Seattle: John Force preview

12-time Champion focuses on those chasing Funny Car points leader KENT, Wash. (July 25-27) -- His victory drought finally at an end, drag racing's most prolific winner finally can turn his attention elsewhere this week as the NHRA POWERade...

12-time Champion focuses on those chasing Funny Car points leader

KENT, Wash. (July 25-27) -- His victory drought finally at an end, drag racing's most prolific winner finally can turn his attention elsewhere this week as the NHRA POWERade tour moves to Pacific Raceways for the 16th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals.

A convincing Funny Car winner last week at Denver, John Force was more pleased with the fact that, en route to tour victory No. 107, he was able to drive his Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang past the Dodge of Whit Bazemore, the driver most closely pursuing protege Tony Pedregon in the race for the 2003 POWERade Championship.

"Realistically, with Tony still 326 points ahead (of me), my job has changed," Force said.

"The last 10 years, my job was to win the championship for my team and my sponsors -- Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, All-Pro/Bumper-to-Bumper, Auto Value, the Action Group (Action Peformance Companies, Inc.) and AAA.

"But now my job is to beat Baze and (Del) Worsham and Ron Capps and everyone else to help Tony win this title for Castrol SYNTEC . We've got three race cars over here, but this is one team and when one of us wins the championship, we all win."

Indeed, every member of Force's three-car operation shares in both the purse and bonus money whether it was earned by Force, Pedregon or veteran Gary Densham, driver of the team's third Team Castrol entry, the Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang.

"Everybody had me dead and buried," Force said of his early-season struggle. "That's what made (last week's win) so important. We needed to show that we're still here. We lost the combination, not the motivation. Now, (Crew Chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) have figured out the race car and I've figured out the Christmas Tree (the starting system to which the NHRA made changes this season).

"Bottom line, the Crew Chiefs made a lot of changes to the car (including integrating a different chassis into the equation) and I made a lot of changes to how I drive it. I shortened the burnouts and adjusted to the (brighter LED) lights (on the Christmas Tree)."

Indeed, Force has gained four points positions in the last four races. Eighth upon leaving the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan., on May 25, he went to seventh at Joliet, Ill., and to sixth after earning runner-up honors in the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Columbus, Ohio.

If nothing else, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection has silenced those who had suggested that perhaps, after winning 12 titles in 13 years, he had lost his motivation.

"It's not easy to win one of these races," Force said. "Maybe we made it look easy (winning 101 times in 265 races from 1990 through 2002), but it's not. Anybody can take you out. Look at what happened to us the first of the year. We weren't even in the Top 10 (after the season's first four races)."

Nevertheless, having reached the final round in each of the last three races, the 1996 Driver of the Year appears to be very much back on his game. That may be good news for his pacesetting teammate; but it may be bad news for everyone else.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force