited with a .033 reaction time last week in a semifinal showdown with Ron Capps that gave him a substantial starting line advantage before his car lost traction in the heat. If anything, Force believes he is in better physical condition today than he was when he crashed on Sept. 23, 2007.

That said, the 14-time series champion is in the midst of the longest streak of his career in which he hasn't reached the finals. Not since June 1, 2008 has the 126-time tour winner raced for a tour victory. That's 31 events. The longest he had gone previously without a final round appearance was 22 consecutive events from 1979 through June of 1983.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Robert Hight , Austin Coil